A FRAUDSTER tried to con a single mother out of £6500 using a distressing picture of a critically-ill East Lothian boy pretending he was his son.
Australian Justine Clark, 27, was contacted on Facebook in October by a US soldier called Thomas Collins Donald.
During a six-week scam, Donald, 37, bombarded Justine with romantic messages and convinced her of his military bravery in Iraq.
Ms Clark, from Sydney, said she fell for Donald but became suspicious when he sent a picture of his badly-injured son this week and asked for $10,000 (£6500) to help pay for medical treatment.
She eventually realised the image was of Harry Davies, from Pencaitland, East Lothian, who made headlines two years ago after surviving what doctors called the worst head injury they’d ever seen.
Harry, now aged 13, made a remarkable recovery from his injuries after he was knocked off his bike by a car driver.
Ms Clark, who has reported the scam to the US military, said: “I’m so mad with myself. I was really making a future with this person – like I felt really close.
“A part of me feels, ‘How did I let myself get sucked into it? How silly can I be?’”
She added: “As I’m a parent myself I feel for Harry’s family.
“To have their son’s pic used for scamming, it’s sad. These people don’t care.”
Harry’s dad, Nick, said yesterday: “This is the downside of the internet. There are pictures out there, people just take one and go, ‘This is my son’. There’s nothing you can do about it. I’m just glad the woman didn’t fall for it.”
The schoolboy was knocked off his bike in a road accident but regained consciousness after two weeks in a coma.
Harry, a P7 pupil at Pencaitland Primary School, was struck a glancing blow from behind by a van as he cycled along a road near the village.
He suffered a cracked skull and was put into a medically-induced coma at the Capital’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children.
His mother Lisa said in 2013, he had woken up after doctors reduced his medication. “He is really making progress,” she said. “He’s talking to people and he recognises his family and friends. He was woken up from the coma after one week but he wasn’t able to handle it so doctors put him back to sleep for another week to let his brain recover. After that he woke up and was able to cope with it.”
She said her son was lucky to be alive after the accident on the B6363 Boggs Holdings Road on June 3, 2013.
“Medical staff told us that if Harry hadn’t been wearing a helmet he would have died. He’s always been very safety conscious and he wouldn’t have got on a bike without a helmet.”
She said an off-duty firefighter and two carers had helped Harry at the scene.
She added: “I think the fact they were able to get him to hospital very quickly helped to save his life.”
He returned to school just two months after the accident. There are no internet regulations to stop such incidents.