Blackmail over alleged molestation

SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 15:53 02/04/2014

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A woman has admitted blackmailing a health professional by asking him to pay her $414,000 for allegedly sexually assaulting her when she was a child.

In the Nelson District Court yesterday, Jeanette Faye Francis, 54, admitted the charge.

Prosecutor Chris Stringer told the court that on February 10 the complainant, a health professional based in Christchurch, received an email from Francis that had an invoice attached demanding $414,000 including GST.

The invoice pointed to a number of historical sexual assaults that allegedly occurred against Francis.

The email demanded the complainant respond via email within 14 days and if payment was not made within 30 days then Francis would send the invoice to debt collectors.

Francis telephoned the complainant on February 24 at his place of work. The complainant refused to speak to Francis and hung up.

Francis telephoned the complainant after the 14-day time limit indicated in the email to "make sure he had got her email".

The complainant said the allegations were false and he was fearful they would cause irreversible damage to his personal and professional reputation. He denied any wrongdoing to Francis whatsoever.

He had no memory of Francis other than she was once babysat at his family home 50 years ago.

She told police her intention was to say "you did this to me so you can pay for it" and to let him know she had not forgotten about his alleged historical sexual offences.

Francis had suffered a series of serious health issues in the past year and wanted to do something before she died.

Francis admitted to police that she wrote the email, saying she sent it thinking it was a legal way of forcing him to "own up to what he had done to her as a child".

She did not know whether he would send the money but hoped he would even if it meant he had to mortgage his home.

Stringer told the court this was Francis' first offence. An investigation was now underway as a result of her allegations, he said.

Defence counsel John Sandston said Francis wished to decline the opportunity for name suppression.

Judge Tony Zohrab upheld name suppression for the complainant.

Francis was remanded and will reappear for sentencing on May 27.

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- Nelson

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