Phoney academic conned her university out of pounds 200,000

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The Independent Online
A WOMAN suffering from schizophrenia swindled a university out of nearly pounds 200,000 by passing herself off as an academic, a court was told yesterday.

Soraya Yuksel, 50, managed to convince Reading University she was a language expert and after starting as a part-time lecturer she not only went on to head a languages department but also managed to draw salaries for two non-existent lecturers.

Yesterday Yuksel, who spent two years on the run after jumping bail at her original trial in 1996, was ordered to be detained under the Mental Health Act after admitting three charges of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and six charges of false accounting.

Reading Crown Court was told that Yuksel managed to construct a false history that secured her a role in academia.

Barnaby Evans, for the prosecution, said Yuksel had applied to Reading University in April, 1989, as a temporary course teacher at the centre for applied language studies. She presented documents to back up her claim that she had the Arabic and Islamic history degrees from Edinburgh University. Her story was embellished by a glowing reference, apparently from a former colleague at Ankara University in Turkey, but in reality written by herself.

After being employed as a part-time teacher she applied for a full-time position as language access development officer, claiming to be a widow.

She presented further fake documents claiming to have a Ph.D from Durham University.

Mr Evans went on: "She said in future she should be known by the title of doctor."

She herself authorised the payments to her two bogus "employees" (one her daughter, the other a former colleague) and even became the warden at one of the university's halls of residence - a position which gave her benefits worth pounds 750 a per month. The court was told she secured a total of pounds 191,593 from the university.

Yuksel, who lived in a cottage at Sherfield Hall, Reading University, before her disappearance, had no previous convictions. She had only been working in Warwick University for a week, under the assumed name of Angela Cooper, when police tracked her down in August last year.

Alex Lewis, for Yuksel, told the court: "She has a severe mental illness, schizophrenia. She is a risk to herself and others and requires psychiatric treatment and care in a secure unit under the appropriate Mental Health Act."

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