A pensioner labelled ‘Britain’s worst benefits cheat’ when she swindled £750,000 by hiding her father’s death and faking dementia has been released from prison after serving less than half of her sentence.

Amateur actress Ethel McGill, then 68, used all her thespian skills to pretend she had dementia as part of a long-running benefits and disability fraud that ended with her being jailed for five years and eight months in July 2019.

Britain’s worst benefits cheat

The dishonest OAP was even given an extra eight months on her sentence in August 2020 for failing to pay back £200,500 of her ill-gotten gains under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Despite the severity of the fraud, MailOnline can reveal that shameless McGill, now 72, was only behind bars from July 2019 until the ‘second half of 2022.’ The Ministry of Justice confirmed her release but declined to comment further.

Britain's worst benefits cheat
Britain’s worst benefits cheat

Ethel McGill, pictured, pretended she had dementia as part of a long-running benefits and disability fraud that ended with her being jailed for five years and eight months in July 2019

At Liverpool Crown Court, McGill, pictured hiding her face arriving at court, admitted hiding her late father Robert Dennison's death for 12 years so she could claim his war pension and benefits, despite the fact he died in 2004

At Liverpool Crown Court, McGill, pictured hiding her face arriving at court, admitted hiding her late father Robert Dennison’s death for 12 years so she could claim his war pension and benefits, despite the fact he died in 2004

The case made headlines and sparked questions about the ability of authorities to police the benefits system when the ease in which McGill and her family made a fortune from the scam became apparent during the court case.

At Liverpool Crown Court, McGill admitted hiding her late father Robert Dennison’s death for 12 years so she could claim his war pension and benefits, despite the fact he died in 2004.

On one occasion she got a friend to lie under a blanket and pretend to be him at her home in Runcorn, Cheshire.

The CPS said at the time that it was one of the ‘largest ever cases of benefit fraud by a single person’.

The court heard McGill feigned dementia and faked mobility issues for more than 20 years but was caught out when she was filmed moving without assistance and driving despite saying she needed a wheelchair.

She even appeared at court in a wheelchair carrying a pack of incontinence pads that she used to try and cover her face from photographers.

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.

Despite the severity of the fraud, MailOnline can reveal that shameless McGill, pictured in her younger days, was only behind bars from July 2019 until the 'second half of 2022.

Despite the severity of the fraud, MailOnline can reveal that shameless McGill, pictured in her younger days, was only behind bars from July 2019 until the ‘second half of 2022.

‘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.’

He also hit out at those behind the benefits system for failing to spot what was going on.

He said: ‘The authorities may look at themselves and wonder how they let this happen and they don’t come out of this at all well but the whole dishonesty come down to you – you did it.’

Her defence barrister Dan Gaskell said she should get a short sentence because she never lived a lavish lifestyle.

He said: ‘She lives in fairly straightened circumstances. There is no indication that she has lived a life of excess.’

However, the judge pointed out that she was making ‘way more than the average person in the street.’

Stephen 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.

‘The lengths Ethel McGill and her family went through to cheat a system designed for people in need is truly staggering.

At a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at Chester Crown Court on the 10th August 2020, McGill was given a confiscation order to the sum of £200,500.

The order stated that if she did not pay this within 12 weeks, she could be committed for a further term of imprisonment of eight months.

McGill, of Runcorn, Cheshire, did not pay and was handed the extra time, making her total sentence six years and six months.

In 2019, MailOnline reported that McGill had written to the prisoners’ newspaper Inside Times boasting how prison life was ‘great’, and is like living in a ‘little village’ – even claiming she is still disabled.

Writing from HMP Style, a 480-capacity women;s jail in Cheshire, in the 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 am on 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.’

Also Read: Who Is Maryam Moshiri Husband Jonathan Farmer? Married Life And Children

You May Also Like

Émile Soleil’s Murder Mystery: Recent Discovery of Toddler’s Bones in Previously Searched Area

The case of Emile Soleil, a two-year-old boy who disappeared from a…