Stories often, too often, crop up and really make the blood boil.

Today’s paper’s top contender is the gang of scumbags who preyed on vulnerable and elderly across Essex, charging them horrendous amounts of cash for, well, little if no work.

Sadly, these types of elaborate conman stories rear their heads almost on a weekly basis.

Thurrock’s main player in this disgusting gang was namely Christopher Barnes of Stephenson Avenue, Tilbury.

What an utter and total piece of work.

To sum up he took £106,000 of an 84-year-old man. Cash the poor man probably worked his whole life for. The jobs done amounted to a fraction of that.

He also turned up in Leigh, and cold called on an 83-year-old woman offering to clear weeds – after some chat he conned her into having unnecessary work done to her drains and patio - totalling £33,000. And he nearly got another very vulnerable woman, 79, to sell her home to him for £27,000.

Thankfully, police caught up with him, and five others, and duly had them hauled before the courts. Barnes was locked up for six years, five months, but no doubt he’ll be out in almost half of that.

Yet he’s probably destroyed the lives of those vulnerable victims who will now be left confused, bewildered and finding it hard to trust again.

These are such horrible, nasty crimes. And very hard to deter.

We can all do our bit by looking out for our elderly neighbours whenever we can. Keeping an eye out, striking up conversation, making sure all is well.

Every effort must be made to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.

Lucy Palmer, 35, of Barle Gardens, South Ockendon, received three years after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

Damien Salter, 29, of Wells Gardens, Pitsea, was handed a four-year prison term and Samantha Rogers, 38, of the same address, received 18 months in jail, suspended for two years.

They were both convicted by a jury of fraud by false representation.

Also Paul Masters, 60, of Lower Road, Pitsea, received three years for money laundering and

The jury returned its verdicts at Chelmsford Crown Court following a nine-week trial.

Masters and Barnes have both been made subject to serious crime prevention orders, while Rogers is subject to a six-month curfew between 7pm and 6am.

They were charged after five elderly victims were targeted between October 2015 and September 2017. The oldest victim was 85.

Det Con Lee Winfield said: “Every person sentenced played a key role in this sophisticated operation, which involved brainwashing victims into believing they were not victims of crime. The money illegally obtained by manipulation and deception helped fund lavish lifestyles. The victims were identified by these cowardly and callous crooks due their age, vulnerability and in some cases, poor health.”

The granddaughter one of the victims, who wished not to be named, said: “It is an absolute disgrace what these people have done to their victims.”