One of Britain's oldest conwomen who took cash from Essex banks as part of a elaborate scam has been spared jail after a court heard she was scared of dying in prison.

Frail Lyn Daniels, 70, used fake identities to swindle thousands in cash after she travelled to Nationwide branches across eight different counties.

A court heard she used forged documents to pose as different customers in order to obtain more than £8,500 during the sophisticated scam.

But she was rumbled when suspicious staff alerted police when she attempted to withdraw £17,500 from an account in Leamington Spa.

When Daniels was arrested, counterfeit documents were seized from her and she was charged with nine counts of fraud following an investigation.

Daniels, of Edmonton, North London, admitted the charges but avoided a custodial sentence after being sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years.

She was also slapped with a rehabilitation activity for 30 days at Warwick Crown Court on Wednesday.

The court was told how Daniels had numerous health problems, walked with a stick, had limited mobility and was frightened of dying in prison.

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Sentencing, Recorder Balraj Bhatia QC told her: “I accept you have had significant medical issues which have led you to use heroin and other drugs to ease your pain or make life a little more bearable.

“I am impressed that since 2018 you have responded well to supervision.

Echo: Daniels, of Edmonton, North London, admitted the charges but avoided a custodial sentence. Picture: SWNSDaniels, of Edmonton, North London, admitted the charges but avoided a custodial sentence. Picture: SWNS

“Had all of these offences been dealt with together at the appropriate time, I’m of the opinion that a suspended sentence would have been the appropriate sentence, given the circumstances and your personal mitigation.

“But you have now used up your chances.

"If you commit another offence during the next two years, you know what the sentence will be and, as you say, you may die in prison.”

Prosecutor Catherine Ravenscroft said the offences were committed by Daniels assuming the identity of people who had accounts with the Nationwide.

She would attend branches in the Midlands and the south of the country using counterfeit identity documents to withdraw money from various accounts.

But Daniels came unstuck when she turned up at the Nationwide branch in Leamington in March 2018 and tried to withdraw a large amount of cash.

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Staff at the branch kept her there while police were contacted and she gave mostly "no comment" replies in interview.

She was released under investigation, but continued to offend - trying to obtain £500 from an account at a Nationwide branch in Witney, Oxon, in April 2018.

A police investigation found she struck at branches in Surrey, Essex, Kent, Sussex, Middlesex and Cambridgeshire to obtain amounts ranging from £500 to £3,000.

Daniels obtained a total of £8,620 from the frauds, but had attempted to obtain a total of around £26,500.

The court was told she had previously been given a 33-week suspended sentence for similar frauds at branches of Barclays bank in March 2019.

Sarah Fairburn, defending, said at the time Daniels was addicted to class A drugs and she took part in the offending as a way to repay a drug debt.

She said: “It had a degree of sophistication and planning, but her role was being handed the counterfeit documents and being driven to the building societies by those she owed money to and going in.

“She would get 10 per cent and hand 90 per cent to those who had ferried her around.

"She was essentially a mule. She turned a blind eye and did not ask any questions.

“She is vulnerable, she owed a debt and threats were made to the extent that she thought this was the best option.

“She is 70 years of age, she walks with a stick and has somewhat limited mobility. She is a vulnerable lady in terms of her health.

“She is receiving support in the community for her drug use. She is on a Methadone script, and does occasionally use heroin, two or three times a month, as a form of pain relief.

"That is a significant improvement on where she was in 2018.

“She’s very concerned about receiving an immediate sentence, and fears she would die in prison."