Cancer claims ‘dishonest and false’

Published: Monday 20th October 2014 by The News Editor

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A young woman conned friends and strangers out of thousands of pounds of donations, goods and services by falsely claiming she had terminal cancer, a court heard.

Danielle Watson, 24, announced in January 2012 she had stage four cervical cancer, even bringing forward her wedding by several months to April so she could walk down the aisle before radiotherapy and chemotherapy made her hair fall out, the jury heard.

Friends and complete strangers gave money and held fundraising events to provide cash for additional “vitamin C treatment” and others gave free or cut-price deals including a wedding dress worth £699 after hearing of her plight, prosecutor Marcus Croskell told Basildon Crown Court, sitting in Southend, Essex.

But while the then 21-year-old underwent keyhole surgery that January for a common, treatable gynaecological problem, she had already been given the all-clear for cancer, he said.

Fundraisers became suspicious when Watson, who did local newspaper and magazine interviews in early 2012 to raise cash, failed to provide direct evidence of her illness or treatment and demanded money be paid directly into her bank account, the court heard.

After she then announced in June 2012 on Facebook that she was pregnant, they called in police.

She was later arrested.

Mr Croskell said Watson was “involved in many aspects of fundraising from their conception”.

He added: “At no stage was she told by a medical professional that she had any form of cancer, let alone stage four cervical cancer, and she has never had treatment for it.

“Any such assertions are dishonest and false.”

Watson, of Rowhedge, Colchester, appeared in the dock heavily pregnant and dressed all in black. She denies six counts of fraud between January and June 2012.

Free hair cuts, a cut-price deal – including free champagne – on her wedding reception at the Ivory Rooms venue in Billericay and £1,100 worth of services from Leigh Stewart, a local wedding planner, were among the things Watson received after saying she had only a 15-20% chance of survival, the court heard.

Others events including a £1,640 Twitter auction, raffles, cake sales and fundraising nights at which she appeared raised almost £10,000 towards the vitamin C treatment, which costs £6,000 per cycle, the jury of seven women and five men heard.

Some of those involved were people she knew but others came forward after hearing about her plight.

In one interview with the Basildon Echo the then admin assistant for the Financial Services Authority in London said she had “terminal” cancer and added that she was “hoping for a miracle”, the jury was told.

In an interview for Full House magazine, carried out by the Ferrari press agency, she said she had stage four cervical cancer with a “low chance” of survival, Mr Croskell added.

In fact she had undergone keyhole surgery after an obstetrician said she may be suffering from ovarian polyps.

The court heard that she told one friend that the bandage from the keyhole surgery was from a positive cancer biopsy.

Those who helped included Ms Stewart and Barclays worker Victoria Oliver, who held fundraising events at the bank after Watson came in to open an account for funds.

Mr Croskell added: “She (Watson) encouraged parties to offer their goods, services money and time for free or reduced rates because of her purported illness.”

Watson is on unconditional bail.

The trial is scheduled to last four days.

Published: Monday 20th October 2014 by The News Editor

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