A £50,000-a-year NHS manager who swindled her employer out of sick pay for chronic back pain while competing at showjumping events has avoided an immediate prison sentence.

Elise David, 33, claimed she was in too much pain to work – but was caught on camera showjumping at Chepstow and Monmouth as well as elsewhere.

A jury at Newport Crown Court found the ex-Cardiff and Vale University Health Board laboratory boss guilty of fraud.

After the panel of four men and eight women convicted her, Judge Daniel Williams told David, of previous good character, that her offending was “cynical, deliberate and dishonest”.

During occupational health examinations to determine whether she was fit to work or not, he said she put on a “convincing performance” that now seemed “comical”.

David, of Nottage, Porthcawl, had denied committing fraud between July and October 2016.

Judge Williams jailed her for 12 weeks, suspended for 12 months, and ordered her to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work.

She must also compensate her former employer the sum of £8,216.71 and pay the prosecution’s costs of £2,500.

The jury heard how the defendant went off on the sick from her job with back injuries and "cognitive deficiencies" after falling off her horse.

Nigel Fryer, prosecuting, said: "She was off work for the next four months but at that time she was taking part in dressage, cross country and showjumping competitions.”

But her defence barrister, Heath Edwards, said to the jury in his closing speech: “She worked hard to forge her career. Why would she throw it into jeopardy for a few months off work at her employer’s expense?”

He added: “There were times when she was able to do what she loved for a short period of time – for 15 minutes once a month … it doesn’t mean she was fit enough to return to work.”

After telling them that this case “wasn’t as simple as it first appears”, Mr Edwards invited the jury to acquit his client.

In his concluding address to the jury, Mr Fryer said David had been engaged in a “charade” and labelled her “this miracle on horseback”.

He told them: “She is trying to pull the wool over your eyes.”

The court heard that David underwent medical examinations "only a matter of days" after she was found to be competing at equestrian events.

Witnesses claimed David appeared to “shuffle” and said “her gait was timid” and walked with a stick at the occupational health examinations which determined whether she was fit to work.

The defendant had contacted her employers in June 2016 at the Surgical Materials Testing Laboratory, based at the Princess of Wales Hospital, Bridgend, where she worked as quality manager, to say she had "injured her back and was struggling to walk".

Mr Fryer said: "She called in on September 6 that year and stated she was still having difficulty walking and could not drive."

But the court heard that at the same time she was taking part in showjumping events on her seven-year-old gelding called Caereau Freeway.

A jury heard she had ridden the horse at the two events in Monmouthshire and two in the West Country at the time she claimed she had the chronic back pain.

The court also heard how David did not reveal her showjumping events before having a phased return to work in October 2016. She resigned in April 2017.