Two dancers handed suspended sentences after blackmailing rugby star Danny Cipriani
Two dancers have avoided jail for blackmailing former England rugby star Danny Cipriani for thousands of pounds after one of them aborted his child.
Lisa Murphy, 39, from Wootton, Northampton, and Violet Smith, 29, of Slough, Berkshire, were handed a 22-month sentence suspended for two years at Kingston Crown Court in south west London.
The pair, who worked together at a gentleman's club called Junction 9, had admitted blackmailing Cipriani, 29, between September and October 2015 during a hearing at the same court on Monday.
Ms Murphy had aborted Cipriani's baby in the summer of 2015 after a casual relationship with the rugby star and when she ran into health and financial difficulties in the months following, she asked the Wasps' player for more money.
When Cipriani offered but failed to provide support, she enlisted the help of Ms Smith - with the pair threatening to go the papers with the story.
Judge Peter Lodder noted while Cipriani had "repeatedly" offered to help, he "did not act according to his earlier promises".
He said: "Certainly he does not appear to have fully appreciated the extent of your difficulties.
"I'm satisfied by that time Lisa Murphy was feeling increasingly desperate and was continuing to suffer from the emotional consequences of her condition.
"I'm satisfied that Violet Smith was motivated by concern for your condition.
"It is against that background that the threat to go to the newspapers was made."
He described it as an "unusual case" and said both defendants had suffered and lost their jobs as a result.
"It is an understatement to say that nobody has come out of this episode well," he said.
Judge Lodder said Cipriani had met Ms Murphy "on occasions for sexual intercourse" in 2015.
"There was some fondness between you but you had not expected to have a long-term relationship, so it was rather a surprise for both you and Danny Cipriani when you became pregnant," he said.
Cipriani had offered to pay for the abortion but Ms Murphy refused, saying she would undergo the procedure through the NHS, the court heard.
But when Ms Murphy experienced complications following her pregnancy and was unable to work, she became "increasingly frustrated, increasingly upset, and increasingly desperate", her lawyer, Hannah Duncan, said.
Nigel Mitchell, representing Ms Smith, said: "As time moved on, Lisa Murphy told Ms Smith that she had not received any consideration either emotionally or financially from Danny Cipriani.
"Lisa Murphy became more and more upset and asked Ms Smith for help."
Mr Mitchell said the pair had been offered £18,000 for their story by the Sun newspaper - but had wanted to settle the matter with Cipriani and maintained contact with him in a series of messages.
He said: "Ms Smith's intention was to try and resolve matters. Like her co-defendant, not for a second did she consider her action and behaviour was amounting to a criminal offence."