A WIFE, who faked her husband’s death in an “audacious fraud” to say nearly £400 000 in life assurance , walked free from court.
Thulile Bhebhe (51), originally from South Africa , claimed her Zimbabwean husband Bekezela Bhebhe died of embolism while holidaying in Zimbabwe in August 2016.
But it had been discovered Bhebhe, a nurse, was actually working an extended day shift at Charing Cross Hospital in London on the day he “died”.
Judge Nigel Seed QC heard the couple are in “dire financial straits” and suspended a two-year prison sentence for two years.
Thulile, who wore an all-black outfit and a mask within the dock, looked straight ahead and appeared emotional because the sentence was passed.
Judge Seed said:
“It was an audacious fraud, but you maintained your husband was dead over a period of your time .
“Given that you simply have two dependant children reception and there’s a true prospect of rehabilitation, it’s entirely in accordance with the sentencing guidelines that I shouldn’t make that sentence immediate, but suspend it — to offer you the chance to rehabilitate and find other ways of punishing you.”
Thulile, also a nurse who worked for the NHS Direct telephone service at the time, admitted to fraud by false representation in 2018.
Inner London Crown Court heard her husband, who is originally from Zimbabwe, was unaware she had declared him dead.
Bekezela Bhebhe (54) was accused of helping her submit the fake documents, but denied any involvement and was cleared in January this year.
According to prosecutors, he had an image of the fraudulent death certificate on his phone and his fingerprints were found on the primary death certificate.
However, a judge ruled there was no evidence that he was in on the fraud when his wife, who is originally from South Africa , made the claim and ordered the jury to seek out him acquitted at the top of the prosecution case.
The life assurance policy had been taken out through Barclays Bank in 2012 and was underwritten by Aviva, with premiums of £50 a month for £397 153 of canopy .
In September 2016, Aviva received a medical consent form from Mrs Bhebhe and a replica of a medical certificate from a hospital in Zimbabwe confirming Bhebhe had died of embolism on August 9.
Investigators for Aviva contacted the health service and in January 2017, the NHS confirmed Bhebhe was alive and well, working an extended day shift as a sister charge nurse in acute medicine at Charing Cross Hospital.
The policy money was never paid bent the couple.
During his trial, jurors heard Bhebhe was questioned by police and admitted he had mastercard debts of £10 000, owed around £5 000 to HMRC in tax and was paying off a joint loan of around £15 000 together with his wife.
He told officers: “I don’t think I’m involved altogether this. i do know little or no about this insurance. The day it had been appropriated i used to be there within the house, but I wasn’t fully involved, i used to be just there to sign the papers and say yes.
“I just thought it had been ongoing insurance. I never really got into the small print of the contracts, what the agreements are.”
Philip Romans, defending Mrs Bhebhe, said: “She has genuine remorse. She took it on her shoulders. It’s not that she’s got away scot-free.
“She’s been on benefits and has not been ready to get any work, although she has tried to, largely due to this conviction.”
Sentencing Thulile, Judge Seed said: “I read that you simply came from South Africa and you came as a nurse and you were working until this offence.
“I’m slightly at a loss why you needed to commit the offence as you were in work until you lost your work as a results of this.
“And now you’re in dire financial hardship. it’s true the fraud involved forged documents from Zimbabwe, but they weren’t so sophisticated that the authorities couldn’t see through them within the UK and did not disburse which you intended to get .”
Prosecutor Nicholas Wayne applied for compensation to hide Aviva’s costs for investigating the fake claim, but it had been rejected by the judge due to the couple’s financial situation.
Bhebhe, of Hayes, west London, was handed a twoyear sentence suspended for two years.
She must perform 25 days of rehabilitation work and 100 hours of unpaid work.