'Changing Rooms' presenter faces jail over cancer lie

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The Independent Online

A former presenter of Changing Rooms, Elizabeth Wagstaff, was yesterday warned by a judge she faces prison after she admitted conning her colleagues out of almost £55,000 by pretending to have terminal cancer.

The BBC1 makeover specialist pleaded guilty to 14 charges of obtaining money by deception and four charges of obtaining property by deception. She had denied the charges at an earlier hearing but changed her pleas yesterday.

The Inner London Crown Court was told she swindled the wife of her fellow presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen out of £2,000, the presenter Anna Ryder Richardson out of £500 and the former Blue Peter host Mark Curry out of £1,000. Ms Wagstaff, from Stevenage, Hertfordshire, also took £12,000 from a former boyfriend.

The prosecution said Ms Wagstaff's deception of her colleagues at Bazal Productionsoccurred throughout 1999. Sheconned money out of production staff and the landscape gardener Peter Beech, who also worked on the show.

Mr Andrew Shaw, for the defence, said: "Miss Wagstaff is suffering from a psychiatric disorder and further reports would indicate that she continues to suffer from that. She is continuing to receive treatment. The whole basis of mitigation will be that the long history of the disorder in this case has directly led to the committing of these offences."

Judge Quentin Campbell warned Ms Wagstaff she faced prison for the offences.

He said: "I have to say that at a casual glance these psychiatric reports ... do not really appear to be much related to the offence."

Ms Wagstaff was bailed to appear on 22 May.

She said, in a statement issued through her solicitor: "I am very sorry to have let down people who were kind to me and who I regarded as friends."