Lurid obsession of ex-football star's blackmailer

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Carolyn Pick was found guilty yesterday of blackmailing a retired international footballer by claiming she had recordings of telephone sex between them.

Carolyn Pick was found guilty yesterday of blackmailing a retired international footballer by claiming she had recordings of telephone sex between them.

Though the recordings did not exist and the phone sex never happened, she threatened to ruin her victim's career and personal life by making public her allegations.

Pick, 36, remained impassive when she was remanded in custody by Judge Hodson at Newcastle Crown Court, pending psychiatric reports. She was warned the maximum jail term for her offence was 14 years.

The jury spent only 35 minutes deliberating and their decision was unanimous at the end of the seven-day trial.

The jurors had been barely able to contain their mirth while hearing four rambling hours of tapes she had sent to the former player, who remains a well-known figure in the game. They contained her crude renditions of tunes ranging from "Good King Wenceslas" to Cliff Richard's "Devil Woman".

Pick's mind was clearly wrapped up in the late Seventies and Eighties and its B-list celebrities. She identified herself with both Margot Leadbetter, the bossy neighbour played by Penelope Keith in the Seventies sitcom The Good Life and Alexis Colby from the American soap Dynasty.

The celebrity associations she claimed for herself were even more obscure. She told her victim of a relationship with a member of staff at a restaurant owned by Michael Caine, and of friendships with a man who starred in a TV advert with the late actor Roy Kinnear, and another who, she said, had auditioned for a part in Coronation Street.

In fact, despite an apparently decent record at a North-east Catholic school, which initially secured her a secretary's job, she lived alone in a one-bedroom council flat in a cul-de-sac in Washington, Tyne and Wear, emerging only to shop and visit her infirm, widowed mother a mile away.

Her only genuine claim to fame was in 1986 when she made an appearance at a Miss England North-east contest at a Cleveland nightclub. That was represented by a photo of herself, wearing a yellow bikini on the beach at Rimini, in Italy. She sent a print of it to the former footballer, whom she had seen on television.

And she did have a faint hint of encouragement. The ex-player admitted to the court that he "did not discourage" her when she began talking intimately. He suspected a wind-up from an old footballing friend and found her talk "amusing". Pick saw his refusal to return subsequent calls as a heartless rejection and her obsession took root.

She managed to convince herself the footballer's glances at the camera during television appearances were aimed at her. Then she logged all phone calls to her house, assuming that any from numbers she did not recognise were from him. One was from Sunderland railway station. She thought he was passing through the station on his way to her flat.

She was cautioned by police in 1997, but that proved to be the trigger for a more disturbing campaign of hate, which she spent two years plotting.

Pick bought sophisticated recording equipment and spent months constructing messages. Matching her lyrics to one song took two days of work. When one tape described the former star's home in detail he realised she had visited it and began to fear for his family.

Her trial at last brought her face to face with the subject of her attention. The ex-player stood within touching distance as he testified on the first day of the case. She fluttered her eyelashes at him, pouted and moved so provocatively she was warned by the judge.

Earlier in the trial, after Pick testified, a man who had been in the public gallery approached her outside court and asked for her autograph. She happily obliged.