A mother who pretended her son had cancer to claim thousands of pounds of benefits has written to him to confess that she tricked him – and to beg him to forgive her.
Emma La Garde, 38, made her seven-year-old use a wheelchair and shaved his head and eyebrows to mimic the effects of chemotherapy in a scam that made her £86,000.
She was jailed last November for three years and four months. In the two-page letter to the 11-year-old, sent from Holloway Prison in north London, she wrote: "When mummy was poorly I didn't do a good job of being a mummy to you and I want to be better so you can be proud of me being your mum again, even grown-ups make mistakes you see.
"I still look out of the window every night and say goodnight to you all and I love you and no matter how far apart we are you are always with me in my heart and I'll never stop loving or caring about you."
La Garde, who tricked not only her family but also the child's school, health authority and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), asked her son to write to her telling her what he was up to, and said she missed him.
She suggested he might like to do a drawing or painting for her, and said she was studying new courses in prison to help her get a job when she is released next year.
La Garde told her son, who is now living with his brother and siblings at a secret location, that she and her boyfriend plan to move away from the area when she is released because she thought he wouldn't like to bump into her at the supermarket.
She said she planned to see him somewhere where he could have fun, rather than in a family contact centre.
But the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the Mirror he had no intention of seeing his mother at the moment as he was happy living with his father. The boy has not seen his mum in jail and has decided not to reply to her letter, which was sent on May 25.
He was just six when La Garde first tricked her factory worker husband into believing their son had been diagnosed with potentially fatal auto-immune lymphoproliferative syndrome – a serious and debilitating blood disorder. She forged a medical letter to support the lie.
Later she told her husband the boy had cancer and doctors had warned that he did not have long to live.
The couple sat the boy down to comfort him and La Garde explained the illness was terminal. The parents told all their close relatives that he was going to die, but did not know if it would be months or years.
La Garde, from Stroud, Gloucestershire, claimed disability living allowance and a motability car to ferry her son around.
Teachers drew up care plans and La Garde began sending him to school in a wheelchair. He was not allowed to sit on the floor with other children for assembly.
Instead, he was given a chair at the back next to the teachers. When the family went on holiday to Disney World in Florida she made sure he stayed mainly confined to his wheelchair.
But La Garde's sick charade was finally discovered when her unsuspecting husband spotted a simple spelling mistake she had made on one of the forged doctor's notes.
He said: "The word 'to' was misspelt as 'too'. It was the only word she ever got wrong. We used to call it an Emma-ism."
La Garde lived for 12 years with the boy's dad. He walked out after she was arrested in 2010 and divorced her last year.