A woman has told how her best friend, a single mother who worked as a fashion consultant at Harrods, faked a battle with cancer to defraud wellwishers out of £45,000.
Nicole Elkabbas, from Broadstairs, Kent, announced that she had been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer in 2018, and friends, family and strangers rallied around and donated money to help her get life-saving treatment in Spain.
A GoFundMe page was set up with a photograph of Nicole being treated in hospital and it wasn’t long before the donations flooded in.
A new six-part series on Quest Red, The Big Swindle, airing on Saturday at 9pm, tells the stories of the most brazen and ruthless con artists, starting with Elkabbas.
Close friend of Nicole, Jo Mapp, reveals in the show how she was left ‘devastated’ by her pal’s diagnosis and refused to believe that she wasn’t ill – even when she was arrested.
Nicole Elkabbas, from Broadstairs, Kent, announced that she had been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer in 2018 and set up a fundraiser
It’s believed Nicole had experienced a cancer scare, but was told that she was fine by doctors days before the fundraiser was set up.
A doctor who had previously treated Elkabbas for a gall bladder operation then raised suspicions over her diagnosis.
Jo had even handed over £2,000 out of her own pocket, as Elkabbas told her she needed the money urgently for medication, a sum that was repaid.
In a clip from the first episode, lead investigator, Detective Sergeant Marc Cananur, explained that when Elkabbas was first questioned by police, even they wondered if they’d got it wrong.
‘She was essentially very convincing,’ he said. ‘She was adamant that she was dealing with ovarian cancer, provided a timeline on where she’d gone (for treatment) and when, and who she had interacted with.
‘She mentioned the Teknon Hospital in Spain where she regularly went for treatment, she mentioned Dr Suarez who was treating her to hopefully prevent herself dying from cancer.
‘Now, she was that convincing that when the investigating officers came back to me, they were concerned that we may be dealing with a cancer patient as opposed to a fraudster.
‘She listed specific medication she was having, test results, details of how much medical treatment she needed on a regular basis and real finite detail about exact cost implications per month.’
Jo said: ‘A friend sent an article over to me where it said that a local woman and it mentioned Nicole Elkabbas had been arrested for fraud, saying that she had got everybody to believe she had cancer and raised a whole lot of money, but hadn’t used any of the money for cancer treatment.
One of Nicole’s friends points out exactly where she was told about her cancer and said she was ‘devastated’
Elkabbas spent thousands on holidays, gambling, shopping sprees, restaurants and even £3,592 on a luxury box to watch a single Tottenham Hotspur match with the money
‘I didn’t believe it. I absolutely didn’t believe it and friends were saying to me “but it’s in black and white” and I was like, “No, they are saying she had been arrested for that, they haven’t proven anything”. So, I absolutely still didn’t believe it.’
Jo recalled the moment she found out about her friend’s illness, saying: ‘This is the cafe that Nicole Elkabbas brought me to when she told me she had cancer.
‘I was devastated. I put myself in her shoes, if I was ill in that position, how would I feel?
‘There was no type of treatment in the UK for what she needed and she said she would need to go abroad but that we needed to raise some funds.’
Jo then went on to tell the documentary: ‘It was all calculated from the beginning. She knew who to target, she knew what to say.’
The former Harrods fashion consultant pleaded not guilty in her trial in November 2020, claiming she genuinely believed she had cancer.
Elkabbas was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison in 2021. She spent thousands on holidays, gambling, shopping sprees, restaurants and even £3,592 on a luxury box to watch a single Tottenham Hotspur match with the money.
The documentary will focus on one story of deceit each episode and those affected reveal the shocking details of what happened.
A forensic psychiatrist will help unpack the mindset of the swindlers, as well as social media posts, emails and text messages, to reveal how and why these complicated cons were executed.
- The Big Swindle airs on Quest Red Saturday 13th May at 9pm, also available to stream on discovery+
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk