Gainsborough woman conned workplace out of thousands by pretending to have terminal cancer

Lincoln Crown Court
Lincoln Crown Court

A Gainsborough woman conned her employer out of thousands of pounds after carrying out an elaborate cancer hoax, a court was told.

Kelsey Whitehead, aged 38, falsely claimed to have stage four metastatic osteosarcoma which had spread throughout her body and told her work colleagues that the condition was terminal.

Whitehead revealed her “condition” in a post on Facebook and completely duped her boss at the Hull-based firm Carbon Electric. She then backed up her story by appearing to show the symptoms of the killer disease.

She went on to claim that the NHS had refused to pay for her treatment and would only fund palliative care forcing her to go private. As a result her employers loaned her £5,000 so that she could have the treatment. Later when she went off ill they paid her almost £10,000 in sick pay.

Lincoln Crown Court was told that the entire cancer story was fiction, with Whitehead researching and then displaying symptoms she had researched on the internet.

Phil Howes, prosecuting, said that Whitehead shaved off her hair, put a fake drip in her chest and used make-up to give the impression she was not sleeping at night. She would also vomit at work claiming it was part of her illness. Whitehead’s own partner was so taken in that she gave up her job to care for her believing she did not have long to live.

Mr Howes said: “In February 2014 the defendant claimed her cancer had returned and she had to go private as the NHS would not fund her treatment. As a result of that the company gave her a £5,000 loan.”

Mr Howes said that at one point Whitehead wrote a letter to her work colleagues saying that the cancer had spread to her neck, bladder, digestive system, liver, kidneys and finally her brain. The hoax only came to light in May 2016 after Whitehead took an overdose and was admitted to hospital.

Whitehead, of Lea Road, admitted two charges of fraud. She was given a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for a year, with a 20-week night time curfew and a 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

Judge Michael Heath told her: “Your deceit has been serious and persistent, planned and sophisticated.”

But the judge said he also had to look at what had caused Whitehead to behave in the way she did. He said there was evidence that Whitehead had suffered from a number of traumas in her life including sexual, physical and emotional abuse and also suffered from being bullied at school.

Karen Walton, in mitigation, said that Whitehead had a history of lying since she was a teenager which stemmed from abuse she suffered as a child.

“She has suffered whole life trauma caused by the abuse and lack of support from both parents,” Ms Walton said.

Lizzie Hutton, one of the directors of Whitehead’s employers Carbon Electric , said in a statement read out in court “I cannot begin to describe how betrayed and disappointed we feel. We have lost a considerable amount of money especially as we are continuing to operate in difficult times.”