Woman branded Britain’s biggest benefits cheat boasts how prison life is ‘great’

Woman branded Britain’s biggest benefits cheat boasts how prison life is ‘great’


A woman branded Britain's biggest benefits cheat has boasted how prison life is 'great' and is like living in a 'little village' – and is even claiming she is still disabled.

Ethel McGill was jailed for five years and eight months in July after admitting claiming more than £750,000 in benefits she wasn't entitled to.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how McGill – a 68-year-old amateur actress – pretended to have dementia to claim disability benefit.

She also hid her late father Robert Dennison's death for 12 years so she could claim his war pension and benefits.

The CPS said that it was one of the 'largest ever cases of benefit fraud by a single person'.

But this week, writing from her cell at HMP Styal, a 480-capacity women's jail in Cheshire, McGill said although she feared jail would be 'horrendous', she was shocked to find it was like living in a 'little village', complete with beauty salon, knitting classes, gym, library and gardens.

Writing in lags' mag Inside Time in the latest November edition – in which she was awarded the £25 'Star Letter' prize – she said: "I wanted to give positive feedback in regard to my first time in prison.

"I, like most, thought that going to prison was going to be horrendous, but on arriving here at Styal I was told by an officer that my punishment WAS my sentence at court, and they were not here to punish me further.

"I have found that the officers, nurses and mental health staff treat everyone with respect.

"I am in one of the houses and it’s like living in a little village, we have a beauty salon which is training prisoners to become hairdressers and all aspects of the beauty trade, which, in turn, gives them hope for the future.

"We also have a library, gym, art, education and knitting and sewing. The gardens and greenhouses are lovely and manned by the prisoners.

"I am one of the disabled prisoners and have received a care-plan which follows me home when I am released.

"This is nothing like the prisons you see on TV.

"I can say from my heart that if more prisons would take the time to see how the governors and all the staff here have turned this prison around and given the prisoners hope for the future, they would see how a prison should be run.

"Prison life is not all bad, you can rebuild your life. Thank you for giving me hope for the future."

Speaking at her sentencing in July this year, Judge Steven Everett told McGill: “Part of your problem is that nobody, including me, believes that you are ill, and that you have been putting this on for years.

"Your devious behaviour, with very little remorse, has caught up with you and now you will have to pay the penalty.

“With breathtaking dishonesty you decided to use your father’s death to your financial benefit, what a terrible thing to do.

"It wasn’t even for a short amount of time – for year after year you, in a sense, sullied your father’s name – he was entitled to a war pension.

“When the authorities came to your house to see your father you got somebody to lie in that bed and pretend to be your elderly father and you put the authorities off by persuading them not to approach that person.”

Commenting after McGill was caged in July this year, the CPS said: "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.

"She 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."

She pleaded guilty to 21 charges, including 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 and fraud by false representation.

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