Churches warned over conman

PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 April 2011

Archant

A CONMAN trawling Clevedon for cash handouts has prompted a warning to all church goers in the town.

The man has visited a number of churches over the past week telling a similar story at each one in the hope of getting money out of the person he has approached.

He has claimed he recently spent 16 years in prison but was converted to religion during his time inside.

He also said he has slept rough under the arches along Clevedon Promenade or that he is simply homeless and needs money to stay in a hostel overnight.

Despite being offered help including free food and a free bed for the night, he has declined all offers and said he needs cash for a bed at a certain hostel.

The man, who is thought to be in his 50s and about 5ft 6ins tall with grey hair, has visited a number of churches in the town, including the Baptist church in Queens Square, the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Marine Hill, as well as the Salvation Army base in Old Street.

He also telephoned Bill and Judi Spencer, members of Clevedon Churches Together, on April 13 after finding their phone number on a leaflet.

While most people have turned the man away, one person handed over cash after the man became agitated.

Bill Spencer said: “He had been around town asking for help. He gave the impression he had been to many different places.

“There is always the chance they might be genuine but it was clear he wasn’t after being offered a free night’s lodgings and turning it down.”

After the encounter with the man, a message was sent by Mr and Mrs Spencer to churches across Clevedon to warn others about him.

Father Reg Gray of the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Marine Hill was approached by the same man at the beginning of last week.

He said: “He seems to be going into churches and looking up people and groups associated with them and then claims he has spoken to some of them.

“He made out he was a Catholic moving to Clevedon but I just sent him on his way.

“We normally get about three or four people a year that ask for help but are obviously fakes.”

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