A woman posing as a shaman managed to con 1m out of her victims by telling them she could heal cancer in their children, among other false promises.
Juliette D’Souza convinced a range of people to hand over money to save the lives of loved ones, avoid being made redundant or cure a variety of illnesses.
The judge in her trial at Blackfriars Crown Court said that perhaps the “most upsetting” victim was one who gave D’Souza 176,000 over several years to help her get pregnant.
When she actually fell pregnant, D’Souza told her to have an abortion as the unborn child would be “deformed” and “ill”.
Many of her 11 victims were left in financial ruin, with one elderly woman having more than 200,000 “remorselessly extracted” from her over 12 years.
D’Souza, 59, from Hampstead, north London, was jailed for 10 years on Friday after being convicted of 23 counts of obtaining property by deception and fraud between 1998 and 2010.
Judge Ian Karsten QC said she had cast a “spell” over her victims and told them to hand over large amounts of money or face “terrifying” consequences.
He said: “It is the worst case of confidence fraud I have ever had to deal with or indeed that I have ever heard of.
“The most serious aspect of this case is that you wrecked the lives of a number of your victims and you have done it out of pure greed.”
The court heard that D’Souza told her victims the money would be used as a spiritual offering and hung off a “special, sacred tree” in the Amazonian rainforest.
In fact she used the proceeds to fund an extravagant lifestyle, spending her cash on a 3,000 Hermes handbag, luxury holidays and antique furniture among other items.
The total amount she defrauded in relation to the charges on the indictment was 908,400, but on the evidence given by victims the final sum was closer to 1m.
Among the places she advertised wasTatler magazine, saying she charged just 35 for a consultation.
But she then demanded large sums for the “sacrifices” she claimed were being sent to Suriname in South America.
The self-proclaimed healer claimed to have helped cure actor John Cleese’s daughter of cancer, boasted that she had known Princess Diana and said she could introduce a young singer to Simon Cowell.
One victim was told to pay 18,000 or her partner would die.
Another was 82-year-old former opera singer Sylvia Eaves, who was duped out of more than 350,000 over 12 years.
Other victims included retired solicitor Richard Collier-Wright, who paid 7,000 to cure his terminal leukaemia, and former photographer Jocelyn Bain-Hogg, who handed D’Souza thousands to improve the health of his mother who was having heart surgery.
Speaking after the sentence, Mrs Eaves said: “I feel terribly sad that somebody who is so clever would resort to that, especially as she was a friend of mine.
“I feel terribly let down that she could behave like that.”
30 May 2014 | 10:38 pm – Source: orange.co.uk