Benefit cheat cleaner stole £20,000 from Sunderland and Newcastle footballers’ wives

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A TRUSTED cleaner who stole more than £20,000- worth of jewellery from footballers’ wives was committing benefit fraud at the time of the thefts, a court heard.

Christine French pocketed more than £25,000 in benefits that she was not entitled to while working as a cleaner for former Sunderland striker David Healy and Newcastle goalkeeper Steve Harper.

The 57-year-old fraudulently claimed between £100 and £120 a week while cleaning the plush family homes on Ponteland’s Darras Hall estate.

Susan Hirst, defending, told the court that French was “really robbing Peter to try and pay Paul” after her husband of 30 years left her in a state of financial chaos.

Newcastle Crown Court heard that when French, of Stephenson Way, Gateshead, initially began claiming income support and council tax benefit in September 2003, when she was entitled to the payments.

After starting work as a cleaner on August 1 2005, she continued to claim the money until she was sacked after the thefts.

French pleaded guilty to three counts of benefit fraud and was sentenced to 12 weeks’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months