Don’t let looks deceive you, west Aucklander Desmond William Cook says.
The 50-year-old has spent the last couple of years asking people for money to support his brother jailed in Panama.
But his efforts, combined with his facial tattoos, have raised a few eyebrows and resulted in numerous complaints to police by people who suspect he is a conman.
Mr Cook says he’s not.
And he’s got the paperwork to prove it.
Documents show his brother Billy Cook is serving a five-year jail term after being arrested with 4kg of cocaine.
Billy was originally sent to La Joyita, one of the toughest prisons in the Central American country.
Inmates must rely on family members for food and other associated costs in Panama, and Cook was moved to the Renacer jail near Gamboa because he had no support.
Desmond, who says he can’t work because of a heart condition and injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash, does his best to help – even if that means begging.
"I have been supported by the Salvation Army and church groups," he says.
"I’ve also written to consulates and embassies but the government won’t help."
Desmond says he has never been arrested and is always upfront about what the money is for.
"I haven’t been telling hard luck stories and I am very grateful that some businesses have helped my brother. Is it better that I ask for money or steal it?"
Call the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Wellington on (04) 439-8000 if you want to help.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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