A woman accused of telling her family she had bowel cancer to con them out of £21,000 for fake treatment – claims a private pharmaceutical company diagnosed her with the condition.
St Albans Crown Court heard, Ellen Danagher, 48, of Welwyn Garden City, told her family she had been diagnosed with the disease, which four of her relatives died of, in 2009.
She claimed after suffering an autoimmune condition 10 years earlier she was not eligible for conventional NHS treatment and would have to crowdfund between £160,000 and £180,000.
Ellen Danagher, 48, of Welwyn Garden City (pictured outside St Albans Crown Court today) told her family she had been diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2009
Danagher told her family they would have to come up with £21,000 to help with the crowdfunding effort.
Taking the witness stand, Danagher said a private pharmaceutical company called Teagra Pharmaceuticals who she said were based in Harley Street, London, had diagnosed her with colon cancer in 2009.
But the court heard, police tried to track down details of the company but could find no trace of it – and that Danagher failed to provide any paperwork she had relating to the firm.
Danagher also said she had a complicated medical history and the company were offering to help to people with auto immune disorders.
As a result she said she was involved in clinical trials paying out £150 per month.
She said following colonic irrigation in 2009 with another company in St Albans she was advised to book an appointment with her GP, but instead went to Teagra Pharmaceuticals who eventually told her she had colon cancer.
She said because of health issues she was unable to have chemotherapy and so Teagra, offered her a specialist treatment that was only partly funded by the NHS.
She claims she was told that she would have to come up with £18,000 to pay for it which she said she paid in cash.
Mrs Danagher said her treatment involved weekend visits to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.
Eventually she said she was given the ‘all clear’ by Teagra, but then received a call from them that blood test results had revealed ‘another cancer there.’
She said it was then that her sisters offered to help her ‘financially’ and the round of treatment that then followed cost her £21,000.
Earlier the officer in the case, Detective Constable Andrew Greenman told the court he had carried out enquiries into a pharmaceutical company with the name of Teagra Pharmaceuticals and had failed to find any record of them.
Her sister Kathleen Young (pictured outside St Albans Crown Court today) was one of her three siblings that raised £7,000 to help with her treatment
He said he had gone gone to the address in Harley Street provided to him by Mrs Danagher, but no one had ever heard of them
He said he drew a blank when making enquiries with General Council as well as the City of Westminster Council.
The officer said despite asking Mrs Danager go provide any paperwork relating to the company she had failed to do so.
Her sister Kathleen Young and brothers Patrick and John Mullins each donated £7,000 to her cause.
When they found out she was lying she was arrested and charged with three counts of fraud, which she denies.
Giving evidence at St Albans Crown Court today her sister branded her ‘very sick mentally’ given that she, her brother, father and uncle have all had bowel cancer.
Mrs Young told the court: ‘We just thought we had to get the money for her, and we did. We had no reason not to believe her. She’s our sister and we loved her.’
‘This is a terrible thing that has happened to our family. I don’t understand why she has done this. She must be very sick mentally.’
Opening the case to the jury, prosecutor Robin Miric told them: ‘This is a case of fraud.
‘This defendant made false representations to her family which proved to be fraudulent.
‘In 2009 Mrs Danagher declared to her family she had a form of bowel cancer.’
Mr Miric said Danagher had told her sister and two brothers she had been offered ‘a new and innovative treatment which she thought would be successful in treating her condition.’
He also said she showed them a letter that purported to be from a professor at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and addressed to her, discussing the treatment.
It appeared to be from a professor at the hospital, beginning: ‘Dear Ellen, it was a pleasure to meet you on Wednesday and, if positivity was a cure, I would bottle yours.’
The letter went on to say ‘Stage 1 of her treatment would be at The John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford’ and she might be required to be an inpatient for two days.
In the witness box, Mrs Young said her sister told the family that because she had been diagnosed with Lupus in 1999 or 2000 it meant she couldn’t have the normal treatment for bowel cancer.
