Navy lovers are jailed for theft: Woman becomes first Wren sent to prison over pounds 11,000 taken from ship's safe

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AN ILL-FATED Navy love affair ended in jail sentences yesterday as Ian Luff and Sylvia Panter were found guilty of theft and desertion from the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible.

Panter, 27, a petty officer and ward fund cashier, from Sandown on the Isle of Wight, is four months pregnant. She became the first Wren to be sent to prison after being given an 18-month sentence in a civilian jail.

Luff, 30, also a petty officer, from Camberley, Surrey, was sentenced to 15 months.

Their spouses attended the court martial in Portsmouth where the verdicts were delivered by a panel of five naval officers. They stood to attention when the verdicts were read out. Judge-Advocate Commander Bernard Davis said the severity of the crimes meant they could only be dealt with by custodial sentences.

The pair, who became lovers after forming a close relationship on board, had deserted with pounds 11,301 from the ship while it was anchored off the Greek island of Corfu last September. They gave themselves up in Spain nine days later after spending more than pounds 2,000 of the cash on hotels, drink and clothes.

The prosecution claimed the pair had deserted intending to set up home together with the cash and a further pounds 10,000 from selling their story to the Sun newspaper.

Both admitted misapplying ship's funds and going absent without leave.

A cancelled shore leave was said to have left Panter distraught. She had taken the money from the ship's safe, to which she alone had the key as part of her duties. She had been sent to sea for the first time in her nine years' Navy service, at three days' notice.

Luff, a father of four, said the couple became lovers only three days after he was warned about the relationship. He had an 'exemplary' service record, and was said to be distressed at the anguish he had caused his family.

(Photograph omitted)