The Daily Telegraph

Rogue travel agent stole £2.6m then faked cancer

- By Ewan Somerville

A FRAUDULENT travel agent stole £2.6million and then pretended to have cancer.

Lyne Barlow, 39, formerly of Stanley, County Durham, sold holidays around the world for too-good-to-be-true prices, conning more than 1,400 victims before her business crashed in September 2020.

Barlow admitted theft, 10 counts of fraud and possessing criminal property at Durham Crown Court and was yesterday jailed for nine years.

To con her customers, Barlow falsely claimed she was Atol and Abta protected and quickly built up her business online and via word of mouth. But when victims started to see their holidays fall through, they were left out of pocket or even stranded abroad if she had not booked a return flight.

Inquiries found she was operating a Ponzi-style scheme, taking money from new victims to pay for existing bookings, or using money she had borrowed from friends and relatives. Barlow, who had previously worked as a travel agent, would just use the same websites that could be accessed by any member of the public, but discounted the price to make it look attractive.

Some victims paid up to £5,500 to arrive at their destinatio­n only to discover that no funds had been received by the hotel so there were no rooms booked. Others arrived to find they had no place on the return flight and were stranded abroad.

People shared their experience­s on Facebook and soon Durham Police were being swamped by calls relating to Lyne Barlow Independen­t Travel. To deflect inquiries, she claimed to be undergoing treatment for cancer, even telling one customer it was “stage 3/4” and “it’s in my bones”.

Barlow squandered the cash handed to her on designer clothes, prestige cars and holidays. As the business collapsed, she asked friends for help with loans, including her husband’s best man, making excuses for why she needed help. She even stole £520,000 from her own mother – following the death of her father in 2015 – after stealing her financial identity, raiding her bank account and covering her tracks by diverting her 64-year-old mother’s mail.

Judge Jo Kidd said: “The extent of the betrayal of your mother is truly breathtaki­ng ... I take the view you are a thoroughly callous individual.”

Hi Lyne

Sorry to bother you hope you are well? Just a quick question I was informed you are not taking any new bookings on but as mine is an exciting one will you be able to still deal with it and change it or is it best getting a refund? Thank you


Yours is fine cause I’m just changing over. I’m not stopping working with current bookings, just not taking new ones. Unfortunat­ely I’ve just found out my cancer has spread and it’s gone to stage 3/4. It’s in my bones and need to have chemo put into spine to stop it from getting to my brain. It’s going to be pretty intense. I obviously don’t want to pick and choose who to do holidays for so just decided I wouldn’t be doing any new ones. A lot of people have swapped over to next year so will still be working just not a busy Lyne x

Hi Lyne

I am so sorry to hear this it’s awful times for you. I will keep this to myself. Ok no problem Lyne I leave it in your hands and thank you helping with this, Take care

 ?? ?? Barlow claimed she had cancer, right
Barlow claimed she had cancer, right

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