The elaborate hoax saw healthy 29-year-old Toni Standen shave his head, give several emotional newspaper interviews – and even fake his own death online.
Telling friends that the cancer had spread throughout her body, she said she wanted her father, Derek, who was in fact dying of cancer, to be able to accompany her down the aisle the day of his marriage before the death of one or the other.
This prompted them to launch a GoFundMe page to raise funds to give Standen and her partner James “a marriage they deserve.”
But now, Standen faces jail time after lying about cancer to persuade people to contribute to the cost of her £ 8,500 marriage, the Mirror reports.
Her father passed away before the big day arrived, but a video he recorded was shown during the wedding, leaving family and guests in tears.
However a few moments later, Standen was laughing and joking.
One guest said: “After hearing her father’s laborious words, she stood up and gave a flawless speech, even making a few jokes.
“His mother and brother were in pieces. We had all just heard a message from a father of the bride from beyond the grave.
“Toni even got a video message from Everton FC, delivered by one of the top players. She laughed everywhere.
After the wedding in Widnes, Cheshire, Standen and James, 52, traveled to a nearby hotel. Witnesses say she rummaged through wedding cards, counting the money inside, before going on her honeymoon to Turkey.
Unemployed Standen has now been told she faces jail after admitting to fraud, with relatives calling it “the ultimate betrayal.”
Friend Cheryl Aston, whom she met in college, donated £ 525 to the crowdfunder. She said: “She could have won an Oscar, her game was so good. She cheated on us all. We were all completely sucked.
“She told me she was dying and I fell in love.
Cheryl, a mother of two, who attended the wedding, added: “I remember she told me her cancer had come back and it was terminal. She told me that it had spread to her bones and organs. I was devastated – everyone was.
“She said she wanted her father to walk her down the aisle before either of them died. Everyone has gathered. People didn’t have much, but they wanted to give what they could. I wanted to help so much but couldn’t afford much. I asked him to do a fundraiser. She said, “Yeah, yeah, every little bit helps.” ”
Another friend said: “We were all in awe of this woman who, instead of going away as ‘cancer’ set in, got stronger every day. But she knew full well that no one would question the honesty or integrity of a cancer victim.
Appearing at Chester Magistrates Court last week, she pleaded guilty to fraud by misrepresentation between February 2019 and April 2020.
But the deception began in July 2017 – under her maiden name Atherton – where she was interviewed in her local newspaper saying she had cancer.
And in March of last year, she gave a second interview, revealing the “devastating” news that her illness was terminal. She also said she wanted to get harnessed before Derek succumbed to cancer.
Standen spoke to ECHO when she detailed her battle with cancer.
She said, “It’s gone into my brain, my bones – it’s all over the place by the minute – it’s a very rare cancer. ”
The wedding – at St Bede’s Catholic Church in Widnes – was followed by a reception for 150 guests. But even after the big day, the lies kept coming.
In January of this year, Standen said she had two months to live and her organs had started to fail. In February, his Facebook page read: “RIP TONI. Our lovely Toni passed away last night surrounded by friends and family… strong to the end.
Standen blamed the post on the hackers.
But friends have other theories. One said, “She did it to get attention – to see what people would say about her if she died.”
In March, appearing to challenge his “illness” again, Standen went on vacation with James – visiting Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary and Italy.
Then in April, she claimed to have caught Covid … which was one lie too many.
Two friends decided to question him. One said: “We called her for a three-way conversation and recorded it. We asked him directly, “Do you really have cancer?
“She started to cry and admitted it was all a lie. We ended the call and immediately called the police.
Standen was supported by her husband James at the court hearing.
District Judge Nicholas Sanders said she had committed a “horrible breach of trust”.
A judge can order Standen to reimburse donations.
Cheryl, a care worker, said: “If we get something back, I’ll donate it to cancer charity. There must be some light at the end of this dark story.