A TEACHING assistant repeatedly lied about having terminal brain cancer to con her workmates out of £20,000, a court heard this week.
Ursula Rose, 42, then an assistant at St Thomas Becket Catholic Primary School, in South Norwood, said she needed £37,000 for "wonder" drugs from the US alongside operations in private hospitals.
Fellow assistants at the school, who this week appeared at Croydon Crown Court to testify, collectively donated thousands of pounds to aid their "bubbly, friendly" colleague, who said she feared for her husband and four children's financial future if she died.
Claire Robinson, prosecuting, said: "Ursula Rose repeatedly made false representations to friends and colleagues that she was seriously ill, suffering from cancer, that she had tumours in her head, and did this to get loans of money from them.
"This was clearly dishonest and calculated to make people feel sorry for her."
The court was told Rose received £3,000 from fellow assistant Gillian Trype, who withdrew £1,500 from each of her children's savings accounts to aid her colleague.
Rose received a further £6,500 from Alison Patmore for a deposit for an operation and £10,500 from Michelle Willis, and allegedly told them that surgery had removed some of the four tumours – only for the cancer to return months later.
Staff also threw a fundraiser at Bar Txt in Croydon after being told that one of the tumours was wrapped around a brain artery near Rose's temple.
Ms Robinson added: "She said there was a wonder drug in America but that it was £7,000, so more money was talked about."
However, the alleged fraud came to light when Thomas Becket head teacher Noel Campbell contacted Rose's GP, who told him the teaching assistant did not have cancer but suffered from migraine-like headaches.
The court heard that, when interviewed by police over the alleged fraud in 2008 and 2009, Rose admitted that she never had a terminal illness, but suffered from headaches due to stress.
Mrs Trype told the court she has never been repaid by Rose, something which has left her and her colleagues "devastated".
She said: "We were very close. We became good friends.
"This is when she was saying she's got brain tumours that were life-threatening.
"It would go from different stages until she got to a grade 4 [terminal tumour] and this is when she needed other treatment from America that she needed money for as well.
"There was only about a two or three day time span.
"It was all happening very quickly."
Speaking of former friend Rose, she added: "She was very bubbly, out-going, friendly, loving, she would call one of my work friends 'mum', another 'sister'. We were all very close.
"We were devastated. We couldn't believe it because we all thought she was honest."
Rose, of Westgate Road, South Norwood, denies four counts of fraud, and is yet to give evidence.
The trial continues.