A FORMER lettings agent who attacked a contractor with a hammer and left thousands of pounds in unpaid debts after his business closed has admitted he housed homeless and vulnerable people.

Brian Reaney was involved in placing people on benefits in accommodation across Swindon, despite the fact he had two convictions for thefts he carried out at a mortgage firm he worked for.

John McGrath, a charity worker who became homeless at the start of last year, said: “Reaney was housing people on benefits. “There were definitely four people at 9 Newhall Street in Swindon on benefits, including me. “He encouraged people to fill in forms to change their housing benefit so it could be paid directly to him. “It didn’t happen because the council blocked it.”

A landlord, who asked not to be named, also said Reaney had moved in people on housing benefits into a property in central Swindon without his prior knowledge.

Reaney, who worked at Ferris Estates, claimed had been finding accommodation for people through Bromford Support, which provides affordable housing.

He said: “People who are in a poor position, shall we say, have a hard time getting housed.

“There’s an awful, awful situation in Swindon with homeless people, especially young people.

“There are some scumbag landlords who are the worst in the world. “I can show you some properties you would be mortified to look at. You wouldn’t even put a pet in there. “ Asked if he should have been housing people on benefits given his track record, Reaney said: “I was genuinely trying to help people. “I heard a landlord say ‘when they’ve got a roof over their head what more do they want?’ “There isn’t support for those people.”

Reaney, from Walcot, was convicted of assault in December for attacking a tiler with a hammer during a violent confrontation at his offices in Andover Street over an unpaid £400 debt.

He was fined £465 at Swindon Magistrates’ Court In 2002 he was also convicted at Swindon Crown Court for two thefts, resulting in a 140-hour community order of Ferris Estates closed at the start of last year, leaving several tenants and landlords out of pocket.

A spokesman for Swindon Council said the local authority had never had a relationship with Reaney.

Bromford Support said it was unable to confirm or deny it had dealt with Reaney due to data protection issues.