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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A mother was jailed on Friday for pretending that her healthy son was "the sickest boy in Britain" and needed to be fed through a tube and be taken to school in a wheelchair.
During a bizarre six-year deception, Lisa Hayden-Johnson falsely claimed her boy had life-threatening illnesses and used the fantasy to pocket donations and gifts and to meet royals, politicians and celebrities.
The 35-year-old and her son had their photographs taken with the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, former prime minister Tony Blair and "X-Factor" judge Simon Cowell.
She claimed her son suffered from illnesses including diabetes, cerebral palsy and cystic fibrosis, Exeter Crown Court in southwest England heard, the Press Association reported.
Prosecutor Andrew Macfarlane said Hayden-Johnson reveled in the deception, which he described as a "sadistic" attempt to gain publicity and financial rewards.
"The defendant organized, orchestrated and ensured a regime of medical, physiological and psychological mistreatment amounting to 24 hour-a-day torture that touched on every aspect of his young vulnerable life," he told the court.
"As a result of her sadistic fabrication of non-existent symptoms, the defendant achieved much publicity and national attention, including an encounter with royalty and the then prime minister."
The mother-of-two, from Devon, southwest England, amassed cash donations and charity gifts, including two cruises, and successfully lobbied for her son to win a child bravery award.
She frequently described him "as the most ill child in Britain," Macfarlane added.
The boy, who was convinced he really was seriously ill, was subjected to 325 medical encounters, including blood tests and intravenous treatments. He was fed through a tube and confined to a wheelchair. Macfarlane said the boy "never suffered from any of these disorders or handicaps and the symptoms reported by the defendant were fictitious."
Police found a hospital bed, a feed pump, oxygen mask and medical supplies in the boy's room.
Hayden-Johnson was sentenced to three years and three months in prison after previously admitting charges of child cruelty and perverting the course of justice. The boy, who cannot be named because of his age, was taken into care in 2007.
Reporting by Peter Griffiths