BULIMIA sufferer Joanna Grenside staged her own disappearance to

escape Christmas because she dreaded a round of parties and particularly

the food, a court was told yesterday.

The 25-year-old fitness teacher, who admitted wasting police time,

went missing 10 days before Christmas last year because of the eating

disorder which causes sufferers to binge and then vomit, magistrates at

St Albans were told.

Police launched a huge search and, when she reappeared two days later,

at first she told detectives she had been abducted from her car and

later complained that she had been sexually assaulted and raped.

She admitted later it was a hoax and she had spent the time at

Heathrow airport.

Grenside, of Harpenden, Hertfordshire, told police that she had

suffered from bulimia and eating disorders since her early teenage


''The prime reason for all of this was that Christmas was looming and

she couldn't face the prospect of the round of parties and, in

particular, the food,'' said Mr Patrick Fields, prosecuting.

Mr Michael Allan, defending, said the disease gave rise to a feeling

of shame. She had gone to Heathrow to get away from her family and

friends so that she could ''indulge'' the demands of the disease.

''She saw the approach of Christmas, something which in most of us is

a good excuse to eat and drink, as something dreaded,'' he said.

Bench chairman Pat Larner gave Grenside a conditional discharge for 12

months and ordered her to pay #100 costs.

He made no order for her to pay the costs of the huge police search

mounted to find her which were estimated at more than #20,000.

The magistrate added that this was because Grenside, who was now

suspended from her job and on income support, had small means compared

with the enormity of the sum.

Mr Larner added that the Bench hoped that no-one in the future would

be deterred from seeking police help in abduction cases because of what

had happened in this instance.

Mr Fields had told magistrates how the alarm was raised by colleagues

when Grenside failed to turn up for work at the fitness centre. A search

of the area by police revealed a rape alarm by her parked car.

As a result a ''large scale'' inquiry was started with dogs, divers, a

helicopter, and many officers involved.

''It is estimated 1800 hours of police time was invested in all in the

inquiry and the cost was #20,387.87p,'' Mr Fields said.

Two days later Grenside turned up at her place of work and initially

made the abduction claims.

But police brought in a consultant psychologist who advised that

questioning should cease over the weekend, during which time officers

made inquiries about a case in Australia, where Grenside had lived for

three years, of a person who faked their own disappearance.

Mr Allan said Grenside was was now receiving treatment from an

''eminent expert'' in eating disorders.