14/08/2014 16:53 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Mum-Of-Four Tricked Family Into Believing She Was Having Twins - Who Were Stillborn

Mum-of-four tricked family into believing she was having twins - who then died in childbirth

A mother-of-four tricked her family and friends into believing she was pregnant with twins - before falsely claiming they had died in childbirth.

Leslie Wilfred, 37, also convinced doctors and friends in Thomasville, Georgia, US, that her four other young children suffered from serious illnesses, leading one to undergo serious surgery.

She was eventually diagnosed with Munchausen syndrome and Munchausen-by-proxy, in which sufferers make up illnesses for themselves and their children and often induce the symptoms.

In 2011, the woman was sentenced to eight years in prison, but it is only now that police involved have revealed details.

Officer Bob Brettel told how police learned of Wilfred's lies when Child Protective Services were interviewing her about her unruly stepson, and noticed she was talking about his attitude harming the unborn babies.

After claiming the babies had indeed died, CPS decided to investigate further and discovered the litany of falsehoods, extending to all of her children. Wilfred had four children when she married Chris - who also had a son of his own from a previous relationship - on June 23, 2007.

Wilfred claimed her then 13-year-old son had needed his gall bladder removed as a child after she took him to the doctor with frequent vomiting. She also claimed he needed a liver transplant. She also had a daughter, nine, who suffered from leukemia, she said.

The girl supposedly underwent chemotherapy and collection pots were placed around town to raise money for her medical bills.

Wilfred claimed that her other children also suffered from medical conditions and that one child, who was then 11, was the result of her being raped by her co-worker. This was never reported to police. Around this time, Wilfred also claimed she had fallen pregnant with the couple's twins.

She took pictures of her rounded belly - but did not reveal to friends or family that she had actually had her tubes tied ahead of the marriage, making a pregnancy impossible.

In 2008, the couple called the police about Chris' son, claiming he had threatened the family with a knife. They complained he was unruly and neighbours rarely saw him leave the home.

After the knife incident, Child Protective Services launched an investigation and Wilfred regularly met with a caseworker - who noticed some bizarre behaviour.

"During this whole period of time when the mother would be talking to his attorney, she made several references about his behaviour being responsible for the safety and wellbeing of her unborn twins," Officer Brettel told Fox.

It was almost as if she was predicting the future. On November 10, 2008, Wilfred called her husband and family from hospital to say the twins, who she had been carrying for five months, were stillborn and had been cremated.

Three days later, the family gathered to mourn the babies at the family's local church, where their ashes were placed in teddy-bear shaped urns and ultrasounds were put on display.

Little did the family know that the urns had been ordered five days ahead of the 'birth' and that the ultrasounds belonged to a stranger - and had been downloaded from the internet.

When CPS learned about the stillbirths, they contacted Brettel, who in turn contacted the hospital - and found they did not have records of her check ups or birth.

As the investigation continued, officers learned that the eldest son did not need a liver transplant and they questioned whether his gallbladder had been removed unnecessarily. They also learned that the daughter had not suffered from leukaemia and Wilfred had instead lied about going for chemotherapy treatments.

In yet another twist, officers then searched the couple's home and found that Chris' son had been tied in a small wooden box inside a linen closet every night as the family slept.

The couple said that the boy was violent and needed to be constrained - but analysis of him showed he only suffered from PTSD as a result of being locked in the box.

Wilfred herself underwent evaluations and found that she had Munchausen syndrome - but no other major mental health issues. Experts in Munchausen say that people with the condition often have passive partners and Chris claimed he had no idea that his wife had been lying.

Wilfred eventually pleaded guilty to several counts of cruelty to children and theft by deception for the donation buckets, and she is currently serving an eight-year sentence.

Chris was convicted of one count of cruelty to children, and both parents have been ordered not to contact their children without permission from the court. The children have not suffered any permanent physical damage and are living in foster care.

But Officer Brettel said he believes the children could have suffered much worse harm - or death - if the case had not been discovered.

"She was pretty much in denial about doing anything significantly wrong," he said.

"She didn't think she had done anything to harm her children."