A mum who fooled her own husband into thinking she had terminal cancer and just 18 months to live has been jailed.
Stephanie Hunter told her heartbroken supporters that her lung cancer had spread to her brain meaning she had to shave her head.
Worried work colleagues felt so sorry for her that they arranged big fund-raising drives to send her on a VIP “last trip” to Disneyland Paris with her children, Hull Daily Mail reports.
The 32-year-old even took her husband to a funeral directors to make arrangements for when she died, a court heard.
David Godfrey, prosecuting, told Hull Crown Court that mother-of-three Hunter worked during 2016 as a telesales agent in Hull.
One day Hunter reported sick for work and then provided a sick note for 21 days’ absence.
She said that she had cancer and needed lung surgery, later claiming that her treatment had not worked and that she required aggressive chemotherapy for three months.
The mum let her bosses know when the treatment was supposed to take place and was told only to come in if she could cope.
From January to September 2017, she never worked a full week.
During that period Hunter told a boss the cancer had spread from her neck and right lung and that she had four tumours on her brain.
She pretended that there was no cure and that she had 18 months to live.
In January 2017, Hunter shaved her head and started wearing a head scarf, telling her payroll manager that she had discharged herself from hospital to attend a work shift.
Her concerned colleagues began fund-raising “to give the family one last trip” and a JustGiving page was created.
“People, understandably, were very generous,” said Mr Godfrey.
In total £10,446 was donated by generous friends, colleagues and local businesses, leaving Hunter to take a VIP trip to Disneyland Paris with first-class train travel, a journey by Eurostar and a five-star hotel on full board.
After she returned the mum’s web of lies began to unravel.
First her statutory sick pay was stopped following failed attempts to have her condition medically confirmed.
When social services became involved due to concerns about her children, Hunter broke down.
She admitted fabricating her story.
Hunter even fooled her husband, Jamie Wilkinson, who believed that she had terminal cancer.
She pretended to him that she was going for appointments to Castle Hill Hospital.
“She even took him to a funeral directors for help in arranging her funeral,” said Mr Godfrey.
“As a result of his wife’s lies, he left the family home. He feels great shame and embarrassment at what happened.
“He is now in debt. His family life has been shattered as a result of his former wife’s lies.”
Hunter also pretended she had cancer while facing court action for rent arrears and possible eviction.
She claimed in 2017: “I have lung cancer and this has spread to my brain. My diagnosis worsened in March when my condition became terminal.”
John Dunning, mitigating, said: “Once a lie starts and becomes established, it has a life, it seems, of its own.
“By the time it came before Hull County Court, that lie was so entrenched that it would have been almost impossible for her to have resiled from it.
“All of this offending must be seen through that prism. She continued the lie and she took actions to support that lie.
“So we have the situation where people’s good nature has been abused, where they will feel that their charity, their willingness to give, has been taken advantage of and they, no doubt, themselves will feel particularly disillusioned and will feel a degree of disappointment, if not anger, with somebody who was a colleague.”
The total amount of actual money “taken advantage of” was just under £7,000 as some of the sum donated was not spent.
“The original motivation for this was simply to have attention and sympathy,” said Mr Dunning.
“She took sophisticated action in order to maintain the lie – shaving the head.
“The motivating factor for this was a desire for attention.”
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Hunter regretted her actions and had said: “I never want to put myself in this position again.”
She had children aged 13, nine and eight and no previous convictions, although a psychiatrist argued she had an emotionally unstable personality.
Judge John Thackray QC said: “People’s kindness and charitable nature has been completely abused. It prevents people making genuine charitable donations in the future “
He told Hunter that she “preyed upon and indeed manipulated” the instinctive emotions and kindness of people who were saddened by her supposed condition.
“Your lies and conduct were truly despicable,” the judge said.
“Offending like this does undermine public confidence and deters people from making charitable donations.
“You will undoubtedly have eroded trust going forward of those whom you conned and those who will be aware of this case to the detriment of genuine cancer victims.”
Hunter, 32, of Freemantle Avenue, Hull, admitted fraud and perverting the course of justice.
She was jailed for 15 months. She sobbed as she was led from the dock.