A MOTHER of four collapsed in the dock and begged a judge to reconsider her sentence after she was jailed for bank fraud.

Former care worker Gertrude Cele and her husband Brian became embroiled a £48,000 scam, but she was snared by building society staff in Bolton as she tried to draw out £750.

Defending Martin Pizzey asked Recorder Michael Murray at Bolton Crown Court to let Gertrude Cele go home to her four children.

But Recorder Murray said that the fact that the 31-year-old was a mother of four should not shelter her from punishment — as she had previously committed five other frauds.

Gertrude Cele was jailed for a year while her 36-year-old husband was given an eight-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 250 hours community service.

The couple had fled the tyrannical regime of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe in 2002 and arrived as asylum seekers, before working in the care profession, the court heard.

Gertrude Cele worked at a care home until February 2014 when a CRB check revealed she had lied on her application form about her unspent previous convictions.

According to Mr Pizzey, the couple had money problems.

But after meeting a friend at a baby shower last year and explaining their woes, that friend put Gertrude Cele in touch with a man called Curran, who offered to lend her money to start her own hair extension firm if she helped him move money around.

The court heard how Gertrude and Brian Cele went to the Furness Building Society in Knowsley Street, Bolton, on May 24 last year and opened two bank accounts after fraudulently claiming to be working as support workers.

A total of £30,000 was deposited into those accounts — with £18,000 more set to go in — when security staff noticed it came from cheques that "were clearly not genuine".

Staff waited until Gertrude Cele arrived at the Furness's Bolton branch on June 12 to try to withdraw cash and then alerted police.

The couple, both of Mobberley Road, Breightmet, admitted fraud.

After sentencing, Gertrude Cele, who is now a second-year university student, fell to the floor, weeping and then got up to beg the judge.

She said: "I understand what I've done. Please give me a chance. I am working to change my life. I cannot bear to be parted from my children. You might as well kill me."