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A fraudster who claimed more than ?12,000 in benefits after saying he could only walk 20 yards was caught out... after he was spotted completing a 10km run.

Brian Rawsthorne, 50, took part in the Bupa Great Manchester run in May 2007. He even appeared in a newspaper boasting how he had lost two-and-a-half stone as he trained for the race.

But at the same time he was receiving Disability Living Allowance and was paid ?12,300 between November 2004 and September 2007.

He denied failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change in circumstances but was found guilty by a district judge after Manchester Magistrates' Court was shown newspaper articles about him taking part in the run.

The court was also shown a TV documentary which showed him setting off on the big race. Father-of-two Rawsthorne could be seen clapping his arms in the air in a warm-up session before running off.

Paul Darnborough, prosecuting for the DWP, said: 'The department would say that his ability to cope with his disability is a change in circumstances.

'His health is improving, his fitness is improving and his diet is improving - meaning he could take part in sporting activities.'

The court was told the former miner, of Newton Heath, had been the sole survivor of an explosion that killed 10 men at Golborne Colliery, near Wigan, in 1979.

It left him with severe burns and damaged lungs.

He began claiming Disability Living Allowance in 1997 - insisting he sometimes had to walk on crutches, climb the stairs on his bottom and could not walk about in hot weather.

Officials at the DWP began an investigation after they received an anonymous tip-off that he was refereeing football matches and umpiring cricket games.

Investigator Steven Orwin told the court Rawsthorne admitted this in interview.

He claimed he 'rarely left the centre circle' while refereeing five-a-side and 11-a-side football matches.

Rawsthorne added: 'On hindsight, on reflection, I've been dishonest. But, I've not done it deceitfully. I've not done it maliciously.'

He told the court that taking part in the race had been 'absolute agony' and had left him unable to walk for five weeks.

Deputy district judge Duncan Birrell suggested to Rawsthorne, who raised ?1000 in the race, he had done a 'fair old stretch' in a 'reasonable time' and asked if this meant there had been a change in his circumstances.

But Rawsthorne replied: 'I understand what you're saying, but there's been no change at all. I cannot walk 20 yards without being in pain.'

'When I filled those forms in, hand on heart, that's the way I was. If I was to fill it in again, I wouldn't change it very much. My worse days are worse now than in 1997.'

He said he had wanted to take part in the race because he wanted to take his wife abroad for their 25th wedding anniversary and did not want 'two seats on the plane'.

Rawsthorne said he had walked the entire race, apart from a 'jog' at the beginning, and had stopped several times before being in tears at the end.

His wife Jane, a registered nurse, said he had difficulty getting out of the bath and was unable to peel vegetables.

Neil Grunfeld, defending, said: 'I don't think you can look at an isolated incident and say that, because he did that walk, his condition had changed.'

Deputy district judge Birrell, sentenced Rawsthorne to a six month conditional discharge. There was no application for costs.

He accepted that he had not set out to be 'deliberately dishonest' and said he could feel `proud' having overcoming his pain to complete the race. But he added: 'Your physical improvement was manifested by the fact that, in 2007, you could complete that 10k walk, which was something you should have properly notified to the DWP.'

Roy Paul, North West Fraud Manager at the DWP, said after the hearing that the department would be seeking full repayment of the money.


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