LANDLADY Sallyann Helcoop stung the taxpayer for more than £18,000 after keeping mum about her lodger, magistrates heard.

Southampton Magistrates’ Court heard how the 47- year-old decided not to let on to the benefits agency that she was renting a room for up to £120 a fortnight to a lodger while claiming income support for nine-and-a-half years.

Helcoop, of Mousehole Lane, Southampton, pleaded guilty to failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions to her change in circumstances.

But magistrates decided to take a “slightly unusual step” by handing her a conditional discharge for two years.

This came after hearing how Helcoop’s lodger had become her carer.

This followed an accident that left her with a spinal injury and now she has suspected cancer, the court heard.

Michael Carreras, defending, said on top of this she suffered from a bipolar condition which “led to her not being able to face up to issues in her life”.

He added: “What we have now is a lady who is exceptionally shame-faced. She has clearly been shaken up by all of this.”

She is now attempting to pay back £20 every fortnight out of her benefits.