Woman shaved her hair off in a ‘truly despicable’ cancer scam

Ms Hunter even shaved her head and tricked her husband into believing she had cancer

Eleanor Sly
Thursday 15 July 2021 14:37 BST
Stephanie Hunter’s work colleagues helped raise money for her to go on a so-called ‘last trip’ to Disneyland Paris
Stephanie Hunter’s work colleagues helped raise money for her to go on a so-called ‘last trip’ to Disneyland Paris (CPS)

A mother from Hull shaved off her hair in a ‘truly despicable’ scam where she pretended to have cancer, even managing to trick her husband into thinking she was unwell.

Stephanie Hunter, aged 32, lied to friends and family, telling them that she had just 18 months left to live as she was suffering from lung cancer, which she said had spread to her brain.

The mother of three even went as far as to shave her head in January 2017 and wear a headscarf, in an attempt to fool friends into believing she was ill.

She also took her husband, Jamie Wilkinson, to a funeral directors to make preparations for her funeral, a court heard.

Hull Crown Court heard that Ms Hunter had, in 2016, been working as a telesales agent for the company ResQ in Hull. She reported herself sick for work, provided a 21-day sick note and pretended that she had cancer and was in need of lung surgery.

Between January and September 2017, she never worked a full week, claiming that her treatment hadn’t worked and that she needed to undergo aggressive chemotherapy for a duration of three months.

Ms Hunter told her workplace her supposed treatment dates and they responded, saying that she should only come into work if she could cope, explained David Godfrey who was prosecuting.

The Hull mother continued the ruse, telling a boss that the cancer had spread up to her neck and right lung and that she also had four tumours on her brain. She pretended that the cancer was incurable and that she only had a matter of 18 months left to live.

Meanwhile, colleagues at Ms Hunter’s work felt so sorry for her, that they created a JustGiving page to help send the 32-year-old on a “last trip” to Disneyland Paris with her three children.

Mr Godfrey explained how “people, understandably, were very generous” with donations.

A combination of prize draws, with local businesses donating prizes, and numerous donations meant that a total of £10,446 was raised. It was even suggested that Hull Daily Mail was contacted to raise further awareness and potentially more money for the trip, but Ms Hunter “thought this was a bad idea.”

Ms Hunter and family went to Disneyland Paris by first-class train and stayed in luxury, five-star accommodation during the trip.

On her return, however, her statutory sick pay was stopped when it appeared that attempts to obtain medical confirmation of her condition had failed.

Social services later became involved following concerns from a member of the public about her children. Ms Hunter eventually broke down, admitting that the entire story had been a lie.

The court heard that when her husband discovered that it had all been fictitious, he had left the family home.

Mr Godfrey explained: "As a result of his wife’s lies, he left the family home. He feels great shame and embarrassment at what happened. He is now in debt. His family life has been shattered as a result of his former wife’s lies."

Meanwhile, John Dunning, mitigating, said that the driving factor for Ms Hunter’s actions was “a desire for attention”

He said : "Once a lie starts and becomes established, it has a life, it seems, of its own.

"By the time it came before Hull County Court, that lie was so entrenched that it would have been almost impossible for her to have resiled from it.

"All of this offending must be seen through that prism. She continued the lie and she took actions to support that lie.

"So we have the situation where people’s good nature has been abused, where they will feel that their charity, their willingness to give, has been taken advantage of and they, no doubt, themselves will feel particularly disillusioned and will feel a degree of disappointment, if not anger, with somebody who was a colleague."

Ms Hunter admitted to fraud and to perverting the course of justice, having also used her fake cancer diagnosis to try and avoid possible eviction and rent arrears.

She said that she regretted her behaviour, saying: "I never want to put myself in this position again."

Ms Hunter had no previous convictions but a psychiatrist believed that she has an emotionally unstable personality.

Judge John Thackray QC said: "People’s kindness and charitable nature has been completely abused. It prevents people making genuine charitable donations in the future."

The judge went on to say: ”Your lies and conduct were truly despicable.”

"Offending like this does undermine public confidence and deters people from making charitable donations,” he added.

"You will undoubtedly have eroded trust going forward of those whom you conned and those who will be aware of this case to the detriment of genuine cancer victims."

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