A WIRRAL man who claimed his dead father's pension every week for 21 years - dishonestly amassing more than £90,000 - has been jailed for 12 months.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that David Seal, himself now a 78-year-old pensioner, had initially misled Department of Work and Pensions officials who began trying to contact his dad in 2003, by claiming he was ill.

They tried again two years later because his father, William Seal, was due to receive a congratulatory telegram from the Queen for his 100th birthday.

This time Seal claimed he was in Australia and no more was done until they asked again last year - when he would have been 105 . This time Seal said he was in Spain.

"The court might be astonished that he was able to perpetrate this fraud for so long," said Kevin Slack, prosecuting.

"When officials asked for a contact address Seal said he did not have one but that his father was due very shortly to go visiting friends and family in Australia and would then be moving onto Canada," he said.

The DWP was not satisfied with this and in August last year finally decided to suspend the pension payments in the hope William Seal would make contact with them.

"He did not do so as he had been dead for 20 years," said Mr Slack.

Meanwhile Seal went to Manchester airport and cleared out his father's bank account, into which the pension was paid and which had £400 in it.

When officials went to Seal's flat in Warren Drive, New Brighton on April 5 the frail pensioner claimed his dad was travelling in Australia and said he had had no contact with him since August.

But after a while he asked a policeman, who had accompanied the officials, if he needed a solicitor and asked why, Seal admitted cashing his father's pension since his death in May 1989, aged 83.

Seal, a divorcee, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to theft and dishonestly retaining a wrongful credit involving a total of £90,580.

Jailing him Judge Robert Warnock said that if Seal had been younger he would have received a sentence of between 18 - 21 months but "as an act of mercy" he would reduce that to 12 months.

He described it as a "sophisticated fraud which had been fraudulent from the outset."

Mr Slack had told the court William Seal began claiming his pension in 1970 and had a cash book to obtain it each week.

He died in May 1989 while living with his son in London but instead of telling the benefits authority he began cashing his dad's pension.

In 1995 the system was changed so that payments went into a bank account and Seal opened one in his father's name and the cash, which included Christmas and winter fuel payments, went into that and he withdrew it each week.

In 2001 he moved to New Brighton and gave the new address to the DWP and kept on taking his dad's pension, by which time he was in receipt of his own old age pension, said Mr Slack.

Laura Flynn, defending, said that Seal, a former baker, has no previous convictions and had began his dishonest behaviour as was out of work at the time and hard up.

He had not spent the money on luxuries, just day to day living, "Unfortunately it (the fraud) was just made easy," said Ms Flynn.

"When officials came to his home he confessed and had had to provide proof that his father actually was dead.

"He is sorry for his behaviour and appreciated he would have to go to jail", she added.