Meet Jamie Cooke – the professional beggar who pretends to be homeless to con people out of up to £1,000 a WEEK.
This week, as a court imposed an ASBO banning Cooke from begging anywhere in Milton Keynes, the incredible ‘career’ of the self-confessed heroin addict came to light.
The gaunt-faced 29-year-old has spent every day for years huddled pitifully in a blanket in the city’s most lucrative areas – outside Sainsbury’s or Marks & Spencer in CMK.
He would ask for money, telling people he was homeless and living on the streets.
Yet all the time he was living with his girlfriend in a flat on Weavers Hill, Fullers Slade, the Citizen can reveal.
Cooke devised a business plan, calculating the footfalls of various locations and best times of day to beg. During peak times – Friday and Saturday evenings –he would reap around £200 in small change tossed on his blanket by pub-goers and clubbers.
If people refused to give, he would often swear or shout at them, the court heard.
Most of the cash Cooke ‘earned’ would go towards feeding his drug addiction, say police.
MK Anti Social Behaviour officer PC Dave Goodwin told the Citizen: “Jamie Cooke is a habitual beggar who becomes verbally abusive and aggressive towards members of the public when they decline to give him money.
“He has been causing problems in several locations across Milton Keynes. He presents himself as a homeless person but in fact has been living with his long-term girlfriend since 2009.”
PC Goodwin said Cooke had been given “numerous offers” of help with his addiction from city agencies. His lack of engagement and refusal to quit begging landed him in court.
Milton Keynes magistrates imposed an anti social behavioural order to prohibit Cooke from requesting money, free food or clothing anywhere in the borough area for the next five years.
Said PC Goodwin: “Members of the public thought they were helping Jamie by giving cash but in fact they were almost killing him with kindness.
In a funny kind of way, I’m hoping the ASBO will do him a real favour.
“I’ve been dealing with Jamie for years, and I know he is obviously a man of intelligence. The fact that he can no longer be a professional beggar could be what he needs to turn his life around.”