THEY were attracted by the dream of an idyllic life in a lodge home.
Steve Ritchie had even started work on his 10-year-old grandson’s tree house.
He and wife Lilian, who is disabled, were set up in a caravan in Halsinger, Braunton, expecting to live out their days in bliss with their grandson.
But the vision came crashing down when the real landowner moved them on, telling them they had no claim to the land.
What followed was the unravelling of Barry Leigh’s deceit that had led them to part with around £140,000, and left them moving from layby to layby.
‘I can’t comprehend the level of despair that we’ve lived through,’ Lilian told The News.
‘Although we’ve survived and I’m still here, my life and health is trashed.
‘When the caravan was rocking side to side in the weather, I thought “who’s going to find us, what state will we be in?”.
‘It’s the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced.
‘The things wrong with my health are things that will not get better. My heart was fine when I left Leicester, but I’ve been under a massive amount of stress since I left my home.’
Now the couple and their grandson, now 14, have been reunited and have been living in a bungalow since January, 2015.
They took their case to Hampshire County Council’s Trading Standards, which investigated and prosecuted Leigh.
He was due to stand trial on April 10 but pleaded guilty to six out of 14 charges, with the rest no longer pursued.