A CON ARTIST claimed he had a six-year-old daughter with cancer – in order to steal a giant bouncy castle.
The businessman victim of the Wigan scam today offered to give a charity a reward if he can get the £1,000 rare inflatable back.
Steve Slater of SJ’s leisure says he was duped by a “scumbag” who hired the Disney castle for a party at a home in Marsh Green.
But when the St Helens company returned to collect it afterwards, staff found it gone, the house empty and a “To Let” sign erected outside.
Mr Slater is particularly angry that the trickster used the pretext of a child supposedly suffering from cancer to get him to deliver and erect the inflatable after the boss initially said he would be unable to deliver the attraction because they were “absolutely pulled out” with work.
The thief did pay the £60 hire charge.
Mr Slater, who says that he often offers concessionary rental charges for charity causes, has now pledged to make a £200 donation to Wigan and Leigh Hospice if the castle and inflation blower are safely returned.
He has spoken to neighbours who were not clear whether the house had been properly tenanted.
Nor whether the bouncy castle firm had in fact been targeted by conmen who had gained entry to the house illegally without the approval of Wigan and Leigh Housing, then used it as a base to hire and steal the castle.
Mr Slater said: “There was something about the job that left us feeling a bit uneasy because I remember that when we went into the house with this bloke who was hiring it, there was some furniture but no ornaments at all on the walls or the shelves.
“But that can’t necessarily be the grounds for refusing to complete a hire, can it?
“This bouncy castle, which is called the Disney Clubhouse, is quite unusual and they won’t be able to sell it easily without word getting back to us because there are, to our knowledge, only four in the country and this will be the only one in the north west.
“I like to help charities when I can and we have done things with the Steve Prescott Foundation with Saints but this leaves a nasty taste.
“The bloke who phoned up to hire the castle said that his little six-year-old girl had cancer and it would mean the world to her and that made the difference, to tell you the truth, because we were really pulled out with work and we could have done with not driving over to Wigan for the job and then driving back again to try and collect it.
“The castle takes a bit of collapsing and I suppose that would take people who weren’t familiar with how to do it half an hour or so to do it and even then it won’t go smaller than lets say a 45 gallon drum, so it is quite an awkward thing to manhandle,
“We couldn’t believe it when we arrived at the house and found nothing but a To Let sign on the wall, it was an awful feeling to get taken for a ride in this way.
“We asked the neighbours on either side but nobody saw anything being taken away and they didn’t seem to know if these people were the true tenants or not.
“People in the trade now tell me that they have blacked Marsh Green for hire because of things like this happening.”
A spokesman for Wigan police said that they were waiting to fully interview Mr Slater. But he confirmed that they were investigating the allegation of theft of the bouncy castle from the house in Marsh Green.
They would now be checking with Wigan and Leigh Housing to establish whether the house had been genuinely tenanted at the time of the theft on Monday, or was listed as vacant.