A FINANCIAL advisor accused of fleecing two elderly sisters of their savings told a jury he became "very close" to them.

Mary and Violet Pugh sold the family farm and moved to a bungalow in Burley Gate, where they ran a smallholding.

David Weston visited them for 10 years and advised investing in Staffordshire Building Society while he ran Powell Price and Co (Hereford) Ltd which opened in March 1992.

The prosecution at Worcester Crown Court has accused Weston of stealing more than £40,000 from the sisters' Staffordshire account forging their signatures.

He claims they gave him gifts and loans after the relationship developed. He ran errands, did work inside their home - and helped them draw up a will.

He said the sisters bought his children Christmas presents and were photographed with his family: "I became very close to them. They invited me in for tea and cake and looked forward to my visits," he said.

Weston, aged 45, of Admirals Close, Hereford, denies 20 charges of stealing money from the sisters and eight of stealing from two other elderly couples.

It is alleged he plundered the Staffordshire accounts of vulnerable victims during a £66,000 theft spree in the 1990s.

Weston told the court he met the sisters while employed as an agent for Pearl Assurance. In 1989, while working for West Midland Brokers, he drove them to make their will at a Hereford solicitors but was "stunned" when he found he was a beneficiary.

He had not taken any financial exams and did not know the significance of "conflict of interest".

Later, he received £10,000 from the sisters to help extend his home. "They offered it as a gift but I treated it as a loan," he said.

In 1991 he began a partnership with Powell Price of Leominster, and put in £20,000 to finance his new business in Hereford.

Weston said he was given £15,000 from the sisters' Staffordshire account and £5,000 from their bank account. "They saw it as a progressive step for me and my family," he said.

Weston also said £14,000 he received from the Staffordshire account of James and Kathleen Davies, who lived in Presteigne, was fees for between six and nine months of financial advice.

l The trial continues.