Exclusive: Businessman claimed £28,000 benefits while in jail for trying to murder wife by holding her head in box of fireworks

A RETIRED businessman illegally claimed more than £28,000 while he was serving a prison sentence for trying to murder his wife.

Bryan Donaldson leaving Leeds Crown Court

The Yorkshire Post can reveal Bryan Donaldson, 66, made the audacious claims for pension credits and income support over a FIVE year period while he was behind bars for attempting to kill his wife Margaret.

The former caravan park owner tried to murder her by holding her head in a box of lit fireworks and screaming “burn in hell”. He had met a younger woman and wanted to get his hands on a £100,000 insurance policy.

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Donaldson, originally, from Rawdon, Leeds, was given a 12 year sentence in 2005 over the attempted killing .

He was released six months into his sentence after an appeal was made. But he was was sent back to prison in 2008 when judges in Scotland ruled that the conviction should stand.

During his two-and-half-years at liberty Donaldson lied to authorities about his level of income in order to obtain state benefits.

Donaldson, who now lives in Cleckheaton with new wife, Janet, walked free from Leeds Crown Court with a suspended prison sentence after pleading guilty to four offences of fraud.

The court heard Donaldson was able to obtain income support from January 2007 after claiming that he was incapable of work and that he only had savings of £3,500.

Later that year he received a £27,916 lump sum pension payment, followed by an additional private pension from Scottish Widows which he failed to declare.

Donaldson also made an application for pension credits from March 2008, after lying about the level of his income and claiming to have savings of just £2,389.

In order to finalise this claim he had to complete a form, which included a declaration that the information he had been given was true.

By the time the form was received by the Pension Service, Donaldson was back in prison after his attempt murder conviction appeal failed.

Robert Stephenson, prosecuting, said: “He failed to mention that he was in custody and therefore it was a further reason for non-entitlement.”

The deception came to light in March, after Donaldson had been released from custody. By that time he had managed to obtain £28,818.

He continued to lie about his offending after he was arrested and interviewed by police.

Donaldson claimed to that he had notified authorities of his return to custody and also blamed his mother, who he said dealt with his correspondence while in jail.

The pensioner claimed he had used the illegally claimed cash to pay for “living expenses”.

Ken Green, mitigating, said Donaldson was now in the process of repaying the money, at a rate of £250 per month.

The barrister said his client had two private pensions which he had built up over a lifetime of hard work.

He said Donaldson, now of Ashbourne Way, Cleckheaton, had obligations to his elderly mother and mother-in-law. He said: “They are dependent on this defendant and his wife for general support and running around.”

Mr Green added: “At 66 he should be looking forward to his retirement. He accepts that he did wrong and should be punished for that. But in my submission it is not necessary for the sentence to be immediate.”

Donaldson was given a 15 month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work.

Recorder Abdul Iqbal said: “He deliberately tried to enrich himself at the state’s expense.”