London

Mother jailed for faking children's illness in benefits scam

A woman who lied that two of her children were ill, subjecting them to unnecessary surgery as part of a benefits fraud scam, has been jailed.

The mother of six from south London, who cannot be named, was found guilty of fraud and child abuse.

She was sentenced to seven and a half years after Croydon Crown Court heard she claimed £375,000 in benefits.

She duped doctors for over a decade - convincing them to insert feeding tubes into her son and daughter's stomachs.

The woman told specialists her daughter had stomach problems and her son had asthma.

Judge Elizabeth Smaller said she had forced the children to "live double lives to fall in with your deception".

She said doctors believed her "because why would a parent present their child as ill when they were not?"

'Severe anxiety'

Dr Eveline Knight-Jones, who prepared the paediatric overview for the trial, said: "In London it is all too easy for fabricated illness cases to attend several different hospitals some distance from their local hospital, because there are so many hospitals, particularly specialist hospitals."

Most of the health professionals the children saw took what the mother said about them "at face value," the court heard.

Jurors were told the mother was "resistant" to attempts to investigate the causes of the alleged symptoms and refused to allow one child to be admitted to hospital for a two-week review.

The defence claimed she suffered from a severe anxiety disorder, which caused her to "catastrophise" and overstate her children's medical symptoms.

The court heard she received £287,800 in income support payments between 2002 and 2013 as well as disability living allowance.

Personal gain

She also claimed to be a single mother but was living with her partner, the children's father.

Det Sgt Stuart Parsons, said: "It is staggering to think that the mother's wilful actions resulted in the children undergoing unnecessary surgical and medical interventions.

"She lied at every opportunity, presenting herself as a lone parent coping with ill and vulnerable children.

"The reality was that she resided with her partner and fabricated her children's conditions for personal financial gain."

A serious case review has yet to report its findings.

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