Woman makes claim for injury sustained at work, worth over £20,000, but investigation by IFED and Aviva proves claim is fraudulent
Despite claims injury had left her ‘bedbound’, woman was actually in work the day after her supposed accident
Footage from TV show ‘Coach Trip’ shows woman participating in a bridge swing, within a month of making injury claim
Woman didn’t make any reference to previous back injury in TV show application forms
On Friday 13th October 2017, a woman was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court for fraud by false representation after her injury claim was proven to be fraudulent due to numerous pieces of evidence, including footage of her participating in a bridge swing within a month of supposedly sustaining the injury.
Following an investigation by the City of London Police’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED), Noreen Murray of Salford pleaded guilty on 11th October 2017 and was sentenced to ten months imprisonment suspended for two years. She was also given a curfew order to remain at home between 8pm to 8am for four months, in addition to a victim surcharge fee of £100.
Details of injury
Solicitors acting on behalf of Murray submitted a claim to insurance company Aviva stating that whilst she was working as a hotel receptionist on 19th October 2013, she sustained an injury to her lower back after helping to move laundry bags worth in excess of 20kg.
The claim notification form details the health impacts sustained by the injury and states that Murray required 10 days off work and that she ‘was bedbound for two days’ and ‘could not walk or stand for longer than 10-30 minutes’ following the accident. It also states that Murray was still off work on the date of the completion of the form (20th February 2014).
Discrepancies in injury claim
Aviva had their suspicions around the legitimacy of the claim so instructed a private investigation company to look into the matter further. Enquiries undertaken by them at her place of work confirmed that Murray was working on 19th October 2013, but hadn’t detailed any injury during her shift. Additionally, on a medical questionnaire Murray completed when she commenced employment, she disclosed that she had a previous back condition. It also came to light that Murray actually left employment on 21st October 2013 after a disagreement with her manager over not being able to get time off work.
Aviva wrote to Murray’s solicitors outlining these anomalies and asked them to provide strict proof that the incident had occurred as originally claimed, or at all. A year later, the solicitors provided a report prepared by a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, which concluded that Murray had suffered a soft tissue injury to her lower back as result of the accident on 19th October 2013.
Bungee jump footage discovered
On 29th September 2015, solicitors wrote to Aviva on behalf of Murray making a part 36 offer under Civil Procedure Rules 1999 to settle the claim in the sum of £6,500. However, before a settlement was reached, her ex-employers provided information to Aviva that Murray had participated in a television programme called ‘Coach Trip’ and was seen completing a bridge swing.
Aviva confirmed with the television company Murray’s participation with the show and that the bridge swing was recorded in Valencia on 7 November 2013, 19 days after she claimed to have suffered an injury at work.
During the application process Murray was asked what activities she would like to try on the show, for example water sports, winter sports and mountain biking. Murray stated that she would like to try them all. A statement of health questionnaire was also completed by Murray, which included one specific question asking whether she had “any disease, disorder or injury of the bones, joints, muscles, back or spine”, to which she answered “no”. These forms were signed on 23 October 2013, four days after the supposed accident at work and two days after she verbally tendered her resignation.
As a result of this and other anomalies identified by the private investigators, Aviva repudiated the claims and made no offers or payments to Noreen Murray. The loss to Aviva could have been over £20,000.
City of London Police Detective Sergeant Matthew Hussey, who led the investigation for IFED, said:
“Through the hard work and joint efforts of the City of London Police's Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department (IFED) and Aviva, Noreen Murray has been dealt the punishment she deserves.
“Thanks in part to some vital, if not shameful footage, Murray has been exposed as the deceitful person she is. The sentencing should act as a warning to others who think it is acceptable to make false claims - it simply isn’t, and you will be found out.”
Richard Hiscocks, Director of Casualty Claims, Aviva, said:
“Aviva has some of the best fraud investigators working to detect and prosecute insurance fraudsters. Last year we declined £85m suspect and fraudulent claims, defending our innocent customers against spurious claims and keeping premiums down for genuine customers.
“We were already investigating Ms Murray’s claim, but it is pretty rare that the claimant goes out of their way to help us with our investigations by bridge jumping on national TV - just weeks after they were injured. We were able to quickly decline the claim and provide evidence from our investigation to IFED so they could bring a successful prosecution.
“This claim also highlights the wider cost of insurance fraud – as (Mrs) Murray was also claiming benefits for her alleged injuries and wasting scarce court time on a wholly bogus claim. We are pleased with the outcome, which clearly shows that insurance fraud will not be tolerated and that we will prosecute offenders wherever possible to protect genuine customers.”