A TEACHER who cheated kind-hearted donors out of £19,000 by pretending she had skin cancer which was not responding to chemotherapy has been spared an immediate jail term.

Keera Brayford, of Cedar Road, Whiston, who was a teacher at Sutton Academy, set up a Just Giving page, despite not having the disease at all - and even fooled her own parents and other relatives into believing that she did - so she could use the charity donations to pay off debts.

Liverpool Crown Court heard how her brazen offences came to light.

The 25-year-old told police it had begun after she told colleagues at the Sutton Academy she had cancer.

She claimed she had invented the ailment in fake sick notes and hospital appointments as her employers would not give her time off for appointments for sexually transmitted disease investigations.

Brayford had even searched on Google about “how to defraud employer about being ill.”

Her bosses became suspicious about the notes and found that she had been using a computer at the school to manufacture the bogus medical notes and appointments and her web of lies began to untangle.

Meanwhile she had claimed on her Facebook page that she had skin cancer and set up the Just Giving page and various fund raising events were held - some taking money away from genuine good causes.

On her Just Giving “story board” she wrote that she needed “financial breathing space” and money for alternative medical treatment as her chemotherapy was not working.

The court heard she increased her fund raising target from £10,000 to £16,000 but her attempts to claim the £10,515 donations were rejected by Just Giving. But donations by four individuals, totalling, £8,722, were paid directly to her and have not been returned to the duped donors.

Sentencing Brayford the judge, Recorder Katherine Cornell said, “This was a sophisticated fraud. You forged letters and sick notes from your GP to back up your claims and forged letters from the Macmillan charity. You made heartfelt pleas saying you needed breathing space to fight cancer and get alternative treatment as in your words ‘chemo not working’.”

She said she had also invented a hospital doctor and a false account for him and sent fake emails to try to get the Just Giving funds released. “There was no Dr Nicky Smith, no diagnosis, no chemotherapy, no treatment. It was all a lie.

“You maintained this fiction to Just Giving and Facebook, to colleagues at work and a even your own friends and family. They were all completely fooled into believing you had cancer and on going treatment. Your parents even believed you were attending a cancer centre. You were not.”

The judge said that Brayford’s sister had advised her to consolidate her debts but she refused saying that would be too stressful.

She told tearful Brayford she had taken advantage of people’s good nature, including a woman who organised a charity event which raised £2,400 for her. The woman later confronted Brayford after hearing she might not have cancer. But Brayford “lied to her face, saying you did have cancer and these were malicious rumours.

The judge added: "She said it was not necessary, she trusted you and she was completely duped.”

The judge said that the four frauds which she had taken into consideration included a £2,500 cheque from a prison officers' charity, which her unsuspecting uncle, a former prison officer, had arranged following their 30 year friendship with the treasurer.

The treasurer pointed out the money usually went to sick children and could have been used for potentially life saving equipment but this had been denied “because of this selfish and disgraceful act.”

Another local charity, the Tuesday Club, gave her £4,800 after fundraising events, involving calling in favours, including a free venue and entertainment. The organiser, Robert Dunne, told how he even shed a tear at the event watching her “apparently weak and ill dancing with her father.”

A friend who raised £2000 for her by doing a parachute jump and setting up a charity page was “another victim of your callous fraud,” she said.

Brayford spent the direct donations on clearing her debts and on-line shopping. The judge told her she needs to start saving each week to repay the money.

After hearing that she does suffer genuine health problems, including arthritis, and is vulnerable, because of mental health problems, the judge sentenced her to two years' imprisonment suspended for two years.

She also imposed a year long house detention with a curfew between 7pm to 6 am - with “no holidays, no nights out with your friends for the next year” - and ordered her to carry out 35 days rehabilitation activities.

“You behaved despicably,” she added.

Brayford pleaded guilty to fraud between March 1 and September this year and had four similar offences taken into consideration.

Amy Butler, defending, said that Brayford had thought she had cancer but had not had it diagnosed except by looking on-line and self-diagnosing,

She has since been receiving medication from her doctor for her ailments, including a seriously inflamed bowel, and it is thought she has an auto-immune disease.

She said she is remorseful and wants to pay back the money. She was suspended by the school and then resigned and is currently unemployed receiving disability payments.