Essex: Mum Danielle Watson admits conning kind strangers out of thousands of pounds with false cancer claims
- Credit: PA NEWS
A young mother has admitted defrauding friends and kindhearted strangers out of thousands of pounds by claiming she had terminal cancer.
Danielle Watson, from Rowhedge, Colchester, said she had late-stage cervical cancer from January 2012 to claim donations, freebies and cut-price deals for her upcoming wedding worth almost £10,000.
The then 21-year-old admin assistant even brought forward her wedding by several months to April that year so she could walk up the aisle before radiotherapy and chemo made her hair fall out.
Watson told people she only had a 15-20% chance of survival.
But in fact she had keyhole surgery for a treatable condition, ovarian polyps, and had never been diagnosed with or treated for cancer.
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Marcus Croskell, prosecuting, told Basildon Crown Court how 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.
Mr Croskell said Watson was “involved in many aspects of fundraising from their conception”.
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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.”
She aroused suspicions by failing to provide proof of her illness and demanding all donations be paid to her account.
Watson, 24, then revealed in June 2012 that she was pregnant.
She had denied six counts of fraud but dramatically changed her pleas on the first day of her trial today.
Rebecca Blain, for Watson, told the court that with an 18-month-old child and her second due in mid-November, her client had been worried about getting an immediate prison sentence.
Mrs Blain said: “One of those she told was her then to-be husband.
“Her own family all fell under the umbrella of that lie.
“She has told friends and family and she will have to learn to live and come to terms with the fact that she has told them what are the most despicable lies.”
Recorder Gerard Pounder said Watson had “preyed on human kindness” and he could not guarantee she would avoid a custodial sentence.
Watson will be sentenced in January.
Detective Constable Rob Lewis, investigating officer, said: “Frustratingly due to the unique circumstances of this case it has taken over two years to reach court.
“Danielle Watson acted in a cold and calculated manner. She be-friended and abused the trust of kind and generous people who wanted to help a person they thought was dying.
“She obtained significant financial gain, gifts and services from the kind hearted and at no point throughout the investigation did she demonstrate any form of remorse or shoulder the responsibility for her conduct.
“Watson’s actions attracted national media coverage and sadly the greatest impact a case of this nature will have is that it could undermine future public fundraising efforts for genuine causes.
“Everyone involved will be that bit more cautious and cynical the next time they are asked to make a donation.
“On a positive note I would like to add that due to the diligence and intervention of two fundraisers Watson never received some of the money raised and £6,563 was donated earlier this year to the Mercedes Curnow foundation which is a registered charity set up to raise awareness surrounding cervical cancer and assists with private screening.”