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Snorkelling holiday snap leaves benefit cheat in deep water

By John Scott | Staffordshire | Crime | Published:

It was meant to celebrate her 20th wedding anniversary but the holiday in the Maldives marked the downfall of benefits fraudster Linda Hoey.

Pictures of her snorkelling off the sun kissed Indian Ocean atoll graphically illustrated the lie she had been living while pocketing almost £81,000 in bogus disability benefits and free travel on the M6 Toll Road by exaggerating her mobility and care needs.

The mother of four, who claimed to be barely able to walk and unable to stretch above shoulder height, appeared in other photographs lazing in a hammock with arms above her head and dressed in wet weather gear and boots ready for a country ramble with the family.

She was also pictured on her knees altering her daughter's wedding dress and bent over a pool table with a cue in her hand.

The tell tale snaps were found on computers seized when police swooped on her home following a Department of Work and Pensions investigation. "The photos were priceless - exactly what we were looking for," explained a person familiar with the case.

Officers spotted her walking unaided downstairs to answer their knock on the front door while their body cam footage taken at the time showed her walking up the stairs to get changed before being taken away for questioning.

Inquiries revealed twice married 58-year-old Hoey was also a member of a gym, went swimming and had booked hour long badminton sessions on a court near her home.

The house was not adapted in the way expected for somebody with the mobility problems she claimed to endure. There was not even a walking stick at the property. She said she kept it in the boot of her car.

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Hoey gave 'no comment' answers when interviewed following her arrest on February 24 last year but months later - after discovering police had not checked the downstairs cloakroom - claimed it had a raised toilet seat which could be moved to the en suite upstairs at night.

Former workmates at PartsWorld, where she worked in the administration department for 17 years until leaving in 2014, said she often carried trays of hot drinks up the spiral staircase and arrived with bags of shopping at their office in Orbital Way, Cannock.

She regularly used the M6 Toll Road to get to and from work and was allowed to travel free with the exemption pass given to her as a result of the level of benefits she was receiving.

The defendant was the PA to managing director Stewart Halstead who maintained he did not know she had a long term health problem and had never seen her with a walking stick.

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An assistant at Kings Bromley Marina - where she and second husband Mike moored a narrow boat - insisted she had seen her walk unassisted for around 200 metres.

Hoey, who was of previous good character, has two children from each of her marriages and filled in her first form claiming Disability Living Allowance in 1995. After being assessed she was awarded the higher rate mobility and lower rate care components backdated to the start of that year.

In April 2005 the care element was increased to the middle rate for an indefinite period following an appeal from her for more money on the basis of a back disorder and degenerative arthritis.

The DWP investigation revealed her mobility had really improved and she had been working full time since 1997 - a fact not reveal on any of the forms completed by her.

The latest of these - signed by her in November 2004 - said it took her up to five minutes to walk four metres and was very unsteady on her legs.

Hoey further claimed she required the use of a walking aid or someone to lean on every day, needed help to dress, climb up and down stairs and would be housebound without the help of her husband. In fact she went alone to work for 17 years.

Records showed she had been using the M6 Toll Road from 2003 to December 2015 at times which coincided with her attendance at work.

Being on the highest mobility component of the Disability Living Allowance exempted her from any toll fee. She also got a regularly updated car from Motability.

Her husband became her official carer after he gave up his job to launch a business from home, the jury heard during her Stafford Crown Court trial.

The couple enjoyed a holiday in Egypt in 2012 and the following year decided to celebrate their wedding anniversary in the Maldives.

Hoey from Talland Avenue, Amington, Tamworth had a photograph taken while snorkelling which later put investigators in the picture about the racket and left her in very deep water last night after being convicted of benefit fraud.

John Scott

By John Scott
Reporter/News Feature Writer

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