Lyndell du Toit's denials of wrongdoing and promises of reparations ended in tears today as she began six months in jail for stealing $18,000 of public donations from a fund for her daughter's medical care.
Her actions had frustrated any hope that the treatment could continue on the leg injury of her daughter Charley, who had her foot severed in a dog attack in their native South Africa. The foot was reattached but continuing treatment was needed.
"I don't see any real remorse on your behalf," said Christchurch District Court Judge Jane Farish. "You are fooling yourself by thinking you have done nothing wrong."
Thirty-one-year-old du Toit was in tears in the dock when she realised Judge Farish did not accept the idea - put forward by the defence - that there should be no prison term.
She wept as she was prevented from going to a supporter and child in the public seats and was led away to the cells.
Du Toit, a mother of three, had always claimed that she had invested the money, and there was an apartment in Britain to be sold, and the money would be available for nine-year-old Charley's treatment.
In November prosecutor Tim Mackenzie said the crown did not believe her and Judge Gary MacAskill gave her until today to provide the proof or the money.
She could not provide either, but her family in South Africa had provided $11,300 as reparations towards the missing money, and another organisation provided a further $400.
The court heard that public donations had been sought and fundraising events held to get money for a surgeon to do a series of procedures to lengthen Charley's injured leg.
Over a four month period last year, $18,748 was transferred from the appeal bank account in lots ranging from $200 to $3000. None of it was spent on the planned consultations or surgery.
"Subsequently, you claimed you had invested the money on Charley's behalf and have made a profit, however there is no proof of that at all," said the judge.
Defence counsel Richard McGuire said there was no proof that the money had been used to pay for holidays, or excesses such as gambling. Du Toit remained committed to her daughter and her family.
Mr Mackenzie said du Toit had offended against those who had donated funds, and against her own daughter. He had been unable to find references to similar cases.
"The reality is that it is a new low," he said.
Judge Farish jailed du Toit for six months, and ordered that the $11,700 reparations be held in Mr McGuire's trust account until further order of the court. Counsel will have to make written submissions on how it should be handled.
Du Toit will serve her time in jail and then be deported to South Africa under a removal order.