Nolan sister tells of shame of ‘honest mistake’ in benefit cheat probe

CourtsBy Karl Doyle
Linda Nolan has spoken of her ordeal
Linda Nolan has spoken of her ordeal

Singer Linda Nolan has revealed she was "scared to death" at the prospect of appearing in court after she was accused of being a benefits cheat.

The 56-year-old, who found fame with the Nolan Sisters in the 1970s, was given a caution by Blackpool Council for failing to disclose her earnings and for overpayment of housing and council tax benefits, and council tax reduction scheme savings.

The star from the Irish pop group, who were huge in the late 70s and early 80s, has already begun repaying the money, which totalled around £6,000, according to the council.

She said she wished never to repeat the "honest mistake".

"This has ruled my life for so long. It was the last thing I thought about at night and the first thing in the morning," she said.

"I felt sick every time the phone rang or when I saw a letter on the doormat. Everything has been on hold for me but I'm ready to start living again. I've learned so much from this and above all I've realised I'm stronger than I thought."

When she received a court summons in May, the star said she felt "very, very low".

"I was scared to death of appearing in court. It's all so public, the thought of it was horrific," she told the paper.

Nolan said she received messages of support from her sisters Maureen and Coleen as well as fans after accepting the caution.

"I was so emotional, overwhelmed. I wasn't charged with dishonesty, which was very important to me, because it's simply not true. It was an honest mistake," she added.

She also spoke of her relief that the case would not interfere with her ability to be a foster parent.

Nolan was initially charged with fraudulently claiming about £12,000 after she was said to have failed to declare income from TV appearances and a magazine column.

But the Department of Work and Pensions later closed its case against her, leaving only the Blackpool Council prosecution remaining.

Last week Steve Thompson, director of resources at Blackpool Council, said: "On this occasion it has been decided that a caution is the most appropriate course of action. The overpayment is currently being repaid."

When the Sunday Mirror revealed the prosecution earlier this year, the singer told the newspaper she had suicidal thoughts and severe depression after losing her husband Brian to skin cancer in 2007 - and her sister Bernie to breast cancer two years ago.