'Liar, witch and wardrobe'

TWO pensioners who masterminded a huge benefit fraud from a vault behind a wardrobe have been ordered to pay back �200,000. Jean Hutchinson and cousin Ralph Dale, both 66, ran the con from a tiny chamber in a secret headquarters above her children s ch

TWO pensioners who masterminded a huge benefit fraud from a vault behind a wardrobe have been ordered to pay back �200,000.

Jean Hutchinson and cousin Ralph Dale, both 66, ran the con from a tiny chamber in a secret headquarters above her children's charity shop in Shirland Road, Maida Vale.

In January 2008, Hutchinson was jailed for five years and deaf mute Dale was given four years for the swindle dubbed 'The Liar, The Witch and The Wardrobe.'

Both have since been released and were in court for the confiscation hearing.


You may also want to watch:


When the pair admitted the swindle it was worth �1.85million but the prosecution agreed they made just �200,000.

During their trial at Blackfriars Crown Court jurors heard investigators had uncovered the details of more than 200 identities and at least 76 had been used for claims by the pair.

Most Read

They also found a newsletter for an organisation of ex-pats who had left Britain for Australia in the 1950s - a useful resource for assuming identities.

Hutchinson, who has a string of properties in the UK and Portugal worth up to �2m, also invented fake landlords and property firms to which cash could be paid without arousing suspicion.

In a five-month surveillance operation Dale was followed to his home in Halifax, where investigators uncovered cash, share certificates and other financial documents.

He had used his own disability - caused by a stroke - to claim incapacity benefit in two fake names.

Hutchinson must pay back �138,063.96 and Dale �61,936.04, which is held in bank accounts.

They each have three months to pay or be jailed - Hutchinson for two-and-a-half years and Dale for 18 months.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter