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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Pair jailed for 'ruthless' scheme
Plymouth Crown Court
The court heard Miss Hutchinson, described as the leading player in the scam

A man and woman who blackmailed a Devon pensioner whose partner was gravely ill in hospital, were jailed on Wednesday for their "ruthless" scheme.

Mary Hutchinson, 37, and Glen Lauder, 19, both of Cattedown Road, Plymouth, were convicted of blackmailing the man in his 70s after a trial in December.

Hutchinson had falsely claimed the pensioner had made sexual advances towards her and, along with Lauder, attempted to take money from their victim in return for their silence.

Sentencing the pair at Plymouth Crown Court Recorder Paul Grumbar described how they subjected the "elderly, frail and vulnerable" pensioner to a "prolonged and terrifying experience" on the night of 21 August last year.

Hutchinson, described as the leading player in the scam, was sentenced to 15 months in prison plus two months concurrent for a burglary charge.

This was a time when he was in particular trauma and particularly vulnerable
Recorder Paul Grumbar

Lauder, who played a lesser role, was sentenced to nine months in prison.

Mr Grumbar said the pair intimidated the pensioner for several hours until he did as they asked.

"He was threatened with the disclosure that he had made some inappropriate sexual advances to you, Miss Hutchinson. He had done no such thing," the Recorder said.

The pair made the pensioner into sign agreement to pay Miss Hutchinson, who was known to the pensioner, 30 per week for a year as "compensation" for asking her for sex.

'Vulnerable' victim

Mr Grumbar said the offence was a "ruthless" one for which Hutchinson, who has a five-year-old son, appeared to show no remorse.

"You knew his partner was in hospital and gravely ill.

"This was a time when he was in particular trauma and particularly vulnerable," he said.

Hutchinson's defence counsel Nick Lewin said she had suffered emotional and health problems prior to the offence.

Malcolm Clarke, defending Lauder, said the teenager played a secondary role in the blackmailing and was influenced by his co-defendant.

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