A WOMAN has admitted threatening a mother and daughter who both died days later in what is believed to have been a suicide pact.
Nicola McDonough, 23, and her mother Margaret, 52, died after being found injured at the Premier Inn in Greenock in May 2013.
Linsey Cotton, of Addiewell, West Lothian, said if the women did not give her money they would go to prison for 20 years.
Cotton pled guilty at Paisley Sheriff Court to fraud and to threatening the two women before their deaths.
She had set up an online dating profile under the name Stephanie Wilson, and used the alter ego to make contact with Margaret McDonough’s son Michael before beginning an online relationship with him in 2012.
Cotton then claimed to know the fictitious “Stephanie” to get close to Michael’s family.
The court heard that Michael, a corporal with the Royal Air Force, joined online dating website Plenty of Fish in August 2011.
In May 2012 he received a message on the dating website from a profile in the name of a Stephanie Wilson or Johnstone. Cotton had stolen her stepsister’s daughter’s pictures to use as Stephanie’s profile picture on the dating site. Michael began speaking to Stephanie, unaware it was actually Cotton, on a regular basis and they eventually exchanged mobile numbers.
They began texting and phoning each other and their relationship grew to a point where Michael believed he was in a relationship with Stephanie, whom he knew as Steph.
Their relationship grew even further and, despite having never met Steph, he shelled out nearly £2,000 on an engagement ring for her.
All the while he was unaware that he was actually interacting with Cotton, whom he later realised had been wearing the engagement ring when he met her.
At the beginning of May 2013, Cotton told Nicola and Margaret they had breached a confidentiality clause about Stephanie, blaming Nicola in particular.
She said the women would go to prison for 20 years if they did not give her £5,500.
They were found injured in the Premier Inn on 10 May 2013.
Margaret died later that day, and her daughter died three days later.
Cotton claimed to have committed the crimes because she wanted to have a relationship with Michael McDonough.
Defence solicitor Gerry Bann asked Sheriff Robert Fife to release Cotton on bail, saying she was not a flight risk or a threat to the public and had two children, 15 and 11. But Sheriff Fife ruled the case was so serious he had to remand Cotton in custody.
He deferred sentence until next month and called for her to be assessed by social workers ahead of the hearing.
Margaret, a foster carer with Renfrewshire Council and mother of four, stood as a Lib Dem council candidate in Johnstone in 2012. Nicola was a charity worker and social work graduate.
They both suffered fatal slash wounds.