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Agency owner jailed for “utterly despicable crime”

The owner of an estate agency in Sussex has been jailed for five years for what a judge has called “an utterly despicable crime.”

Elizabeth Smith, who ran Waves Estates in Rye, tricked 80 year old Joan Cannon into paying her £160,000 for a bungalow in St Leonards where she was to have lived with her autistic son. 

However, Smith used the funds for herself - including a Mercedes car and a holiday in Dubai - while Mrs Cannon, who died earlier this year, is described as having lived out her final days in poverty.


Smith, of Winchelsea, East Sussex, pleaded guilty to fraud between May 2018 and May 2019; this was despite untruthfully telling police she had cancer.

Judge Richard Huseyin told her in Hove Crown Court: "It was an utterly despicable crime. You were highly regarded by your friends, your work colleagues and those you dealt with when you established your own estate agents.

“Mrs Cannon was vulnerable to this type of fraud due to her age and circumstances. The effects on her was catastrophic. 

“She lost everything she and her husband had built up together. Her last couple of years and months were financially blighted and she lived the remainder of her life in poverty.”

The fraud was carried out by Smith after Mrs Cannon had already sold her home and was under a strict deadline to move out.

Smith brokered a deal with the vendor of the bungalow that Mrs Cannon be allowed to rent the bungalow - at the same time, Smith told Mrs Cannon she should pay the £160,000 into Smith's personal account to speed the transaction. Mrs Cannon transferred the full cost of the house to Smith using her Santander bank account and moved into the buingalow.


However, Mrs Cannon then received an eviction order because the proceeds of the sale did not go through to the vendor.

Earlier court hearings connected with the case had been delayed because of the pandemic. In a victim statement before her death in August, Mrs Cannon had written: “My entire world came crashing down. At first I thought it was just a mistake but I was told the vast majority of the £160,000 had been spent and it was highly unlikely I would to achieve these funds back. Smith took advantage of my situation and convinced me to send her the money for the purchase of the chalet.”

There are further details of the case in various mainstream national and local media reports of the Hove Crown Court proceedings, now available online. 

  • icon

    Why did it take so long to get this verdict?


    Massive backlog of cases due to Covid, I suspect.

  • Andrew Ireland

    How did Elizabeth Smith ever think she could cover it up? Probably thought poor old Mrs Cannon would pass away before anyone noticed.
    What a horrible thing to do

  • Algarve  Investor

    Truly shocking.

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    • N W
    • 10 November 2021 15:56 PM

    despicable, throw away the key!

    Why anyone could ever contemplate doing such a thing to anyone let alone a vulnerable and frail lady is beyond me (trouble is they are the easiest for people like this to pray on)

  • icon

    What an absolute disgrace. Hang your head, woman.

  • icon

    What a vile woman she is - lets home what goes around comes around!

  • Roger  Mellie


  • Kristjan Byfield

    Seize all her assets including her home, sell them and give proceeds to the autistic son, ban her from running a business and see what her life is like with no money and no prospects. Vile human being.


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