AN RAF veteran became a benefits cheat because he did not want his second wife to find out about his military pension, a court heard.

Over a period of more than eight years, wheelchair-bound former airman Philip Savage claimed council tax and housing benefits of £33,517 he was not entitled to.

The benefits were paid to him by Stroud District Council and later Gloucester City Council because he failed to disclose his £645 a month RAF pension, prosecutor Anna Midgley told Gloucester Crown Court.

Savage's solicitor, Claire Malvern, said he had withheld details of his pension because he did not want his second wife to claim part of it if their marriage ever failed in future.

This was because his first wife 'took everything from him' when their marriage broke up and he did not want the same to happen again, she said.

Savage, 77, who was living in Phillimore Road, Cam, for most of the time he was offending but now lives in Buchan Drive, Kingsway, Quedgeley, admitted four offences of obtaining benefits by deception between November 2003 and May 2012.

Judge Michael Harington told him that if it were not for his age and poor health he would go straight to prison.

However, an immediate jail term for a disabled man of 77 with health problems would be 'entirely inappropriate,' said the judge.

He sentenced Savage to a six months curfew requiring him to be home every night between 8pm-7am.

Ms Midgley had told the court: "His dishonesty was that he failed to declare his armed forces pension which related to his days in the RAF.

"He was receiving that pension from 1980 onwards. The current monthly payment is £645.

"That money is paid into his Santander bank account but when making his benefit claims from November 2003 he failed to disclose the existence of that account.

"He said he only had his State pension, attendance allowance, disability allowance and a small private pension. This was a relatively substantial deception."

She said an investigation was launched by the councils when data match information suggested that he was receiving a military pension.

She said he was now repaying Stroud District Council £100 a month and Gloucester City Council £6 a week.

Ms Malvern told the court Savage was a man of previous good character with significant health problems.

"The motivation for this fraud was that he'd had a failed marriage," she said. "As a result his first wife took everything from him. He suffered a mental breakdown and was in a mental institution for a period of time.

"He felt vulnerable as a result of that marriage breakdown. When he met his present wife he was loathe to disclose the pension to her because he feared if their marriage ever broke down he might have to forfeit part of that pension as well."

Judge Harington told Savage he would have passed a nine months jail term if he had been a younger and healthier defendant.