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Family ‘overwhelmed’ after rogue builder stole £7,000 for autistic three-year-old’s sensory room

A Retford mum has declared herself to be ‘overwhelmed’ with love and support after the builder who stole thousands of pounds intended for her autistic son was sent to prison. In 2021, Abbie Merrett, 35, and her husband David, 39, saved up £18,000 to build a safe space for three-year-old Rory.

They wanted to use the money to construct a ‘sensory room’ with a special bed, a changing table and padding at their home in Retford. Brian Barton, 53, received a deposit of £7,000 for materials from David and Abbie Merrett in July 2021.

However, over the subsequent three months, he continually offered excuses to the family why the work hadn’t started. Initially blaming the delay on post-Covid disruption to the supply of materials, Barton later asserted that he would cancel the order and reimburse the funds.

However, despite his assurances, no refund was ever given to the family. Following this breach of trust, Barton, of Laurel Fields, Potters Bar, was reported to Nottinghamshire Police in October of the same year.




After initially denying the charges, Barton eventually pleaded guilty to one count of theft. Appearing at Nottingham Crown Court at the start of February, he was sent to prison for 13 months.

Abbie Merrett said: “We are overwhelmed by the love and support of the community. We could not have done it without them. In 2021 my friend set up a just giving page which raised £1,501 that allowed us to start the build.

“With help from MKM Building Supplies in Randall Park Way, local builders and individuals’ kindness and generosity, we now have a safe space for our son to grow and develop.

“Since finishing the sensory room we have seen a massive difference already in Rory’s interaction and eye contact and can’t wait to see what he achieves in the future.”

Due to the generosity of the local community, Rory now has the facilities that he needed and the family has chosen to pass on the extra money collected to other local children who need it. On Saturday, March 2, Rory, now aged 5, will present a cheque for the £1,500 raised for him by well-wishers to Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.

She said: “After the sentencing last week we are now in a position to forward all of the community’s Just Giving donations to do incredible things for other people at Bluebell Wood”. Detective Constable Sean Osborn, who led the investigation on behalf of Nottinghamshire Police, said:

“Barton never had any intention of starting this work and caused significant upset and anxiety to an everyday customer who had placed their faith in him.

“Barton was supposed to be constructing a sensory room for a young boy who has significant learning difficulties. He instead took this money for his personal gain.

“It’s a testament to the perseverance of the family and tradespeople from the local community, who stepped in to complete building work often at their own expense, that the child now has a fully functional sensory room fit for his needs.

“This kind of behaviour will always be treated extremely seriously and we will do all we can to support victims. Having persevered, the victim was refunded by the bank for the majority of the money paid to Barton.

“Unfortunately, the actions of people like him serve to undermine faith in the building profession as a whole so I am pleased he has now been held to account.”

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