NEWS
11/11/2011 13:02 GMT | Updated 11/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Pantomime Dame Paul Couchman Caught Out For Benefit Fraud

A Widow Twanky costume didn't fool fraud investigators on the tail of benefits scammer and pantomime dame Paul Couchman.

The cheat claimed thousands of pounds for an alleged 'bad back' over seven years an investigation has revealed, raking up nearing £29,000 in incapacity benefits.

Despite 41-year-old Couchman claiming he was not fit to work, investigators from Hillingdon Council were tipped off by the thousands of pounds in his bank account.

By working under stage name Peter Goode, Couchman was able to save £16,000.

The traditional 'man in drag' role demands a lively player to leap around the stage, usually both singing and dancing, something that a benefit claimant should not be able to do.

Perhaps faking a bad back was just practice for his theatrical hobbling on stage as Long John Silver, at Congress Theatre in Cwmbran South Wales in 2007.

Other roles he played included Shakespearean beast-man Caliban and obese alcoholic Sir Toby Belch. But none of these robust characters were as lively as his leaping in Aladdin, in which he played Widow Twanky as a pantomime dame smeared in lipstick.

Some of his Shakepearean roles were for the Rainbow Theatre Group of which Judi Dench is patron. The award winning actress known for her stern roles would no doubt be appalled.

Pleading guilty to charges Couchman was handed a six month prison sentence suspended for two years. He will be electronically tagged and fined £450. Fortunately for panto fans, he will be released from a curfew in time to reprise his role as a pantomime dame.

Hillingdon Council's fraud team, who led the probe, said: "We are always pleased when another benefit cheat is caught"