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Judge criticises MP’s remarks about woman jailed after £45,000 scam and faking cancer

Written by on 11 February 2021

A judge who jailed a woman who pretended to have cancer says he was “astonished” by an MP’s remarks about the defendant.

Nicole Elkabbas, 42, conned people out of more than £45,000 in donations using a convincing GoFundMe page, an offence for which she has been sent to prison.

Carolyn Harris MP made comments in relation to the sentencing, which then prompted Judge Mark Weekes’s criticism on Wednesday.

At Canterbury Crown Court, the judge said: “I am astonished to read from Mrs Carolyn Harris MP that she considers you were ‘honest about the crimes you had committed’.”

He added that he “cannot help but wonder” if this was a “further instance of your playing with the truth” and manipulating others.

Responding to the judge’s words, the Swansea East representative told the PA news agency: “My comments were in connection with her addiction leading her to crime.

“Like so many who fall into the trap of addiction, they commit crimes out of desperation and whilst Nicole was wrong to commit the crime, she has been honest in her mitigation as to why she did so.”

Earlier, the court had heard that Elkabbas’s crime went as far as posting a photo on her GoFundMe page of herself lying in a hospital bed, to rake in hundreds of donations.

On her online fundraising page, she spoke about having ovarian cancer, subsequent surgery and rounds of chemotherapy – claims that prosecutors described as “detailed lies”.

The defendant, of Broadstairs, Kent, was found guilty of fraud by false representation and possession of criminal property last November.

She was jailed for two years and nine months on Wednesday.

Undated handout file photo issued by the CPS of Nicole Elkabbas, lying in a hospital bed, where she conned kind-hearted members of the public out of thousands using a GoFundMe page by faking having cancer, as she is to be sentenced on Wednesday. Issue date: Wednesday February 10, 2021. file pic from PA Image: Elkabbas posted photos of herself in a hospital bed on her GoFundMe page. File picture issued by CPS

Elkabbas had denied the offences and her defence argued she believed she did have cancer.

Her defence barrister Oliver Kirk told the trial she is a “vulnerable” woman who has a genetic predisposition to ovarian cancer and has had cancer in her family.

She spent the donations from more than 600 people on a trip to Barcelona and Rome, gambling and a box at Tottenham Hotspur football club.

He added: “It is quite clear, in my submission, that these offences were committed by a person who was in the grip of a gambling addiction.

“Were it not for her gambling problem, her addiction, she would otherwise be leading a law-abiding life, and effectively her normal good nature became overwhelmed by her compulsion to gamble.

Prosecutor Ben Irwin told the court that Elkabbas was a “confidence trickster” who made claims she knew were untrue and described her actions as “utterly dishonest”.

He added: “it was a scheme designed to trick and to con, and she knew it. So she lied about the major surgery, lied about six cycles of chemotherapy, lied about this wonder-drug – the breakthrough drug.”

Sentencing Elkabbas, Judge Mark Weekes spoke of the effect her lies had on NHS staff and said her deception was “cunning and manipulative”.

He noted her previous good behaviour but said only immediate custody could be justified.

A GoFundMe spokesperson said: “All donations were refunded in 2019 when the misuse allegations were raised.”