A woman from Chester has been sentenced after faking a burglary and setting fire to her car as part of an elaborate insurance scam.
Hayley Barlow pleaded guilty to fraud, perverting the course of justice and possession of class A drug cocaine at Chester Crown Court on Friday 21 December 2018.
The 36-year-old returned to the court for sentencing on Tuesday 22 January, when she was handed a four-month prison sentence suspended for a year.
The charges stem from a report of a burglary at Barlow’s home on Treborth Road.
She called police in the early hours of Wednesday 4 July 2018 to say that she had woken up to discover that her car keys had been taken from her home and the vehicle parked outside – a Volkswagen Golf – had been stolen.
Barlow then called her insurance company to report the theft and later made a £2,000 claim for her ‘stolen’ car.
The car and affected bushes were extinguished by firefighters after the vehicle was set alight on Green Lane near to Kingswood Lane in Saughall on the night of Tuesday 3 July 2018.
The vehicle was completely destroyed by the fire, but when investigating the burglary claim officers discovered that the car did not have an engine when it was set alight.
Barlow told police that the car was in working order when it was stolen and denied that it was missing its engine.
She also claimed that she had fallen asleep at around 7pm on the night the car was ‘stolen’ and had not left her house before calling the police the following morning.
However evidence uncovered by officers revealed that she had in fact arranged for a man she knows with a van to tow away the car for £20.
She sat in the car as it was towed before setting it alight using a canister of butane gas at around 9.10pm and then heading back home.
Barlow was arrested at her home on Tuesday 10 July 2018, where a search uncovered a wrap of cocaine.
She admitted possessing the cocaine, and after being presented with all the evidence against her – including CCTV footage of her in the car as it was being towed – Barlow also admitted to lying to the police, reporting a burglary that did not happen, setting fire to her VW Golf and making a fraudulent insurance claim.
Barlow said that her actions were spurred by debts she has and the amount of money the car was costing her in repairs.
Detective Constable Nicky Edgell said: “Not only did Barlow report a burglary to the police that did not happen and attempt to defraud her insurance company with a £2,000 claim for a car that was not stolen, she caused a potential environmental and health hazard by setting fire to the vehicle.
“Due to the temperatures at the time of the offence and the dryness of the dense undergrowth along Green Lane, the fire spread a considerable distance from the vehicle and posed a risk to the fields and farms nearby.
“Thankfully firefighters were able to extinguish the fire before it could spread further, but many hours have been spent investigating Barlow’s burglary report and subsequently her offences, including obtaining witness accounts, photographing scenes, conducting interviews and examining phone reports, telecoms data and CCTV.
“Barlow had the opportunity to admit her fraudulent actions early on in the investigation but chose not to, continuing to lie until the evidence against her was overwhelming.
“I would like to thank all the officers involved in the investigation for their hard work in untangling Barlow’s web of lies and securing this conviction.”
In addition to her suspended prison sentence, Barlow was ordered to adhere to a 20-day rehabilitation activity requirement and pay a £115 victim surcharge.