A fraudster who swindled an elderly couple out of £500 by pretending he was going to carry out gardening work for them has been jailed for 10 months.

William Johnstone, of Kilwinning’s Waterside Road, induced the pensioners to pay him £500 on the premise that he would return to their Irvine home to work in their garden.

But the 30-year-old failed to turn up, leaving the couple out of pocket.

Johnstone, who is currently serving a prison sentence, appeared at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court from custody last week and pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud.

The court heard that at around 2.30pm on March 16, 2017, Johnstone and another male went to the couple’s door and offered to carry out garden work.

The 79-year-old man, who was home at the time, initially declined the offer but then agreed to having some work done at the cost of £30.

This was carried out and Johnstone was paid for the work.

The pensioner then asked if they would give him a price for laying pebbles. Johnstone quoted him £400, which the couple agreed was a good price. Johnstone asked for a deposit of £200, which he was given, then left saying that he would be in touch.

He returned at around 3.30pm the next day, claiming he required a further £200 as he had used the previous amount and some of his own money to obtain materials. The couple gave him the cash, then asked how much it would be for some work in the back garden. He quoted them a further £100, which was also handed over.

Johnstone then left saying he would be back the next day. When he failed to turn up, attempts were made to contact him but the phone number he had left was not in use. The couple reported the matter to the police.

Solicitor Mr Gallagher said that his client had struggled after the business he was involved with had folded.

He added: “He started to abuse cocaine and cannabis, however he does not use this as an excuse.

“With regards to the offence he accepts full responsibility, he has a lot of remorse. He has money at home and he is willing to give it back. ”

Sheriff Shirley Foran said: “He took complete advantage of their vulnerability. Because you have a record for dishonesty and frauds, the only sentence is a custodial one. That would have been 12 months but as he has spared the couple the distress of a trial that will be reduced to 10 months.”

Johnstone’s sentence will run consecutive to his current imprisonment, which is due to end in April 2021.