A woman who faked her Zimbabwean husband’s death to claim nearly £400,000 in life insurance has escaped jail in the UK.

Thulile Bhebhe, 51, claimed her husband Bekezela Bhebhe died of a pulmonary embolism while holidaying in Zimbabwe in August 2016. But Mr Bhebhe, a nurse, was actually working a long day shift at Charing Cross Hospital in London on the day he ‘died’. The husband did not know his wife had declared him dead. The insurance firm never paid out the money.

Bhebhe, of Hayes, west London, was handed a two year sentence suspended for two years. She must carry out 25 days of rehabilitation work and 100 hours of unpaid work.

Judge Nigel Seed QC said: “It was an audacious fraud but you kept up your husband was dead over a period of time. Given that you have two dependant children at home and there’s a real prospect of rehabilitation, it is entirely in accordance with the sentencing guidelines that I should not make that sentence immediate but suspend it - to give you the opportunity to rehabilitate and find other ways of punishing you.”

Mrs Bhebhe, also a nurse who worked for the NHS Direct phone service at the time, admitted fraud by false representation in 2018. Bekezela Bhebhe, 54, was accused of helping her submit the fake documents but denied any involvement and was cleared in January this year.

During his trial, jurors heard Mr Bhebhe was questioned by police and admitted he had credit card debts of £10,000, owed around £5,000 to HMRC in tax and was paying off a joint loan of around £15,000 with his wife.

He told officers: “I don’t think I’m involved in all this. I know very little about this insurance. The day it was taken over I was there in the house but I wasn’t fully involved, I was just there to sign the papers and say yes.

“I just thought it was ongoing insurance. I never really got into the details of the contracts, what the agreements are.”