His “predatory” crime spree stretched across half of Dundee and left elderly and vulnerable people “fearful” in their own homes.
But today, 36-year-old James McCafferty is behind bars after he was finally brought to justice for his sickening acts. The conman visited the homes of disabled, housebound and elderly people and used various bogus excuses to gain entry and steal from them.
Police launched a public appeal to track him down after he emerged as the main suspect in a number of the crimes. He managed to escape capture for weeks before he was finally caught — but not before he had left his victims feeling “violated”.
It emerged later that he had been released from a prison sentence only weeks earlier for virtually identical crimes, and may have been sleeping rough around Stobswell or the Hilltown.
McCafferty — a prisoner at HMP Grampian — has now admitted his crimes at Dundee Sheriff Court, and has been jailed for three years and three months.
Sentencing him, Sheriff Alastair Carmichael branded him “predatory”, adding: “You have a bad record and some of those offences are for the same kind of thing.”
Fiscal depute Charmaine Gilmartin told the court the victims’ ages ranged from 56 to 81.
One of McCafferty’s first victims was 67 and described by police as lonely and naive. He was a keen gambler who regularly placed bets at Ladbrokes on Arbroath Road.
McCafferty went to the man’s home on April 26 and asked for him by name, offering to sell him cheap cigarettes. The victim asked McCafferty to put on a bet for him, giving him £20 and some betting slips with winnings of £21.50.
But when the crook left the flat, the OAP noticed a tin containing £60 had gone missing. McCafferty later cashed in the betting slips at the bookies. On May 7 another victim, a woman aged 56 and in poor health, was fooled into letting McCafferty enter her home to use the toilet.
After he left, she noticed two purses with £80 in cash inside, and a Post Office card, were missing.
McCafferty also targeted an 81-year-old man in his flat, shortly after the victim had been released from hospital. The criminal asked for a £10 note in exchange for two fivers, but grabbed a wallet containing £60, a bank card and personal effects.
Other victims had suffered strokes, lived in sheltered housing complexes, or had learning difficulties. Each lived alone and McCafferty called at their homes uninvited.
The crimes stretched from Strathmore Avenue in the west to Douglas Road in the east, with several concentrated around Stobswell.
Sergeant Ray Birnie, whose team led the investigation, said at the time that the victims had been left “very upset and clearly fearful because someone has violated their homes”.
Solicitor Ian Houston said: “He is due for release from his previous sentence on September 12.
“The authorities were aware that he had been offending after his release and he was recalled to serve the rest of his sentence.”