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1 Nov 2018

"Ghostbuster gran" said she was disabled

Grandma Nicola McVicker, 53, tried to convince social services she suffered from crippling “social phobia” and could not walk more than 50 metres.

But conniving McVicker was employed by Ghostly Goings On, which organises trips to “haunted” properties.

She is said to have worked as a paranormal investigator for three years – a job that required her to spend hours on her feet.

The “party animal” – who has a previous conviction for benefit fraud from 2007 – was clocked dancing at a hen do while claiming a disability living allowance, Gloucester Crown Court heard.

It comes as the bill for benefit fraud soared to £3.8billion in 2017 - with more than £70million a week handed to fraudsters or wrongly paid out, it was revealed in August.

Officers from the Department of Work and Pensions also spotted her jogging across a car park – despite being given a special mobility car funded by taxpayers.

She insisted she had breathing difficulties and needed diazepam to remain calm in social settings.

But her Facebook profile revealed how she had an “active social life”.

McVicker’s lies about her condition meant she was given a higher rate of disability living allowance and pocketed more than £19,000 she was entitled to.

She pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances between January 3, 2012 and July 5, 2016.

McVicker had initially denied the charge and had been due to stand trial yesterday until she changed her plea at the last minute.

Prosecutor Chris Smyth told the court: “Her capabilities had improved. She had become sufficiently mobile to shop on her own, work, socialise, and on occasion, fairly energetically.

"But she said she had extreme anxiety attacks, and breathing difficulties, and could not walk anywhere without diazepam, and being with someone. She said she could not leave her home alone at anytime due to social phobia.

"She said she could not walk more than 50 metres, and some days not at all, when her pain relief was not satisfactory. She said she was 'completely dependent on others' and in her renewal application she said she could only walk two metres very slowly".

Mitigating, Michael Anning told how McVicker’s health was “worse now than it was in the surveillance”.

Her medical issues were the result of a “vicious attack” in 2005 which saw her “beaten and stabbed”, leading to a psychological and physical deterioration,” Mr Anning said.

McVicker was only working for Ghostly Goings On as a volunteer, the lawyer added.

She admitted dancing at a Christmas party – but insisted she had to be “heavily medicated” and it had “cost her a week in bed”.

Speaking about her previous benefit fraud conviction, Mr Anning added: “She had a child who became pregnant. With the increased financial demands she acknowledges she worked when claiming benefits.”

Sentencing McVicker to eight months in prison, suspended for a year, Judge Michael Callum described the DWP as a “lifeline for many deserving people”.

"When someone like you turns to dishonesty to claim more, or like you drift over by not notifying a change, you not only demean yourself, you also take wrongly from a very limited pot of money.

"That is why in my judgement in relation to this benefit, the court treats it as very serious offence.

"Albeit as a volunteer, you worked. You were socialising.

"I accept you have ailments physical and mental. They may be greater now than they were in 2016. Today you do not portray as the healthy woman in surveillance two years ago.

"It can only be a custodial sentence, but I will suspend it.”

But Judge Cullum warned McVicker: "If you breach it, in reality whether you have disabilities or not you will go to prison.”

Source with pictures

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