Court report by Suzanne Martin
On the third full day of evidence yesterday (November 16) in the fraud trial of Broadstairs mum Nicole Elkabbass, the defendant took to the witness stand for the first time.
The 42-year-old is accused of falsely claiming to have cancer to con people into donating to a Gofundme campaign for treatment that, it is alleged, she did not need or undergo.
The former Harrods luxury-goods buyer, Ms Elkabbass, described to Canterbury Crown Court how following her 2018 arrest on fraud charges she had confessed to police the extent of her gambling addiction, which she described as “horrific”. She said it was “the first time she had told anyone about her gambling”.
In less than a year, around the time of the alleged offences, Ms Elkabbass spent some £68,000 on her “gambling addiction”. The court heard Ms Elkabbass admit to “gambling multiple times a day” both online and at a local Grosvenor Casino.
Ms Elkabbass admitted to being a “gambling addict” and that she “thought she could balance it out” referring to the money she had used from the GoFundMe Cancer campaign.
The court heard that when she “believed” she had cancer, she had “sat down” with her mother Delores sometime after her “diagnosis” and had written the campaign.
As part of a series of “agreed facts” it is believed that Nicole Elkabbass was the “sole beneficiary” of the campaign and that it had been created in her mother’s name by the defendant and not by her mother.
Ms Elkabbass told the court that she had used the funds to “pay back money” she “owed” and to pay for “gambling”. She denied spending it on holidays and claimed her travel to Spain had been for “treatment for cancer”. Cancer, prosecutor Ben Irwin says the defendant “does not have”.
The investigating officer detailed spending from bank accounts and credit cards in Ms Elkabbass’ name during the period of the alleged fraud. These included two entries for “Viagogo” an online ticket vendor – Ms Elkabbass could not recall what this was. “Hair extensions” and £329 spent in TK Maxx.
The court heard details of trips to Rome in Italy and spending in Spain at locations in Alicante, Madrid and Barcelona. When asked about £3592 spent on Tottenham tickets Ms Elkabbas, said she had been given money to buy tickets, had “forgotten to buy them” and didn’t want to let down her “very close friend Francisco”.
It was later claimed in court by Ms Elkabbass that she had been in a relationship with Francisco at the time of the alleged offending. Ms Elkabbas was asked by her Counsel Oliver Kirk if “she believed she had cancer”
She said “Yes” and claimed her former friend, London based consultant gynaecologist Nicholas Morris had diagnosed her. During his evidence to the court on the first day of the trial, the consultant strenuously denied he had ever treated Ms Elkabbass or that she had ever been a patient of his, describing the claim as “pure fantasy”.
Ms Elkabbas was asked when Mr Morris had diagnosed her and said that she “could not recall exactly when”.
Ms Elkabbass was shown emails between herself and the consultant and asked to pinpoint the date at which she had been diagnosed. She then recalled a telephone with the consultant and claims that it was during that call that he ‘told her she had cancer”.
The consultant claimed in his evidence that it was Ms Elkabbass who told him of her diagnosis and provided emails to the police which were shown to the jury apparently confirming this.
Ms Elkabbass was asked why she had used a photograph from the Spencer Hospital in Margate, where she had a gallbladder operation, as part of her campaign, claiming it to be taken in Spain. She said “I was angry” and it was “all I had”.
The court heard Ms Elkabbass did not have any paperwork relating to the cancer treatment she said she received in Spain, which she claims had been paid for by Mr Morris.
Financial records were presented to the court claiming Ms Elkabbass did not use any of the GoFundMe money to pay for hospital or medical treatment.
As part of the online fundraising campaign Elkabbass claimed that she was in the “safe hands of Joset (sic) Tabernero.” It is agreed that she was referring to leading Spanish oncologist Josep Tabernero.
The Spanish speaking Investigating Officer in the case confirmed that on June 20, 2018, he had contacted the hospital, Centro Medico, in Barcelona. He told the court that he had spoken to the Spanish clinician Josep Tabarnero, whose written statement to police, which was read out in court, said he had checked the “hospital records at Centro Médico Teknon” and another hospital in the region and that “there was no record of Ms Elkabbass.”
He also confirmed that he “did not know” Ms Elkabbass and had never treated her. Nor could the leading consultant identify a “Mr Suaraz” Ms Elkabbass had subsequently identified as her treating clinician in Spain.
The prosecution claimed that Ms Elkabbass “lied” about her cancer diagnosis and there is no evidence of treatment for cancer.
Ms Elkabbass told the court that she “truly believed” she had cancer and denied setting out to defraud people.
The case continues this morning at Canterbury Crown Court