A lodger terrorised his landlady with violent threats against her family while blackmailing her out of £2,700, a jury were told yesterday.
Luke John Ottaway, 48, of Broomfield Road, Welwyn claimed he was an ex-jailbird vigilante, who was pursued by gangsters for debts and would use violence himself, the court heard.
He has pleaded not guilty to one count of making an unwarranted demand for money, with menaces, from the grandmother at her home in Ravenscar Road, Surbiton, south-west London.
She told Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court Ottaway claimed he had cancer and had split from his demanding wife when she rented him a £75 a week room at her home from June 7 to July 21, last year.
The grandmother, giving evidence from behind a screen, said Ottaway did not pay a penny in rent and even failed to honour a compromise of £10-£20 a week for bills.
“He was so open, so chatty, so friendly that I agreed to rent the room to him,” she explained, but did not charge him anything up front.
“I did not want to push him. This gentleman told me he had cancer so I wasn’t going to be ruthless and demand money.
“He was very flirtatious with me, trying to butter me up and saying how lovely I was and what a nice person I was. I let my guard down.”
She said Ottaway claimed to own two companies, had lost £47,000 since leaving his wife, but had money stashed in a safety deposit.
“He asked me for a loan within a week and a day of moving in,” she explained, but quickly discovered he used the £1,700 to recover his expensive Rolex watch from a Welwyn pawnbroker.
“I was furious and swore at him and he said the Rolex was a sentimental present from when he was working close protection for the Saudi royal family.”
She thought the cash was going to pay off gangsters. “He had hinted there were people after him and he had been part of a vigilante group and someone was after him for money.
“He said he owed a debt to a gang member and they would come after him and hurt him. They would come to my door because they could track him down.”
Ottaway then claimed he was a man of violence, she claimed. “He said he had no inhibitions about nail-gunning people to doors and breaking their legs.
“He said he had served four-and-a-half years for aiding and abetting the kidnapping of a woman and that he was a dangerous sociopath that people should not cross.”
Ottaway’s demands for more money continued, the court heard. “At the time I was petrified, I was scared that if I did not get the money something would happen to me.
“I was a vulnerable woman living on my own and my head was reeling from the demands that were coming for money so myself or him wouldn’t get injured from this gang.”
She said Ottaway once put a hunting-knife to her throat. “He said: ‘I could easily stab you, but I’m only joking.’ My heart was racing.”
The woman borrowed from her brother and gave Ottaway another £1,000, but things became even more sinister when she demanded it back, she explained.
“He said: ‘When people don’t do what I ask them to do I target my family.’
“I said: ‘Stay away from my son and my grandson.’
“After that I made every excuse for my grandson, who is two-and-a-half, not to be in my flat,” she added, in tears.
“I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to my grandson. I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown at this point, I couldn’t deal with it.
“I was in a state of shock and easily manipulated.”