A bogus psychic healer who conned customers into giving her almost ?60,000 to lift deadly curses that she claimed to have placed on their families was jailed for 15 months yesterday.
Going under the name of Sister Grace, Gina Stevenson, 33, warned that the spells she had cast would prove fatal unless she was paid to lift them.
One terrified 53-year-old woman handed Stevenson her life savings of ?20,932 and was then persuaded to borrow a further ?28,000 from a bank. A second victim, a married father, was tricked into handing over ?7,000.
After carrying out the fraud in the summer of 2003, Stevenson disappeared from her rented home in Glenfield, Leicester, and went abroad.
She was arrested when she flew into Gatwick Airport in November last year. Leicester Crown Court was told that Stevenson handed out flyers in Leicester offering psychic and healing services.
Both victims alerted police when they realised Stevenson had fled with their cash.
Jailing her yesterday, Judge Christopher Plunkett said: "You set up shop as a psychic. You encouraged troubled people to bestow their trust upon you and you abused their trust by requiring them to make payments for services that were not necessary and could never be performed."
The court heard that Stevenson had current assets of only ?5 but a compensation order of ?5,500 to the first victim was made which will be paid by her father.
Martin Hurst, defending, said Stevenson had suffered the loss of her newborn girl in 2001 and was desperate to obtain money for IVF treatment.
But the court heard that the ?3,500 she paid for IVF treatment was only a small proportion of the money she took.
Stevenson has since conceived naturally and is now the mother of a girl aged nine months.