Johannesburg - A South African born nurse who faked her husband's death in a bold bid to claim an over R7 600 000 (£400 000) life insurance payout has been struck off the medical register.
Thulile Bhebhe, who also lied to get another job while suspended, told British insurers Aviva that her partner Bekezela had suffered a pulmonary embolism while on holiday in Zimbabwe in August 2016, The Daily Mail reported.
The 52-year-old mother-of-two maintained the claim for more than a year before investigators found Bekezela, who was also a nurse, was still alive and had worked a day shift at Charing Cross Hospital in London on the day she claimed he had died.
The nurse, who is originally from South Africa, was convicted of a single count of fraud by false representation at Central London Magistrate's Court back in November 2018.
But just three weeks later, she lied about her criminal conviction on a McMillian Healthcare application, according to the UK publication.
She subsequently took a job with Bristol NHS Trust just a day after attending a Nursing and Midwifery Council hearing in which she was made subject to an interim suspension order while the regulator probed her conviction.
Bhebhe completed 35 shifts over two months for the trust before internal checks found she was working illegally. She was then sentenced to 24 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years at Inner London Crown Court in March last year.
The Daily Mail added that her husband has since been cleared of the same offence following a trial after a judge ruled there was no evidence that he had any knowledge of her fraudulent activity.
During the time, the court heard that Bhebhe, who had studied and worked in the UK for 14 years, was working for the NHS Direct phone services when she concocted the idea to forge her husband's death certificate.
In September 2016, she sent Aviva a medical consent form and a medical certificate from a hospital in Zimbabwe, claiming her husband had died on August 9.
But when the insurance investigators probed the claim in January 2017, they contacted her husband's workplace and found he had completed a shift on the very same day.
The couple were said to be in 'dire financial straits' owing tens of thousands of pounds in credit card debts, loans and taxes.
Prosecutor Julian Pozimski said the case involved the provision of a life insurance policy worth a total of '£397,153'.
But, in his passing sentence last year, Judge Nigel Seed QC described Bhebhe's life insurance claim as 'an audacious fraud, but "sophisticated" is hardly the word one could apply to it,' according to the Daily Mail report.
And following a Nursing and Midwifery misconduct hearing on May 27, she has now been struck off the medical register.
Panel chair Suzy Ashworth found that, following her conviction, Bhebhe 'deliberately intended to conceal the existence' of her fraud conviction on the McMillian Healthcare application form.
According to the UK publication, the panel concluded: 'Your actions were significant departures from the standards expected of a registered nurse and are fundamentally incompatible with remaining on the register.
“The panel was of the view that the findings in this particular case demonstrate that your actions did raise fundamental questions about your professionalism and that to allow you to continue practising would undermine public confidence in the profession and in the NMC as a regulatory body,” read quotes in the Daily Mail.
“Balancing all of these factors and after taking into account all the evidence before it during this case, the panel determined that the appropriate and proportionate sanction is that of a striking-off order.
“Having regard to the effect of your actions in bringing the profession into disrepute by adversely affecting the public’s view of how a registered nurse should conduct themselves, the panel has concluded that nothing short of this would be sufficient in this case.
“The panel considered that your removal from the NMC register is necessary to mark the importance of maintaining public confidence in the profession, and to send to the public and the profession a clear message about the standard of behaviour required of a registered nurse.”