Page last updated at 17:01 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 18:01 UK

Woman jailed for Muslim blackmail

Mary-Nona Sturges
Judge Paul Darlow told Sturges her motive was "sheer greed"

A blackmailer who threatened to expose her Muslim friend as a terrorist sympathiser has been jailed.

Muslim convert Mary-Nona Sturges, 54, of Totnes, Devon, extorted more than £3,000 from 21-year-old student Nabilah Hussain.

She claimed to have a recording of a row the pair had about the terrorist attacks in London on 7 July 2005.

Sturges was found guilty of blackmail and deception at Truro Crown Court. She was sentenced to four years.

Sturges was also ordered to pay the Hussain family £3,200 compensation and legal costs of £8,500.

The punishment fits the crime
Det Con Jo Aldridge, Devon and Cornwall Police

The court heard Sturges claimed to have taped Miss Hussain saying "the British deserve what they get" and threatened to give the tape to the police unless she was given money.

Judge Paul Darlow told Sturges that blackmail was a "wicked and ugly crime" and she had "grossly betrayed" Miss Hussain's trust.

He said Sturges used Miss Hussain's religious beliefs and ethnicity to isolate and frighten her.

"The motive must have been one of sheer greed," he said.

The judge said Sturges knew the Hussain family were "hard-working, modestly-paid people" and she had extracted money "they could barely afford".

'Psychological hold'

During the trial, prosecuting barrister Llewellyn Sellick said Sturges told Miss Hussain to get her family in Woking, Surrey, to pay various sums of money escalating from £200.

When the family became suspicious, her father travelled to Devon and the police were informed.

More than £7,000 was transferred into Miss Hussain's bank account and she withdrew about £9,000 between September and October 2006.

Sturges, a gift shop owner, was acquitted of three counts of blackmail relating to money handed over before Miss Hussain's family were involved.

Miss Hussain told the court she was completely convinced by the deception due to the "emotional and psychological hold" Sturges had over her.

Devon and Cornwall Police said it had been a complex investigation into a "despicable crime", but justice had been served.

"We are very pleased with the compensation allocated to the family," Det Con Jo Aldridge said.

"The punishment fits the crime."

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