Lyne Barlow, the fraudulent Facebook travel agent, not only told caring customers she was terminally ill, she also went to extraordinary lengths to persuade her husband and mother she had cancer.
The duplicitous mother-of-two plumbed the depths of deceit by leaving hair on her pillow for her partner to see and asked for lifts to fictitious appointments at hospital as part of her calculated ruse.
She even insisted that food delivered at her home in Stanley was washed on the doorstep to reduce the risk of her catching Covid, claiming her frail condition made her more vulnerable to serious complications.
Barlow, 39, took to wearing a headscarf and, when people started asking for refunds for holidays they had booked with her, she told them she was undergoing treatment in hospital and that her cancer was at stage three or four.
Detective Sergeant Alan Meehan said: “It is our understanding that she said she had cancer, that it went into remission and that it came back.
“It became apparent she was using the cancer as an excuse to delay answering people’s queries.
“It is our understanding that the family believed that she had cancer.
“She had hair but it is understood she was depositing hair on the pillow to make it look like she was losing it and anecdotally that is what we were told by family.”
Barlow has now been sentenced after admitting a range of charges as part of a complex fraud worth at least £1.2 million, and potentially much more.
It is understood there were 450 separate cases with around 1,400 victims where people were left out of pocket having booked what appeared to be bargain holidays and in some cases were left stranded abroad.
DS Meehan said Barlow’s cancer lies unravelled quickly after she was arrested and was taken to a police station wearing a headscarf and walking with a stick.
He said: “At the time of the arrest we did not know whether she had cancer or not.
“It was a consideration when we are investigating fraud that people aren’t truthful because it is the nature of the offence.
“She was brought into custody to see if she was fit for detention and interview and part of that process was to access medical records for her welfare as much as anything else.
“That is when it became apparent through her medical records that she had never been diagnosed with cancer.
“It was identified but she did make admissions that she had never had cancer following that.”
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DS Meehan said the news came as a surprise to deceived family members who had been caring for her.
He said: “It was only as a result of her being arrested, and when we informed the family as part of the safeguarding for her on her release, that they became aware.
“Her husband was very surprised and shocked. I am led to believe by family members that they were taking her to hospital for appointments.
“It is pretty callous approach of facilitating the fraud.”