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28 July 2010, 14:16 | Updated: 28 July 2010, 15:04
Detectives at Gatwick Airport are looking for confidence trickster who has a good knowledge of the history of Middlesbrough Football Club.
More seriously, 41-year old Neil Rodgers is sought for interview on suspicion of being the man who has conned dozens of people out of their money with his hard luck stories at airports and other transport hubs across the country.
CCTV images of a man believed to be Mr Rodgers are released by Sussex Police today.
Rodgers, who has also used other names including Sean Wells, Neil Roberts and Daniel Thomas, is suspected of being the man who sidles up to unsuspecting travellers, pretends that he has run out of money and must get home for a variety of heart-wrenching reasons.
He is described as white, with light brown ginger hair, and speaking with a north-east accent. He is believed to be from the Middlesbrough area and his sob-stories are very convincing. He also appears to be knowledgeable about engineering and related international projects.
Over the past couple of years a man of this description has approached people in public areas of airports, railway stations and elsewhere. His favourite method at present is first to ensure he is overheard apparently talking to someone on his mobile about how he can not get home to York, or elsewhere, because his credit cards have been cancelled by his company and that he can’t obtain the rail ticket. He may also state that he has spent all his cash on Duty Free. He will then start a polite conversation with the unsuspecting passenger either who has come and sat next to him or whilst stood outside having a cigarette
The unsuspecting victim will then become involved in a further conversation and the offer of lending him some money. The con man of course promises to repay and provides a mobile number, and may even text an address to the victim. The money is never repaid and when the victim tries to contact him the mobile will not be answered and he will not reply to any emails.
His most recent known crime took place at Gatwick in May this year, when he posed as a respectable business man having just returned from Dubai and obtained £100, made his excuses and left, never to be seen again.
Sussex Police want to trace and interview Mr Rodgers about 7 such frauds (including the one in May) reported at the airport over the past eighteen months.
Detectives in London, Surrey, Edinburgh, Thames Valley and the British Transport Police also want to speak to him about similar offences.
Detective Constable Steve Trott of Sussex Police said; “This man is a relentless confidence trickster, who provides a very plausible story and comes across as very genuine. But he doesn’t care about honest people. Travellers can be very unsure and unwary in unfamiliar surroundings like airports and rail terminals.
“He typically seeks only relatively modest amounts, say £50-£100, and decent travellers instinctively want to help. But beware, things are not always as they seem.”
Anyone who knows where this man may be, and anyone else who has been approached or has handed over cash to him, is asked to contact Sussex Police on 0845 60 70 999, quoting Serial 1453 of 27 July. All calls will be treated in confidence. You can also call the independent charity Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111.