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A benefit cheat who was caught playing bowls and being a greenkeeper when he claimed he was unable to walk will have to sell his house to pay off an £18,000 legal bill, a court heard.

John Larder, of Burnley Road, Huncoat, received £18,646 in disability living allowance over a five-year period from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after claiming he could only walk eight yards and needed help getting dressed, bathing and ‘cutting up his meat’.

The Observer reported in August how a surveillance operation caught the 63-year-old playing bowls at Burnley Road Bowling Club in Accrington and also ‘pushing a trolley’ at Aldi.

Larder pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances affecting his entitlement to disability living allowance and was previously given a 20-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

He has now been ordered to pay back £18,179.07 in three months or face 10 weeks in prison following a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at Burnley Crown Court.

Steven Wild, prosecuting, told the court that the figure takes into account some money he has already paid back.

Robert Elias, defending, said Larder was a man of previous good character and he ‘has an element of sympathy for him’.

He told the court: “He had cancer and is in remission.

He had done his hobby of cutting the grass at his bowling club and playing bowls. He got dobbed in by someone who thought therefore he shouldn’t be claiming.

“The consequence of that is he and his wife are going to have to sell their home.

“He has still got the cancer and is slightly better now than he was.

“He is now properly receiving benefits. He is going to have to put his house on the market and sell it as that is his asset.

“Whether one can do that successfully in three months is unlikely in truth, even with the best will in the world.

“He is doing up the spare bedroom at present before he puts it on the market. He knows he has to sell it and hopefully it will go quickly. Realistically he should be able to sell it in six months.”

Judge Beverley Lunt said if Larden hasn’t sold his house and paid off the legal bill by July then he could apply the court to extend the period a further three months.