A mother who shaved her son's head and eyebrows to pretend he had cancer in an £85,000 benefit scam has been jailed.
The woman, from the Stroud area of Gloucestershire, forged doctors' notes and made it look as though her son was taking medication for cancer. She forced him to wear a bandana and sent him to school in a wheelchair, where he was unable to run around and play and became the "butt of jokes".
The woman used the money she fraudulently claimed in benefits to take her children to Florida, where she made the boy sit in the wheelchair so they could jump queues. As well as claiming £85,899.44 in benefits, the woman was given a Vauxhall Zafira to help her transport the boy around.
She sent forged letters to the Department of Work and Pensions and the boy's school claiming he was suffering from autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome (ALPS) and later lymphoma - a type of cancer.
She even put the "news" that her son had cancer on her Facebook page. She kept up the elaborate farce for almost three years while the boy was aged between six and eight, but was found out when the boy's father became suspicious and went to his GP.
She was arrested and admitted one count of child cruelty, eight counts of fraud and one of forgery. Judge Jamie Tabor QC sentenced her at Gloucester Crown Court to three years and nine months in prison, adding that having her children taken from her was also a powerful punishment.
The court heard that the woman - who cannot be identified for legal reasons - had a history of being involved with the mental health services and suffered from a personality disorder.
The judge told the woman, who was slumped in her seat during the hearing: "You have demonstrated an extraordinary lack of candour for a very large majority of your life. I have no doubt that there have been periods in your life when you have been unwell, but I also have no doubt that you have all but lost the ability to tell the truth.
"In short, you are a congenital liar, nothing you can say can be accepted, everything you say or write has to be double-checked. Your behaviour towards your son is quite beyond the pale. This was cruelty over a long period of time. I accept no physical injury was inflicted but you have caused undoubted long- term psychological harm to him."