A YOUNG mother from the United Kingdom faces jail for conning friends and strangers out of thousands of pounds by falsely claiming she had terminal cancer, after dramatically changing her plea to guilty on the first day of her trial.
Police said Danielle Watson "acted in a cold and calculated manner" by appealing for donations, goods and services for her wedding, after announcing in January 2012 that she had late-stage cervical cancer with only a 15 to 20 per cent chance of survival.
The 24-year-old from Colchester brought her wedding forward by several months to April, saying she wanted to walk down the aisle before radiotherapy and chemotherapy made her hair fall out, prosecuting barrister Marcus Croskell told Basildon Crown Court at hearings held on Monday in Southend, Essex.
He detailed how Watson claimed a bandage from keyhole surgery on suspected ovarian polyps was in fact the sign of a positive cancer biopsy - despite having already been given the all-clear on cancer.
After giving interviews to local newspapers and magazines, she took money from friends and complete strangers who raised almost £10,000 through raffles, cake sales and fundraising nights to provide cash for additional vitamin C treatment. Her supporters became suspicious when Watson, who was aged 21 at the time, failed to provide direct evidence of her illness or treatment and demanded money be paid directly into her bank account.
They eventually called the police in June 2012 after she announced on Facebook that she was pregnant.
The former administrative assistant for the Financial Services Authority had denied six charges of fraud as her trial began on Monday, but later changed her plea to guilty.
Rebecca Blain, for the defence, told the court that Watson had been worried about getting a prison sentence as she has an 18-month-old child and is expecting her second baby next month.
"Her own family all fell under the umbrella of that lie," said Ms Blain. "She will have to come to terms with the fact that she has told them what are the most despicable lies."
The recorder Gerard Pounder said Watson had "preyed on human kindness" and he could not guarantee she would avoid time in prison when she is sentenced in January.