'Sex-crazed fan tried to blackmail footballer'

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A former international footballer, who remains a major figure in the sporting world, was bombarded with telephone calls and mail by a crazed woman who claimed she had a recording of intimate sexual conversations with him, a court was told yesterday.

A former international footballer, who remains a major figure in the sporting world, was bombarded with telephone calls and mail by a crazed woman who claimed she had a recording of intimate sexual conversations with him, a court was told yesterday.

The 38-year-old woman, who became obsessed after sending him her photograph and receiving an autographed photo in return, said she would send tapes of their conversations to the media if he did not apologise for "dumping her, lying to her and... treating her like a piece of meat", a jury at Newcastle upon Tyne Crown Court was told.

Neither the former footballer nor the woman, who denies blackmail, can be named for legal reasons.

The court was told that the woman's "sinister and nauseating obsession" began after she corresponded with the sportsman in 1995, telling him she was a fan. In 1996, she attempted to telephone him and left her number, claiming she was another football player. He recognised the area code and returned her call.

"The voice on the other end of the line was hers," said Robert Woodcock, for the prosecution. "After a few words she became sexually explicit and he eventually killed the call."

Some weeks later, he received another call and took it, believing it to be his wife's sister. It was the defendant, threatening to go to the press if he did not return her call - and reminding him of their previous conversation.

"For quite some months she... bombarded him with material through the post," said Mr Woodcock. "It was generally obscene and comprised photographs and letters."

The woman was cautioned by police after admitting being obsessed with the star, but in August last year she allegedly sent him tapes through the post, transcripts of which were read to the jury. They included extracts of his favourite songs and threats to ruin his life. The threats claimed the star had had telephone sex with the woman in 1995 and 1996 and that she had tape recordings. "I want revenge. I'm not shutting up about this for the rest of my life unless you want to be nice to me," the transcripts said.

"There were never any such tapes," said Mr Woodcock. "But in these days, when it is easy to falsify recordings of people's voices, he had every right to believe what she was saying."

Under cross-examination, the former player calmly answered questions, although he was agitated when the woman's allegations were put to him. At one point during his hour of testimony, the woman was told by the judge not to make improper gestures towards him.

Richard Bloomfield, for the defence, said the former player had called her, visited her at her home in Washington, Tyne and Wear, and turned up on four occasions at her mother's home. The sportsman replied: "It's absurd. Absolutely not. I can categorically deny that, at any stage whatsoever, [I have] been outside her mother's house or her house."

He said: "I am a family man. I have a large family. I was certainly very worried when these letters were getting sent out to people I know - and it was pretty degrading stuff. It was very distressing."

The case continues.

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