A lesbian conwoman who targeted users on gay internet forums has been jailed for four and a half years.

Joann Wood, 53, duped her victims out of almost £100,000 by claiming she was dying of cancer and needed money for life-saving treatment.

Wood, of Knightsfield, Welwyn Garden City, has been jailed a number of times for similar offences, along with one sentence for impersonating a police officer.

St Albans Crown Court heard she had taken advantage of those who wanted to help her and had used other scams around gold investment.

One of those deceived by Wood, Catherine Wheldon, was a former lover. Wheldon told the court she had lost her life savings of £28,000, and was now £53,000 in debt after believing Wood was dying.

Several other women were conned out of thousands of pounds after believing Wood needed money to save her life, while a male neighbour was conned out of £10,000 after Wood convinced him she had knowledge of the gold trade.

In defence, Nichola Cafferkey said Wood was “filled with self-loathing” over her behaviour.

Recorder Philip Brook-Smith QC told Wood her behaviour had been “despicable”.

He added: “The consequences [of your offending] have been severe. The hallmark of your offending has been breach of trust on the people that would least expect to fall prey to your lies, your friends and neighbours.”

At a previous hearing, Wood pleaded guilty to six counts of fraud by false representation and two of possession of class A drugs. She also asked for 13 other offences to be taken into consideration.