Watch moment Stanley fraudster Lyne Barlow who faked cancer told to remove headscarf by police

Lyne Barlow was captured on CCTV hobbling into the police station before being asked to remove the headscarf she claimed to be wearing because she was undergoing cancer treatment. Credit: Durham Police

Footage of a fraudster who pretended to have cancer after conning hundreds of people out of holidays has been released.

Lyne Barlow had told friends, family and customers that she had cancer as part of her scam.

She has been jailed after being convicted of conning about 1,400 people out of holidays in a scam worth about £1.2m.

Barlow told people she was suffering from cancer – even wearing a headscarf and using a walking stick to convince people she was seriously ill.

Durham Police has released the footage of the mother-of-two using a stick to walk into the station, before being asked to take off her headscarf to reveal her hair.

Officers investigating the complex case said Barlow had cut off some of her hair and left it on her pillow to convince her family she was ill and also got family members to take her to hospital so she could supposedly attend appointments.

The case is one of the biggest frauds Durham Police has ever investigated.

Detective Sergeant Alan Meehan, of Durham Constabulary’s Economic Fraud Unit, said: “Sadly, so many people have been affected by what she did, lives have been changed forever and some will never be the same again.

“Not only did Barlow offer holidays she could not deliver, but she also took advantage of the generosity and understanding of those around her, which has resulted in such far-reaching consequences.

“She wanted a quality of life she could not afford, which resulted in her defrauding her family, friends, and even complete strangers.

“This is one of the biggest fraud cases Durham Constabulary has ever dealt with and I would like to again thank everyone who came forward for their patience and understanding while we carried out what was a thorough but lengthy investigation.”

Police started investigating the fraud in September 2020, when dozens of calls suddenly started coming into Durham Police's control room.

Rumours were circulating on social media that travel agent Lyne Barlow had been selling holidays to members of the public but many of these either did not exist or had not been fully paid for.

The situation was causing unprecedented demand on call handlers, and on an early assessment, an unusual step was taken to direct complainants to an email address, which was set up to deal with what was happening.

This prevented the control room being overrun and therefore preventing any emergency calls from being delayed.

The Economic Crime Unit were alerted to what was happening and the team knew instantly that there was potentially something significant going on.

There are generally five members of the team, led by Detective Sergeant Alan Meehan, who deal with complex frauds that come into the force.

However, initially a 20-strong team was drafted in from other departments for a short period to help log all the complaints being called in.

Once contact details were acquired for all the victims, a decision was made that a survey would be used to acquire the key information needed from each complainant.

Lyne Barlow had pretended to have cancer to friends and family. Credit: Durham Police

This took time to set up but once organised, a link to an online survey was sent out.

This allowed officers to work closely with analysts, to pull the data together, allowing them to start piecing together what had happened.

The investigation focussed on those people who had lost money because of Barlow’s actions. Hundreds of hours were spent collating holiday details from victims, speaking to banks and travel companies trying to unravel the scam and create a timeline of what had happened and when.

Within days of the first calls, officers arrested Barlow, who claimed to have cancer, however on being brought into custody, she eventually admitted that this was a lie.

She was bailed while the investigation continued. Officers then updated her family on the situation, which included telling them she did not have cancer.

Information then started coming in that Barlow had borrowed money from several people and encouraged others to invest savings or pension pay outs.

The team had to go through hundreds of documents to gather the relevant information to piece the case together.

Barlow was arrested again in July 2021, and during interviews she admitted offences relating to loans and investment fraud, together with the holiday scam.

The Crown Prosecution Service gave the go-ahead to charge Barlow at the start of 2022.

She admitted theft, fraud and money laundering charges totalling £1.2m at Durham Crown Court.

On Friday 3 February, she was sentenced for nine years.

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