'Wheelchair-bound' benefits cheat who ran brothel caught riding elephants

A ‘wheelchair-bound’ woman who claimed £17,000 in benefits was caught riding elephants and mountain climbing on exotic holidays after taking over a brothel.

Natalie Davis, 51, from Bristol, said she was too sick to work, suffering with ME, chronic fatigue syndrome and asthma, and was practically immobile.

She began claiming Disability Living Allowance from 1999, before saying she also suffered with panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder in 2006.

The following year she took over a massage parlour, which was investigated by police in 2017 who suspected she was running a brothel.

When a search warrant was issued to her home, police found a digital memory card containing a photo album of her elaborate and expensive holidays.

It included a 2013 trip to Africa, where according to the pictures, she enjoyed hot air balloon rides, fishing and a jeep safari.

An East Asia trip in 2015 showed her riding elephants and lounging on a lilo, while she took part in zip-lining and climbing on a Snowdonia holiday the following year.

But when interviewed, Davis claimed she just went on holiday to lay on sunbeds.

Lucy Taylor, prosecuting, told Bristol Crown Court: ‘She said she was not able to walk. She said she could walk five metres before the pain was unbearable.

‘She said that was seven days a week and she needed people to help her in and out of a wheelchair.

‘She also said she could not go out alone due to panic attacks and she was at risk of falling in shops or in the street.’

Davis stated she was often too weak to get out of bed or use the toilet and needed help with showering and dressing, the court heard, and was awarded benefits as a result.

But surveillance footage showed the supposedly immobile Davis getting in and out of cars, going up and down stairs, cleaning a courtyard, moving rubbish and carrying bags of shopping.

Ms Taylor referred to a 2017 BBC Inside Out West investigation, during which a reporter tried to speak to her outside her home and she ran into her property.

Benefit fraud investigators also established she had taken easyJet flights from Bristol to Spain alone and without mobility aids.

Davis pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances between January 6, 2010 and September 1, 2018, with the total amount of benefits claimed amounting to £17,700.15.

The recorder Mr Marcus Pilgerstorfer called for a probation report before sentence on August 22.

Nicholas Clough, defending, said his client had initially claimed legitimately.

He said her illnesses fluctuated day to day and week to week, and reporting any improvement in her mobility to the DWP had been the last thing on her mind.

In January this year Davis pleaded guilty to controlling prostitution for gain and Judge Mark Horton handed her a prison sentence of two years and six months.

He told Davis: ‘You exploited women in the sex industry who you employed for very serious and substantial financial gain.’

But Davis successfully appealed the jail term and was handed 12 months prison, suspended for 12 months.

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