UPDATE: Dementia-faker who hid her father’s death faces jail for £750,000 benefit fraud

|News, Fraud and economic crime

Updated with sentence - see below

An amateur actress who feigned dementia and hid her father’s death for 12 years so she could claim £750,000 in public funds faces jail for the one of the largest ever cases of benefit fraud by a single person.

When Ethel McGill’s father died in April 2004, she failed to notify any of the agencies paying benefits to him – enabling her to receive his various pensions and allowances.

The fraudster, 68, also faked dementia and mobility problems for more than two decades in order to falsely claim disability allowance and other benefits.

In 2005, she made a request to Liverpool Housing Trust for a bigger property in Runcorn, Cheshire - claiming her whole family needed to live together to provide around-the-clock care for the already deceased Robert Dennison.

McGill even asked a friend to pretend to be her late father, telling social workers who were checking up on him not to speak with her ‘dad’ as he could become aggressive.

Stephane Pendered, of the CPS, said: “This is the largest case of benefit fraud by a single person that I have prosecuted. Not content with receiving her father’s pensions, housing and tax benefits under false pretences, Ethel McGill made good use of her amateur dramatic skills by feigning dementia to succeed in her own fraudulent benefit claims.

“Over the course of 25 years, McGill shamelessly received £750,000 of public money she knew full well she was not entitled to.

“The CPS will now endeavour to ensure taxpayers get some of their money back by pursuing McGill under the Proceeds of Crime Act.”

McGill will be sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court on 29 July 2019 after admitting benefit fraud at a hearing on 27 June 2019.

Her son, Chris McGill 28, and her other son’s previous partner, Hannah Bazley 25, both pleaded guilty to supporting McGill in her deception by claiming a carer’s allowance for conditions they knew she did not have.

UPDATE:Ethel McGill was today (29 July 2019) sentenced to five years and eight months' imprisonment. Judge Everett informed her that she will serve half her sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

Building the case

Ethel McGill was investigated in 2016 after an allegation that she had failed to notify the death of her father. The Department for Work and Pensions subsequently found McGill was registered at two doctors in the same area. She would visit one repeatedly, complaining of undiagnosed conditions to support her fraudulent claims – while at the other surgery she had an almost clean bill of health.

When healthcare professionals came to assess McGill’s dementia she stayed silent, while Bazley fabricated symptoms and answered on her behalf.

Five expert prosecution witnesses brought in to assess McGill ultimately concluded she did not have dementia.

The CPS also disproved McGill’s claims that she had difficulty moving around, which she said was the reason for her son claiming carer’s allowance to look after her.

But when she was placed under surveillance, Chris McGill was not seen with his ‘immobile’ mother for an entire week. McGill was also spotted walking without assistance and no mobility aids were found in the home.

Stephane continued: “The lengths Ethel McGill and her family went through to cheat a system designed for people in need is truly staggering.

“However, we were able to dismantle their deception one lie at a time. We hope this prosecution will help the public to have confidence that those who cheat the public purse will face the full force of the law.”

Notes to editors

Stephane Pendered is a Specialist Prosecutor in the Specialist Fraud Division

Ethel McGill (DOB: 23/03/1951) pleaded guilty to:

  • Three counts of recipient dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances
  • Dishonestly allowing recipient to fail to report a change in circumstances
  • Three counts of dishonestly making a false representation
  • Three counts of acquiring, using or possessing criminal property
  • False accounting
  • Two counts of conspiring to commit fraud by false representation
  • Fraud by false representation

Chris McGill (DOB: 30/09/1990) pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and has received a two year community order

Hannah Bazley (DOB:16/08/1993) pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and has received an 18 month community order

Further reading