A nanny formerly employed by the Ann Summers lingerie tycoon Jacqueline Gold was jailed yesterday for trying to poison her boss in a "calculated and deceitful" manner. In an attack Judge Christopher Critchlow described as "totally bizarre", Allison Cox spiked her employer's food with screen-wash in an attempt to discredit the family's chef, whom she hated.
Cox, 33, who entered the dock sobbing, looked stunned as she was told she would be jailed for 12 months after admitting the attack.
Her crime was made worse, prosecutor Rachel Davies told Guildford Crown Court, because Cox had been treated as "part of the family", entrusted with looking after Ms Gold's daughter, Scarlett, whose twin, Alfie, had died aged eight months.
The court heard that Cox, who had handed in her notice in September last year because she had problems getting on with chef Patricia Edwards, had initially put excessive salt in Ms Gold's meal. A few days later she added too much sugar, which the Ann Summers chief executive was not supposed to eat for medical reasons.
On 5 October, she laced two bowls of asparagus soup with screen-wash then took to Ms Gold for lunch. The substance contained chemicals which, the court heard, could have "serious toxic side-effects" if ingested, as well as causing nausea, gastrointestinal problems and even heart failure.
Ms Davies said: "Ms Gold took one mouthful, and in her words, instantly knew there was a chemical in her soup and was very strong."
When pressed, Cox, who has one child, admitted administering the substances to Ms Gold's food on the three occasions because she "hated Pat". She was arrested the day after the last incident and told police: "I didn't mean to poison her. I just thought it would smell funny or taste funny and ruin her lunch."
Tim Leete, for the defence, said the attack was not premeditated because Cox had not known she would be asked to take the soup to Ms Gold, and the screen-wash "was simply something that she happened to have in her car that day".
The court heard that Cox had initially complained about the level of media interest in the case, but had then appeared on daytime television on the morning of her sentencing. In an interview on ITV's Daybreak, she said: "I'm deeply, deeply sorry. I will never be able to work with children again. It haunts me every single day." Cox, who had been fired immediately, has since written two emails to Ms Gold apologising and expressing regret for what she had done, the court heard.
Judge Critchlow said she was unlikely to get another job as a nanny, adding: "You were employed from September 2009 as a nanny for this family and in the course of your duty you were trusted to care for the daughter of your employer, the surviving twin. And you knew that in January 2010 the other twin had died and the distress that caused to your employer, no doubt.
"You say you hated that other employee and you had no intention of harming your employer. But you had no idea whether or not that screen-wash would cause harm to her or what the effect would be.
"As it was, one mouthful was taken and it was immediately realised there was something wrong with that soup. This behaviour is a gross breach of trust as well as being totally bizarre."
Two other counts of attempting to poison Ms Gold with the sugar and salt were dropped. A spokeswoman for Ms Gold said she would be making no comment on the matter.