Shannon's ex-aunt admits £35,000 benefit fraud

By Alistair Keely,Press Association
Sunday 23 October 2011 03:38

A former aunt of abducted schoolgirl Shannon Matthews was warned today that she faces jail after admitting benefit fraud.

Amanda Hyett, 27, illegally claimed more than £35,000 in income support and housing benefit over a four-year period, Leeds Crown Court heard.

Hyett, of King Edward Street, Thornhill Lees, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, 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.

She denied one count of making a false statement.

The pleas were accepted by the Crown and the case, which was not opened in court, was adjourned to November 5 for sentence.

The Recorder of Leeds, Peter Collier QC, adjourned the case for the preparation of a pre-sentence report.

He told her: "The fact I have granted bail and asked for reports is no indication the sentence will not be custodial.

"These are serious matters you had admitted. The likely sentence is a prison sentence.

"Whether that is so or what length will be determined by the judge on November 5," he added.

She was granted conditional bail and told to keep appointments with the Probation Service.

Hyett is the sister of Shannon's mother Karen's ex-partner Craig Meehan.

She became a well-known figure after she became involved in the hunt for Shannon, who sparked a huge search operation when she disappeared in February last year.

She took part in candlelit vigils for the missing girl, gave television interviews and was a frequent visitor to the Matthews' home next door to her own former property on Moorside Road, in Dewsbury Moor.

Following today's guilty pleas it emerged that some of her fraudulent activity occurred while Shannon was missing.

The bulk of the charges relate to her failing to declare that she was living with her husband Neil when obtaining the benefits.

One charge relates to her retaining credits of £5,181.52 which was paid into an an account kept by her at the Post Office which she failed to cancel.

The total fraud amounted to £35,885.27, the court was told.

She showed little emotion today but kissed and hugged Mr Hyett before entering the dock to enter her pleas.

Shannon, then aged nine, was missing for 24 days before she was found in the base of a bed in the home of Hyett and Meehan's uncle, Michael Donovan.

Her mother and Donovan were convicted last year of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

They were both jailed for eight years for conspiring to keep Shannon drugged and imprisoned at Donovan's home in a desperate plan to claim £50,000 in reward money.