A MOTHER who shaved her son’s head and eyebrows to pretend he had cancer in an £85,000 benefit scam has been jailed.
• Woman kept up farce for almost three years
• She suffered from a personality disorder
• Judge brands her a ‘congenital liar’
The woman, from the Stroud area of Gloucestershire, forged doctors’ notes and made it look as though her son was taking medication for cancer.
She forced him to wear a bandana and sent him to school in a wheelchair, where he was unable to run around and play and became the “butt of jokes”.
The woman used the money she fraudulently claimed in benefits to take her children to Florida, where she made the boy sit in the wheelchair so they could jump queues.
As well as claiming £85,899.44 in benefits, the woman was given a Vauxhall Zafira to help her transport the boy around.
She sent forged letters to the Department of Work and Pensions and the boy’s school claiming he was suffering from autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS) and later lymphoma - a type of cancer.
She even put the “news” that her son had cancer on her Facebook page.
She kept up the elaborate farce for almost three years while the boy was aged between six and eight, but was found out when the boy’s father became suspicious and went to his GP.
She was arrested and admitted one count of child cruelty, eight counts of fraud and one of forgery.
Judge Jamie Tabor QC sentenced her at Gloucester Crown Court to three years and nine months in prison, adding that having her children taken from her was also a powerful punishment.
The court heard that the woman - who cannot be identified for legal reasons - had a history of being involved with the mental health services and suffered from a personality disorder.
The judge told the woman, who was slumped in her seat during the hearing: “You have demonstrated an extraordinary lack of candour for a very large majority of your life.
“I have no doubt that there have been periods in your life when you have been unwell, but I also have no doubt that you have all but lost the ability to tell the truth.
“In short, you are a congenital liar, nothing you can say can be accepted, everything you say or write has to be double-checked.
“Your behaviour towards your son is quite beyond the pale.
“Over a long period of time you persuaded your little son, and through him others, he was suffering from ALPS and later cancer.
“You shaved his head and paraded him in public as a victim of cancer. He was made to wear a bandana and was the butt of jokes from peers.
“You even stooped to put him in a wheelchair while on holiday in Florida so you could jump the queues at a theme park.
“This was cruelty over a long period of time. I accept no physical injury was inflicted but you have caused undoubted long- term psychological harm to him.
“These were frauds from the outset over a long period of time and you gained financially to a great extent.
“I note there was a holiday in Florida and a brand new car was provided.
“This was a deliberate effort to extract as much money from the State as possible.”
The court heard that the woman’s fraud started when she took her son to their GP in 2008 after he complained of pains in his legs.
Following tests, the doctor contacted her to say the boy’s blood tests were clear and that he was healthy. But she used the letter as a template to forge letters which said he was ill.
The woman claimed disability living allowance, carer’s allowance and child tax credits.
Prosecutor Lisa Hennessey told the hearing the woman did not let the boy run around and play and that his siblings were told to be “very careful” with him.
“In 2009 he started coming to school in a wheelchair,” Ms Hennessey said.
“The woman told the school he had serious problems with his knees, but in fact he was desperate to get out of the wheelchair and did not use it at home.
“In February 2010, his health took a turn for the worse and another forged letter appeared at the school in which it was stated that he had lymphoma.
“She told the school headteacher that he would be treated with an oral tablet that would make his hair fall out.
“Within days he was wearing a bandana at school and she contacted teachers to say that children should not pull it off.
“There was visible hair growth around the edges of the bandana and it was obvious to his school that his eyebrows had been shaved off.
“The woman even put the news he had cancer on her Facebook page.
“He did not have cancer or ALPS at all. She acted purely for financial gain.”
The court heard that the boy’s father went to the school to speak to the headteacher, who showed him the forged letters his ex-wife had sent them about his son’s condition.
After becoming concerned, he went to the doctor’s, where he was told the boy’s blood records were fine and he realised his son was not taking medication.
He went on to contact social services and the woman was arrested in May 2010 and her children removed from her care.
The court heard that the woman continued to claim child tax credit despite the fact that the children were no longer living with her.
Following her arrest she told police she had shaved the boy’s head after she gave him a bad haircut and denied ever saying that he had cancer.
The judge told the court the boy had been “devastated by his mother’s use of him as a tool for money”.
In a victim impact statement, the boy said: “I don’t like her, she is evil. She should be normal but I don’t think she has a normal brain.
“I did wonder why she picked on me. I spoke to Dad about it loads and I think it must have been because of my age.
“When we first went, I missed Mum, but I didn’t understand what was happening. Now I know, I don’t miss her anymore.”
Joe Maloney, defending, said of his client: “She was experiencing low moods and had difficulties with mental health.
“This is a woman that is currently unwell.
“She is coming to terms with the gravity and seriousness of what she has been involved in.”