She said her sister quoted figures of £160,000 and £180,000 and that ‘as a family we have to fund around £21,000.’
She said her brothers Patrick and John each gave Danagher £7,000 and she and her husband came up with a further £7,000.
Siblings Patrick (pictured left outside court today) and John Mullins (right) also gave evidence after claiming they were tricked out of donating £7,000 to their sister’s treatment
Mrs Young said she continued to give her sister further amounts of money, adding ‘I used to give her ‘£150 per month for organic food to help her… I did that for a number of years.’
She told the court how, on one occasion while travelling on a train, Danagher had texted her.
Mrs Young went on: ‘I had a text message from her saying she had three to five years to live.’
She said: ‘I never questioned her really, I just believed everything.’
She said her sister would tell the family how the tumour in her bowel was shrinking, but she had also developed bone cancer, which was ‘localised in her back’.
Mrs Young said she and her husband took out a loan for around £5,000 when her sister approached her again saying that she needed extra treatment on her kidney.
She said she knew her sister had paid some of the money back, but by 2016, she still owed her around £12,000.
Mrs Young said she, herself, was diagnosed with bowel cancer and it was around this time that her sister had stopped paying any money back to her.
She said told the jury that it had been around 2014 when she began to have doubts about her sister’s story that she had cancer.
Mrs Young said it happened after there was a story in the media about a child who was unable to get treatment for cancer in this country and had been taken abroad.
She said she wondered why at the time a child was being deprived of treatment in this country when her sister had received treatment.
Giving evidence at St Albans Crown Court (pictured) today her sister Mrs Young branded her ‘very sick mentally’ given that she, her brother, father and uncle have all had bowel cancer
‘I asked her a number of times and she was getting more and more vague,’ she added.
Asked if she’d ever confronted her sister outright, Mrs Young replied: ‘No I never asked her outright, I just didn’t want to believe she could do this.
She said eventually she and her brothers hired a private detective to look into Danagher’s claims and, as a result, the police were called in.
Also giving evidence, Mrs Danagher’s brother Patrick Mullins told the jury how he was told she had to undergo specialist treatment because of a previous Lupus condition and couldn’t go through the NHS.
Mr Mullins said his wife Susan, who was close to Ellen Danagher, was ‘distraught’ at the thought of her dying.
He said that was why he, his sister Kathleen and brother John, decided to contribute £7,000 each to her treatment programme.
Mr Mullins said, as far as he knew, his sister had undergone treatment and seemed to be okay.
He was also asked about the letter she had produced, which he said had been sent to her from The Royal Marsden Hospital discussing her cancer.
He said he was ‘shocked’ when he saw it and thought it was genuine.
‘There was no reason to think that the information that had been given wasn’t correct,’ he added.
He said it was in 2015 that he eventually confronted Danagher and she admitted lying about her condition.
‘She accepted it. She said she wasn’t ill. I said ‘Why did you lie to us?’ and she said ‘I did lots of good things, so why pull me up about this?”
He said he has not spoken to her since.
Danagher’s other brother John Mullins, told the jury that ‘it was a nasty shock’ when he heard of his sister’s ‘diagnosis’.
He said that following a family meeting, ‘I was asked to contribute a figure of around about £7,000.’ This, he said, was to go towards the treatment his sister required.
Under cross examination, he denied he had received ‘thousands’ back from his sister and said the true sum amounted to just £200-£300.
The jury heard a statement from Professor Martin Gore at The Royal Marsden Hospital, whose name had appeared at the bottom of the letter that Ellen Danagher had shown her family.
In the statement, he said that the hospital had not been able to find any record of the defendant on the electronic patient system and he said a reference number was ‘too long’ to be a Royal Marsden number.
The professor said he didn’t see patients for the condition referred to in the letter, which he said had been written ‘not in my style.’
He also said that the heading and logo on the letter ‘didn’t look right.’ The trial continues.
Danagher will continue giving evidence tomorrow.
The case continues.
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