A WOMAN who duped friends and family into believing she had cancer to raise money has been jailed.

Kim Collins, 41, was given ten weeks behind bars after it emerged she had fooled colleagues at Costcutters, in Rayleigh Road, Eastwood, into believing she was being treated at Southend Hospital for bowel cancer.

Sympathetic colleagues and friends helped her raise £1,000 for the hospital's cancer ward, even organising a sponsored head shave for Collins and a friend at the Oakwood Pub, Eastwood.

But the store supervisor was later exposed as a liar who had kept the money for herself and had never suffered from the disease.

Bob Rowlingson, prosecuting, said: "She appeared, to these colleagues and friends, very open about her illness and was admired for the way she was dealing with it.

"She asked her co-workers to donate, and her employers, and they did because they wanted to support the defendant, who they really believed had cancer."

Collins continued to work at Costcutter for seven months after telling people of her illness, but then left, saying she was having an operation.

She said she had given a cheque to the Elizabeth Lowry ward, but when her bosses did not hear from her they began investigating.

It was revealed she had never been a patient at the hospital and not handed over any of the donated money, so her bosses called police.

Mitigating, Gavin Burrell said Collins had shown "genuine remorse" for her actions. He said: "It is clearly a very unfortunate series of events whereby it is suggested the defendant was seeking some attention.

"She found some way to create an interest in her personally and she started a ball rolling she was unable to stop."

Chairman of the bench Martin Everett said magistrates believed prison was necessary because Collins's crime had involved deception of a "large number of people over a prolonged period of time".

Mr Everett added: "We feel the need to maintain public confidence for people who give to charity."

Collins, of High Street, West Wickham, Kent, had previously pleaded guilty at Southend Magistrates' Court to obtaining property by deception.

As well as the prison term, she was ordered to repay £110 to known donors.

Cancer fundraiser Rosemary Slade, from Leigh, who is currently in remission for breast cancer, said: "Having gone through cancer and the trauma of treatment, I think it's absolutely despicable.

"She should go down for longer and be punished.

"Ten weeks is not much, but it's good she was caught."

If you have been affected by her actions or know her, please call our newsdesk on 01702 321138 or email katherine.legge@nqe.com.