Court report by Suzanne Martin
A Broadstairs mother who is accused of falsely claiming to have cancer to con people into donating to a Gofundme campaign for treatment was reported to police by an eagle-eyed private hospital consultant.
Giving evidence at Canterbury Crown Court on Tuesday afternoon, George Tsavellas, a Laparoscopic and Colorectal Surgeon at the Private Spencer Hospital in Margate, described how he had “felt great disbelief” upon hearing of the “fake cancer” campaign.
Mr Tsavellas described how he had operated on the defendant a “couple of months earlier” in November 2017 and given her the “all-clear” on January 4, 2018.
It is alleged that the 42-year-old set up the fundraiser in early 2018 to “deliberately defraud” members of the public.
Prosecutor Ben Irwin told the court “not a penny” was spent on cancer treatment. Instead, it is alleged that Ms Elkabbass used £45,000 to fund her lavish lifestyle, foreign travel and gambling.
Mr Tsavellas told the court how he had been “made aware of the campaign online”. Upon seeing the photograph of Ms Elkabbass appearing to be very sick in a hospital bed, he had a suspicion that it was taken in a room at the Spencer Hospital in Margate.
Mr Tsavellas had diagnosed the defendant with “gallstones” and “upper biliary colic” and carried out “key-hole surgery” to remove her gallbladder as a routine surgery in November 2017.
Following his suspicions, Mr Tsavellas consulted the hospital nurse manager believing those images had been taken in the Spencer Private Hospital in Margate in November 2017 and not in the Spring of 2018 when the photos had been posted to social media.
He told the court how he had alerted “his union, the medical defence team, the hospital legal team” and took advice surrounding the strict rules governing patient confidentiality. Only then and with the support of the hospital legal team did Mr Tsavellas contacted detectives at the Fraud Squad at Kent Police to tell them of his concerns.
Ms Elkabbass was referred to Mr Tsavellas by her GP in Ramsgate; she was seen by him on November 13 2017, in his private clinic using her medical insurance.
Following a diagnosis of “gallstones” and “upper biliary colic”, Mr Tsavellas carried out a routine gallbladder removal operation.
To assist his colleague, Mr Ross, a consultant gynaecologist, Mr Tsavellas took the imagery of the defendants pelvic organs and, the court was told, found “no evidence any ovarian cysts” and “no malignancy”
Significantly, he said both ovaries “appeared healthy”, and there was no sign of “dermoid cyst”. Following the “routine” and “unremarkable operation” the consultant confirmed that he would have discussed the findings with Ms Elkabbass.
Mr Tsvallas said on January 4, 2018, Ms Elkabbass was seen by him and advised her that all of the results were “clear, the four tiny incisions had healed perfectly,”
The court heard that, unusually for a day procedure, Ms Elkabbass spent two nights in the hospital, during which time the ‘campaign’ photo was taken.
Ms Elkabbass is expected to argue that she believed she was suffering from ovarian cancer. The case continues today (November 12) at Canterbury Crown Court.
She denies fraud and possession of criminal property -charitable donations.