A young English mother faces jail for conning friends and strangers out of thousands of pounds by falsely claiming she had terminal cancer, after dramatically changing her plea to guilty on the first day of her trial.

Police in the United Kingdom said Danielle Watson "acted in a cold and calculated manner" by appealing for donations, goods and services for her wedding, after announcing in January 2012 that she had late-stage cervical cancer with only a 15 to 20 per cent chance of survival.

The 24-year-old from Colchester, Essex, brought her wedding forward by several months to April, saying she wanted to walk down the aisle before radiotherapy and chemotherapy made her hair fall out, Marcus Croskell, prosecuting, told Basildon Crown Court at hearings held yesterday in Southend, Essex.

He detailed how Ms Watson claimed a bandage from keyhole surgery on suspected ovarian polyps was in fact the sign of a positive cancer biopsy - despite having already been given the all-clear on cancer.

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After giving interviews to local newspapers and magazines, she took money from friends and complete strangers who raised almost 10,000 pounds ($20,300) through events to provide cash for additional vitamin C treatment treatment.

Ms Watson received a wedding dress worth 699 pounds, free hair cuts, a cut-price deal on her wedding reception including free champagne, and 1100 pounds worth of services from a local wedding planner.

Events including a 1640 pound Twitter auction, raffles, cake sales and fundraising nights raised almost 10,000 pounds.

The former administrative assistant for the Financial Services Authority had denied six charges of fraud as her trial began yesterday, but later changed her plea to guilty.

Her barrister, Rebecca Blain, told the court Ms Watson had been worried about getting an immediate prison sentence as she has an 18-month-old child and is expecting her second baby next month.

"Her own family all fell under the umbrella of that lie," said Ms Blain. "She has told friends and family and she will have to learn to live and come to terms with the fact that she has told them what are the most despicable lies."

Her supporters became suspicious when Ms Watson, who was aged 21 at the time, failed to provide direct evidence of her illness or treatment and demanded money be paid directly into her bank account, the court heard. They eventually called the police in June 2012 after she announced on Facebook that she was pregnant.

- Independent

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