A competitive surfer and musician who performed at Glastonbury has been convicted of a £13,000 benefits scam after exaggerating her care needs.
October Hamlyn-Wright, 36, told officials she suffers from an array of medical conditions as she applied for benefits, saying she suffers pain and mobility problems that impact on her daily life.
However, she fell under suspicion thanks to her “October Rocks” website, detailing her hectic schedule of surfing competitions and performances as a singer-songwriter.
Hamlyn-Wright finished fifth in the 2016 British National Surfing Championships and 2017 English National Surfing Championships, and blogged about riding the waves in Australia, Kingston crown court heard.
Under the stage name October, she has sung at Glastonbury and the Isle of Wight festival and one of her tracks has been played on BBC Radio 1.
Prosecutor Andrew Price showed jurors pictures and videos of Hamlyn-Wright from Facebook, YouTube and her own website, as she described herself as a “professional singer, songwriter, surfer and shark enthusiast and a surfing competitor with ‘Boardmasters’”.
He said: “She says she splits her time between London and the South-West and had performed on nine stages at two festivals and at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, the ExCel, in Gothenburg, Birmingham Symphony Hall and Melbourne.”
Hamlyn-Wright was awarded a higher rate of benefits on the basis that she needed a carer for two hours a day to get her in and out of bed and an hour’s worth of assistance with washing herself.It prevents living a normal life... getting in and out of the bath is impossible on my own Hamlyn-Wright in October
“The benefit was awarded on the basis she was virtually unable to walk and needed full-time care,” said Mr Price.
He told the court Hamlyn-Wright had been put under surveillance and was seen “walking, shopping, climbing stairs, performing and engaging with her audience between songs unaided and without obvious pain”.
In a letter supporting her benefits claim, Hamlyn-Wright said she suffers from auto-immune disease lupus which causes breathing difficulties, she has to cope with constant pain from fibromyalgia, she has insomnia, Crohn’s disease, chronic arthritis, and said she had been wheelchair-bound for parts of her life.
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“It’s a complete nightmare and prevents living a normal life,” she said, referring to nightly bouts of vomiting, and “unbearable shooting pain”.
She also said she struggles with chest inflammation, writing: “The pain is so bad my chest cannot move as it should. Lying down is excruciatingly painful and when that happens someone has to help me lie down and get up.”
She added that she has suffered fractured ankles from falls, claiming: “Dressing and getting in and out of the bath is impossible on my own.”
Hamlyn-Wright, from New Malden, was last week convicted of making a dishonest false representation to the Department for Work and Pensions to claim Disability Living Allowance in October 2015. She was acquitted at trial of a second benefit fraud charge from 2013. She was released on bail until sentencing on March 17.