THE neighbours of an elderly Newport couple who lost £10,000 in a distraction burglary have set up a fundraising page to support the pair who form the "heart of our small street".

Will Huggins, who lives opposite Denise and John Heirene in St Edward's Street, set up the JustGiving page after the couple fell victim to men posing as water company representatives.

The money was being saved in order to pay for Mr Heirene's funeral. The 79-year-old suffers from terminal cancer and is bed-bound.

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Mr Huggins felt moved to help the couple after having formed a lasting friendship with Mrs Heirene upon moving to the city from London three years ago.

"Her son's car was blocking our moving van in and after a few door knocks we found Denise and she got her son to move his car," he said.

"She was all smiles and very welcoming."

Mr Huggins went on to describe Mrs Heirene as a "landmark of the street" and that she was well known in the area for her wonderful character.

"As we've chatted, Denise has revealed more about her life," he said.

"I found out one of her sons died a few years back and that John, her husband, is in the final stages of a losing battle with cancer."

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Mr Huggins conceded that he had never in fact met Mr Heirene due to his ill health but had often engaged in friendly conversations from opposite ends of the stairs.

"Even though Denise has been through, and is going through, a very tough time she still thinks of others," said Mr Huggins.

"When we got our cat Ted, she knocked on the door brandishing a brightly coloured toy mouse and said "for the new baby!".

"If you mention going on holiday, she always winks and says "I'll keep an eye on the place for you"."

When Mr Huggins found out that the much-loved couple had been burgled he went straight over to offer his help.

"The first thing I noticed was she had to unlock the door, which was unusual," he said.

"She peered out from behind a door chain I didn't know she had. She was still visibly shaken, even days later."

He discovered that the con men had talked their way in and stolen a vast amount of money, some of which was to pay for John's funeral.

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"I knew I needed to do something," he said.

"There was no way this horrible episode would be the last in John and Denise's marriage."

Mr Huggins wasted no time in setting up the fundraising page. He made sure the other residents of St Edward's Street were on board and posted it far and wide on social media.

"A few days later we're at £1400-ish," he said.

"I don't mind saying I choked up when I saw how generous and lovely people were being."

Went Mr Huggins told the couple what he had done he said that Mrs Heirene was "bowled over that so many people, neighbours and strangers alike, cared about her and John, and wanted to help".


"I wanted to show Denise and John that our street, Newport, South Wales, and (through the power of the internet) the whole world has their back.

"There are more good neighbours than con men out there, they are not alone in this situation."

To make a contribution to support Mr and Mrs Heirene, visit

If you saw anything or have any information that could help Gwent Police in their enquiries, call 101 quoting log 291 of 28/5/19.