Shannon Matthews' aunt jailed for benefit fraud

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The Independent Online

The aunt of abducted schoolgirl Shannon Matthews was jailed for a year today after she admitted benefit fraud amounting to more than £35,000.

Mother-of-two Amanda Hyett admitted claiming a range of benefits while failing to tell the authorities she lived with her husband, bus driver Neil Hyett.

Hyett, 27, of King Edward Street, Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, was a prominent figure following the disappearance of Shannon Matthews last year.

She lived next door to the schoolgirl and is the sister of Shannon's mother Karen's former partner, Craig Meehan.

Mr Byrne said Hyett considered herself to be Shannon Matthew's aunt and the events of the nine-year-old's disappearance last year had a big impact on her.

He said his client was "completely taken in" by Karen Matthews who was later found to have deliberately engineered her own daughter's abduction.

During Shannon's disappearance Hyett and her husband helped with searches for the youngster and were regularly featured in media coverage of the case.

Mr Byrne said she had now lost "this part of her extended family".

Hyett admitted four counts of making a false statement or representation to obtain benefits, one count of retaining a wrongful credit and one count of failure to notify a change of circumstances.

The benefits she claimed included income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit.

Judge Collier told her he could not pass a suspended sentence because of the length of the fraud, the number of benefits involved and Hyett's deliberate false assertions.

But the judge said there were a number of mitigating features.

He said: "The extra money did not go to a lavish lifestyle."

Speaking after the case, Adele Hirst, the regional fraud manager for the Department of Work and Pensions, said: "Anyone who claims to be single when they're not in order to get money they are not entitled to, shouldn't think they can get away with it. As today's sentence shows, we do track down those guilty of benefit theft, we do bring them to court and they do get sent to prison."