South East Wales

Rhondda benefits cheat skydived while 'too ill to walk'

A woman who claimed benefits saying she needed crutches to walk was filmed skydiving out of a plane at 12,000 ft (3,657m) a court was told.

Magistrates heard Clare Jones, 37, from Tonypandy, Rhondda, was so proud of her jump she paid for the professional video - used in evidence against her.

She admitted fraudulently claiming £891 in incapacity benefits and £5,125 in disability living allowance.

She was given conditional bail and the case was adjourned for sentence.

Pontypridd magistrates were told how Jones was on benefits, claiming she could only walk up to 25 metres with the aid of crutches.

And she also claimed her back was so painful, she could not stand at the cooker or cut vegetables for her partner and three children.

She was caught out after volunteering to do the tandem jump - attached to an experienced instructor - to raise money for charity.

Another parachutist filmed Jones leaping from the aircraft above Swansea Airport and going into a 120mph free fall for 45 seconds.

The film ends with Jones landing comfortably on two feet, smiling and speaking into the camera.

Prosecutor Jonathan Holmes said: "A DVD obtained from the event showed her walking to the plane, parachuting out, landing and then walking away.

"At first she denied taking part in the parachute jump but later accepted she had done it."

Jones also visited her local gym 40 times using the facilities, swimming pool and sauna, Mr Holmes told the court.

Image caption Clare Jones said she could not walk without crutches

An investigation revealed that the leisure centre in Tonypandy had records of Jones logging in with her swipe card.

During the course of the inquiry Jones admitted walking to her local social club with her partner and dancing despite claiming she had severe back problems.

Mr Holmes said: "She accepted she went out at weekends with her partner walking to and from home to the club and dancing there.

"All these things should have been declared - clearly her symptoms had improved and the proper authorities should have been notified."

During the time of her claim Jones also worked at a sandwich bar called Funfillers and a restaurant called Truly Scrumptious, the court was told.

Image caption She has admitted the charges and will be sentenced at a later date

She has repaid the £891 incapacity benefits but still owes £5,014 of the disability living allowance.

After the hearing, Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Freud said: "It's cases like these that show us why welfare reform is needed.

"We have a duty to the taxpayer and our customers to make sure that these vital benefits only go to those who need them.

"Benefit fraud takes money away from the most vulnerable.

"It is a crime and we are committed to stopping it by catching criminals at the front line and making sure our reforms make the benefit system less open to abuse."

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