A FORMER police officer cheated the benefit system out of £22,000 because he was afraid to tell his wife he was out of work, Worcester Crown Court was told.

Christopher Janes lied to claim Jobseeker's allowance for four-and-a -half years, said Romilly Edge, prosecuting for the Department of Work and Pensions.

He also went on the run for three years and changed his name from Gumbrell.

Janes, aged 56, formerly of Damaskfield, Warndon Villages, Worcester, admitted six charges of false accounting between December 1996 and May 2001.

He was given a 39-week jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 260 hours unpaid work for the community.

Janes, who has spent 65 days in prison on remand, was told by Judge Alistair McCreath that he had used professional fraud to milk the benefit system.

Miss Edge said Janes had made the false claims by disguising the fact that his wife was working as a classroom assistant at a Worcestershire primary school.

He confessed when he was first arrested in 2002 but disappeared when he was given bail after his first court appearance. He was re-arrested but again given bail and not caught again until February this year.

Charles Hamer, defending, said Janes had tried to maintain the relationship with his second wife by saying he had a job but when he was unable to keep up the pretence she gave him his marching orders. The marriage had broken down.

Janes had decided to adopt a new name because he had been involved in security work in Northern Ireland and thought it better to adopt a new identity when he returned to the province.

He was currently selling holidays for a firm at Exeter airport and had been assured he could have his job back. He intended to repay the money he had claimed.