Queenstown phone hoax mum pleads guilty

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The well-known Queenstown mother behind a vicious phone hoax aimed at a 13-year-old girl has pleaded guilty in court today. 

The woman, who has interim name suppression, admitted to two charges of misusing a telephone to make up stories about the girl – in the hope she might not get accepted to two private girls’ schools in Dunedin. 

Queenstown District Court heard today (Monday) that the 53-year-old woman, who works as a cleaner, phoned St Hilda’s Collegiate and Columba College posing as a nurse on August 2 to warn the school of the girl. 

The woman has a daughter in the same year group at Queenstown Primary and both girls had applied to attend the same secondary schools next year. 

“There is a very high demand for places at the schools and a board makes the final decision about who they will and will not accept,” prosecuting sergeant Ian Collin says. 

“In an effort to have her daughter accepted ahead of the other student, the defendant made fictitious phone calls…concerning the other student’s behaviour and that of her parents’.” 

Dialling from her cell phone to St Hilda’s head mistress Melissa Bell, the woman pretended she was Anne-Marie Thompson – a sexual health worker based at the Oxford Clinic in Invercargill but who came to Queenstown Medical Centre for clinics – and said the girl “needed support”. 

Bell became suspicious and phoned QMC and Oxford Clinic – to find there was no one called Anne-Marie Thompson who worked there. 

That same day, the woman phoned Columba on her cell phone and spoke to the director of boarding Richelle Manson, again saying she was nurse Anne-Marie Thompson and she needed to speak to the mother of the girl to make an appointment. 

“The defendant was advised by Manson that the girl named was not a student at the school and there was no reason to tell her the purpose for the call.” 

Later that afternoon, after the woman knew Manson had finished work, she phoned Columba back and spoke to another staff member. 

“She told [the staff member] that one of their students, who she named as a prospective applicant, had a sexually transmitted disease and that she was in a lesbian relationship with another girl. She wanted her to make an appointment with her to come to the clinic,” Collin says. 

On August 26, police spoke to the woman. She refused to make a statement and answered “no comment” to all questions, Collins adds. 

The woman – who presented in court on September 5 and shook uncontrollably behind the dock – appeared more reserved today. She wiped away tears while turning her back on the victim and her family, sitting in court. 

Judge Kevin Phillips convicted her and ordered a pre-sentencing report with details of a possible intensive supervision penalty. She is due to reappear for sentencing on November 28.