Judge takes pity on Northampton woman who blackmailed international rugby star after abortion

Danny Cipriani
Danny Cipriani

An exotic dancer from Northampton who blackmailed former England rugby star Danny Cipriani out of up to £15,000 after he got her pregnant was spared jail today.

Lisa Murphy, 39, of Montgomery Way, Wootton, aborted Cipriani's unborn child after their fling and then bombarded the star with messages with the help of her friend Violet Smith, 29.

The dancers threatened to expose the rugby star in the newspapers if he did not pay up and demanded £15,000 from his publicist.

They both admitted blackmailing the 29-year-old Wasps fly-half between September and October in 2015 at Kingston Crown Court.

Judge Peter Lodder QC sentenced the pair to 22 months imprisonment suspended for two years.

The judge said: "Danny Cipriani repeatedly offered to help but nothing was forthcoming. He said he would pay for the abortion. Danny Cipriani did not act according to his early promises.

"Whether this was his own choice or in accordance with advice from a PR agency or something else is not for me to judge. He certainly does not appear to have fully appreciated the extent of your difficulties," he told Murphy.

"I'm satisfied by that time Lisa Murphy was feeling increasingly desperate and continued to suffer from the emotional consequences of her condition.

"I'm satisfied that Violet Smith was motivated by concern for your well-being.

"It is against that background the threat to go to the newspapers was made.

"This is a very unusual case, both of you have suffered, you now have a criminal conviction, and each of you have lost your jobs.

"It is an understatement to say nobody comes out of this episode very well.

"This is such an exceptional case, I will suspend the sentence," he said.

The pair were both given suspended sentences of 22 months in prison for two years, and must also pay a victim surcharge.

Hannah Duncan, for Murphy, said she had been prescribed anti-depressants after the abortion, and had been 'reluctant to ask for the money'.

She said: "She had no idea that what she was doing towards the end of this case was illegal. She was entitled to go to the papers, whatever one thinks about the morality of it, she was allowed to go.

"She was increasingly frustrated, increasingly desperate, and increasingly upset.

"After she had the abortion his interest fell off a cliff," she added.

Ms Duncan added that Murphy had struggled with depression, and wasn't "a shameless cold and calculating schemer, as some have portrayed her".

Nigel Mitchell, defending Smith, of Bath Road, Slough, told the court she too did not realise what she was doing was illegal, and just wanted to help her friend.