From fire hero to a fraudster

Paul Holt rescued two people at the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985 but he has now been jailed for benefit fraud.
Paul Holt rescued two people at the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985 but he has now been jailed for benefit fraud.
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A man who rescued his girlfriend and a young boy from one of English football’s worst disasters has been jailed – after becoming a benefits cheat.

Bingo caller and DJ Paul Holt falsely claimed the cash over a four-year period while working as an entertainer at the Hacketts York House Hotel, on Queens Promenade, Bispham.

Holt had legitimately claimed a number of benefits from 2001 – after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of his ordeal during the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985 which left 56 people dead.

However, after returning to work at the hotel in April 2010 he neglected to tell the authorities of the change in his condition and continued to claim income support, disability living allowance, housing and council tax benefits.

He was jailed for six months at Preston Crown Court yesterday – the day of his 52nd birthday – after racking up almost £57,000 in false benefits.

Holt, of Palatine Road, Blackpool, had previously pleaded guilty to five offences of failing to notify a change in circumstances and one of making a false statement to obtain benefit.

David Traynor, prosecuting on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, said it was not suggested that Holt had never been entitled to benefits.

The defendant had stated he needed assistance daily, could only be left alone for 30 minutes at a time and would need supervision seven days a week.

He spoke of having good days and bad days with PTSD, sometimes completely reliant on helpers, carers and family.

Holt also spoke of having problems with sleep apnoea and could fall asleep even on buses or in taxis.

Mr Traynor said: “By at least April 2010 the defendant was working at a Blackpool hotel as an entertainer, in a variety of roles such as DJ, bingo caller and compere.

“He was earning different amounts, between £60 and £140 for each shift, working two to three times a week.”

When interviewed by benefit fraud investigators Holt said there had been a gradual improvement in his condition.

He explained he had not been offered a work contract and was anxious the work would dry up, or disappear, leaving him with no income.

Daniel Harman, defending, said Holt had made a “monumental error”.

He had made full and frank admissions in interview and pleaded guilty at the first 

The defendant had been in the old wooden stand which caught fire at the Valley Parade stadium during a match between Bradford and Lincoln City on May 11, 1985, killing 56 people

His girlfriend at the time was badly injured, but he had managed to rescue her and a young boy.

But the experience had a “catastrophic” effect on his mental health and Holt had made four attempts to take his own life, the court heard.

Mr Harman told the court “For the bulk of a decade the claims were legitimate and he was in a very bad way. But things improved.

“He got the opportunity to perform. It was in many ways part of his healing process. He accepts he should have informed the department of a change in his circumstances.”

Passing sentence Judge Simon Newell said: “I have come to the conclusion that the size of this benefit fraud is such that there ought to be a custodial sentence.

“In all the circumstances and all the information I have before me, and having regard to the size of the fraud and the period of time, the sentence should not be suspended.”

Holt was given six months prison on each count, to run concurrently.

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