A "dishonest and manipulative" former soldier who defrauded people out of thousands of pounds by pretending to be a decorated war veteran with cancer has been jailed for 16 months.
Simon Buckden, 44, of Landseer Way, Bramley, Leeds, received more than £8,000 (NZ$15,525) in cash and services after lying about his traumatic experiences in the Army and claiming he was battling cancer.
He admitted six counts of fraud on the fifth day of his trial at Leeds Crown Court.
Buckden claimed to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after witnessing harrowing scenes - including holding a dying child in his arms - while on tours of duty in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Rwanda and both Gulf Wars.
He told people he had worked for the SAS, the UN and Nato but his Army records showed he was a military clerk who had never experienced frontline active service.
Buckden began speaking about his cancer battle in 2012 to friends, family, on social media and to local and national newspapers, while carrying out a challenge to run 100 marathons in 100 weeks to raise awareness for PTSD. In the same year, he ran with the Olympic torch ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
But medical records showed he had never suffered from cancer or received any treatment.
Judge Christopher Batty told Buckden: "You are a dishonest and manipulative man. Over a period from at least 2009, you developed a fictitious persona, a dishonest life history in order to advance your own prospects in life.
"You sought to portray yourself as a decorated war veteran, a man who served with the SAS, a soldier who fought in many conflicts around the world, one which had witnessed the most harrowing scenes."
He continued: "You were never on the front line, you never fought in such a way for your country."
Judge Batty added: "You left the Army without decoration and yet you stood proudly at cenotaphs in your SAS beret and an array of medals you bought from the internet. Holding yourself out as a man of honour. It couldn't have been further from the truth. You insulted every man and woman who has ever worn the uniform of an army."
The judge told Buckden it was likely that he did have some form of PTSD but it was believed to have stemmed from a difficult childhood, rather than from his experiences in the Army.
He said: "As an avid user of social media, you manipulated your way into people's social consciousness.
"You claimed to raise awareness for PTSD but I am satisfied it was only ever to raise awareness of Simon Buckden."
Judge Batty said Buckden first claimed to have cancer to try to manipulate his former girlfriend into resuming their relationship but it soon became part of the "Simon Buckden Proposal", a document setting out his story with a list of items that people could give to help him raise awareness of PTSD.
Among the items listed were a car, a phone and a holiday and Buckden received a total of £8,237.64 (NZ$13,927.73) in money and services, including £2,000 (NZ$3381.49) for a holiday to help him recover from cancer, a £3,250 (NZ$5494.92) publicity film to promote his work for PTSD and as a public speaker, around £1,600 (NZ$2705.19) raised at a business event for his PTSD social enterprise, free coaching sessions, a free public speaking workshop and free counselling sessions.
The judge said many of the people Buckden told about the cancer were vulnerable due to having friends or family who had suffered from the disease and said the lies he told had the potential to undermine confidence in charitable organisations.
He added: "The disrespect you have shown to those who have suffered cancer and to those who have lost their battle with it is quite breathtaking."
Judge Batty told Buckden he would serve half of his sentence before being released on licence for a further 12 months.
He was also given a restraining order banning him from contacting the prosecution witnesses in the case or making any comment about them on social media.