VIDEO: Ex-bus driver who claimed he couldn't walk unaided guilty of benefit fraud
A FORMER bus driver who claimed he had a spinal disease but was secretly filmed walking and driving around the city has been convicted of benefit fraud.
Patrick Wildman, aged 47, pocketed more than £27,000 over seven years after telling the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that he was in “constant pain” and could not walk without a stick or support from someone else.
But Plymouth Crown Court heard that he worked as a delivery driver and a bus driver while claiming disability benefits, and the jury was shown covert video footage of Wildman walking freely around the city centre in November 2009.
Yesterday Wildman, of Blandford Road, Efford, was convicted of failing to notify a change of circumstances that would affect his benefit claim following a three-day trial.
The jury of six men and six women took one hour to deliberate and Wildman, sitting in the dock in a wheelchair, did not react when the verdict was read out.
Prosecutor Edward Bailey told the jury that Wildman had received disability living allowance from 1994 as he was “virtually unable to walk.”
He added that Wildman repeated in a claim form in 2000 that he could only walk with a stick or the support of his partner.
He said then that he was in “constant pain” in his back and legs because of a spinal disease.
Mr Bailey said he filled in another claim form in 2009 saying he could only walk slowly with a stick, often needed to stop and was in severe pain.
Mr Bailey said Wildman, who denied the charge, did tell officials in 2009 that he was a driver for Plymouth Citybus. But investigators found that between February and April 2002 he had worked for a window company and that part of his job was loading and unloading heavy UPVC windows.
Mr Bailey said he also worked for a company delivering papers, often in bulk, from January 2004 until October 2006, and as a bus driver between January 2007 and May 2010. Mr Bailey said he failed to declare any health problems to any of his employers. He also said the DWP had no record of being told about any of the jobs until 2009.
Mr Bailey said he did not tell the department because he was being dishonest. He added: “He claimed he was virtually unable to walk and yet he was able to perform these jobs.”
Wildman was paid a total of £27,626.85 to which he was not entitled.
Wildman, giving evidence, had claimed he was in fact in “constant pain” when he was walking through the city centre on the covert surveillance.
He said his wife, from whom he has now separated, would travel with him and help unload the windows, doors and the newspapers.
Wildman claimed he had never seen the annual letter reminding him to tell the department of any change in his condition.
Reacting to the verdict last night, a spokesman for the DWP said: “Benefit thieves are costing the taxpayer £1.2 billion per year.
“This money is intended to help those most in need, not line the pockets of criminals.
“We will continue to tackle this problem at the frontline but also at the root by reforming the benefits system to make it less open to abuse.”