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Woman jailed for extortion plot on 'suicide pact' mother and daughter

Linsey Cotton concocted an elaborate plot to woo Michael McDonough before his mother and sister were found dead in suspected suicide pact.

Linsey Cotton, in court over Greenock fraud that led to suspected double suicide of McDonagh family. Image from Watchtower Media, paid by broadcast. from News image uploaded September 17 2015
Watchtower Media

A woman has been jailed for an elaborate fraud in a bid to extort money from a mother and daughter who were later found dead in a suspected suicide pact.

Linsey Cotton concocted an elaborate plot to woo Michael McDonough, 33, which left his mother, Margaret, and sister, Nicola, fearing they would be imprisoned or killed by the government.

It took almost an hour for the full details of Linsey Cotton's fraudulent scheme to be read out to Paisley Sheriff Court when she pled guilty last month.

She returned to Paisley Sheriff Court on Thursday where she was jailed for three years for her threatening and trying to extort money from the two women.

Police described Cotton's bizarre fraud as a web of "elaborate and evil lies over a 12-month period."

The deaths of Margaret and Nicola McDonough, who were found with slash wounds at the Premier Inn in Greenock in 2013, were suspected to be suicides.

It is believed they took their own lives after falling victim to Cotton's bizarre fraud and web of lies.

Sheriff Robert Fife told Cotton: "The agreed crown narrative discloses an extraordinary, complex and intricate web of deceit and lies.

"This agreed narrative of the background facts discloses a wicked course of conduct, a course of controlling and manipulative behaviour.

"I would describe your conduct as deplorable, callous, despicable and shameful. I think the best word to sum up what you have done is the word ‘cruel’."

The court heard Cotton sent hundreds of threatening texts and the sheriff said "that level of communication traffic can only be regarded as terrifying, and as horrific".

Cotton had pretended to be a woman called Stephanie Wilson or Johnstone on an online dating site.

Using this fake persona she began a relationship with Nicola McDonough's brother, RAF technician, Michael McDonough and exchanged thousands of messages with him.

But then Cotton concocted a story. She said "Stephanie" had been severely injured, was then seriously ill with people threatening her life and needed money for care and support.

She also demanded Mr McDonough become engaged to "Stephanie".

Cotton then lured Michael McDonough's family into the scheme, concocting a further story about a failed medical trial and confidentiality agreements that she then claimed his mother and sister had breached.

The court told the family believed her story was genuine and were extremely distressed when "Stephanie" started issuing threats and told them they were facing jail.

Just nine days after Cotton was said to have first threatened the McDonough family, 52-year-old Margaret McDonough and her daughter Nicola, 23, were found with slash wounds.

They died in hospital after being found at the Premier Inn. Cotton's lawyer said the 32-year-old wished to express the remorse and shame she rightly feels for her deplorable conduct.

The sheriff was told that it was unlikely that money was her sole motive, that her main motivation was to secure a relationship.

Detective inspector David Wagstaff, the officer in charge of the inquiry, said: "This was a unique, protracted and challenging enquiry. I am relieved that the McDonough family have been spared the ordeal of a trial.

"The McDonough family are a loving caring family, as a result of their care and compassion Linsey Cotton was able to manipulate them and dupe them into believing her elaborate and evil lies over a 12 month period.

"The McDonough family have remained dignified throughout this terrible ordeal and my thoughts remain with them."

The McDonough family said: "We wish to express our thanks to Police Scotland and the Crown Office for their professionalism and dedication in bringing this evil individual to justice.

"In particular, we want to thank the police liaison officer who has been a source of information, assistance and strength over the entire two and a half year period.

"There will be no further comment from us and we would ask that you respect our request for privacy."

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