A 70-year-old woman falsely claimed almost £7,000 in benefits while she saved up tens of thousands of pounds to move house.

Margot Wallis told magistrates she was desperate to leave her Worthing home because she was being persecuted for her German origins.

She claimed £6,851.10 in council tax benefit while living at Chiltern Crescent in Durrington.

Wallis, who receives a German state pension, said she was "sorry and terribly ashamed" for her deception.

Wallis said: "It is crazy that one lives in a country such as England and is persecuted because one is a German. I think it's terrible.

"I had to save everything I could to get out of the place."

She faced four charges of making false statements to obtain council tax benefit, between 1997 and 2001.

Worthing Magistrates' Court heard that in 1993 she had at least £95,235.38 in savings.

On Feburary 19 she confessed to making the false claims in a meeting with Worthing Borough Council staff.

A financial statement she gave to the court showed she currently has £89,419 and £66,795 in total taxable and untaxable savings.

Prosecution solicitor Len Batten confirmed Wallis has already paid back the money she falsely claimed.

Anthony Corcoran, defending, said: "This is a very sad case.

"My client has otherwise an impeccable character.

"She lives in a very difficult area and is subject to endless racial discrimination and harassment on a physical as well as mental basis.

"She is extremely upset about the whole situation.

"Her one aim was to get out of the area she lives in."

He said Wallis was in an "emotional" state.

He said: "She was evasive or economical with the truth when she was answerinag the benefits forms.

"She is otherwise a decent person and this has been a terrible shock to her."

Presiding magistrate Gillian Partington fined Wallis £3,500 and ordered her to pay £800 costs.

She told her: "This was a very serious matter for which you are before the court and had you been a younger person you would certainly be doing unpaid work.

"We hope you will be able to move from Durrington and be able to sort your life out."