`Miracle cure' man jailed for 21 months

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The Independent Online
An epileptic who conned cash out of a church congregation by duping them into believing he was brain damaged and confined to a wheelchair, then faked a miracle sure during a service, was jailed for 21 months yesterday.

Birmingham Crown Court had heard that Paul Redhead, 29, from Coventry, staged the "Lazarus re-enactment" to show how foolish Christians were after becoming bored with having to use a wheelchair.

The hoax was dreamed up by Redhead and his flatmate Peter Callister, 24, who was jailed for 15 months, when the epileptic was given a temporary wheelchair after suffering side effects from his medication which left him with a lack of balance.

The chair was integral to the scam as the pair embarked on the charade that Redhead had been brain damaged since birth after being starved of oxygen.

In August 1995, the pair began attending the Elim Pentecostal Church in Coventry. The congregation was fooled into believing that Redhead was severely disabled. After hearing of a "burglary" in which pounds 116 intended for a new wheelchair was supposed to have been stolen, the congregation and a number of local businesses began fund-raising and opened a charity bank account.

Last February, fearing the scam was getting out of hand, the pair staged Redhead's "cure". The church's attempts to seek medical verification led to Redhead's downfall. When confronted, Redhead admitted it had been a con and in a tirade against religion claimed he had done it to prove how "foolish and gullible Christians were".