A FORMER Darwen pub landlady continued to claim benefits after she had retired to sunnier climes.

Blackburn magistrates heard Lilian Kilpatrick continued to receive disability living allowance and incapacity benefit despite living first in Turkey and then in Benidorm.

But the court was told she had been paying back the £17,444 overpayment since 2015 and was unaware that a warrant had been issued for her arrest until she returned to the UK to attend a 60th birthday party.

Kilpatrick, 53, of Calle Derramador, Benidorm, pleaded guilty to failing to notify a change of circumstances which affected her entitlement to benefits.

She was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay £85 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.

Andy Robinson, prosecuting, said the claim was not fraudulent from the outset but it took place over a considerable period of time.

He said the offence had been admitted in 2015 but was not brought to court until 2016 when Kilpatrick did not attend.

“A warrant for her arrest has been outstanding for a number of years,” said Mr Robinson.

Ben Leech, defending, said his client genuinely believed the matter had been dealt with.

“She was interviewed in 2015 and since then has paid £70 a month to the Department of Work and Pensions,” said Mr Leech.

He said Kilpatrick had been a pub landlady and had worked throughout her adult life.

She suffered a fall while putting up Christmas decorations and fractured her leg in seven places, forcing her to finish work.

“She moved out of the country looking for somewhere a little less expensive which would give her a better quality of life given her disability,” said Mr Leech.

“She had been in receipt of benefits from long before she left the country.”

Mr Leech said Kilpatrick had spoken to many people who had retired to Spain and received their pension there.

“She was within the EU and thought she could continue to receive the benefits,” said Mr Leech.

“Six months ago she was contacted by the DWP who said she needed to attend court on her next visit to the UK. She feels a little bit aggrieved because there has always been communication between her and the DWP.”

Mr Leech said Kilpatrick returned to the UK to attend a 60th party and had immediately presented herself to the court and then to the police.