THE woman standing trial for defrauding a Chester pensioner out of more than £70,000 feared she was being blackmailed in an increasingly "controlling" relationship.

Mia Cavalli, 42, is on trial, charged with fraud by false representation by telling the pensioner, now aged 83, she worked for jewellers Cartier and saying she had breast cancer.

Cavalli and her son Charlie Smith, 24, are also charged with fraud by false representation by claiming Smith was a Metropolitan Police officer to con the man, who at the time was an 81-year-old Chester resident, out of a £13,000 car.

Both defendants deny the charges, with the trial having entered its second week.

A court order prevents the identity of the pensioner being revealed, other than that he was a 'prominent Cheshire businessman'.

Giving evidence on Friday and Monday, October 8 and 11, at the so-called Nightingale crown court at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chester, Cavalli, of Cuppin Street, told the court she had first met the pensioner in the Caramel café in Rufus Court in September 2019, and after learning he was planning to move house, provided contact details for the estate agents who had properties she knew were on the market.

At that stage, Cavalli said, she had told the pensioner she worked for jewellers Cartier.

Asked by her defence barrister Paul Simon why she didn't tell him she was really an escort, Cavalli said she was "ashamed" of her work, and had not even told her son what she did until he found out when they were arrested in January 2020.

Cavalli explained she was earning enough to get by until she went to Turkey in early October for mammaplasty surgery costing £9.9k, due to scarring caused by her former partner as a victim of domestic violence.

The scarring, Cavalli explained, became infected and, on her return to the UK, she required urgent treatment and blood transfusions at the Countess of Chester Hospital.

When the pensioner came to visit her in the vascular ward a few days later, Cavalli said she was looking up a payday loan as she was unable to work and feared losing her accommodation.

It was then, Cavalli told the court, that she told the pensioner she was really an escort. Cavalli said the pensioner responded by saying she had nothing to be ashamed of, and offered to pay her bills.

Cavalli said she did not want to accept the money and became concerned over the pensioner's behaviour, fearing she was being blackmailed, and she called the police on 101 on October 11, with police visiting the pensioner's home.

The relationship between the two later improved and, Cavalli said, the pensioner became a client of hers, spending up to £300 a time to be with her, which included sexual encounters by early November.

Cavalli added they then entered into a 'sugar daddy' relationship, which increased his spending with her but reduced the amount of time she could see other clients, and the pensioner became increasingly "obsessive" and "controlling" with his behaviour, with hundreds of messages exchanged between November 2019 and January 2020, and him dropping a "surprise pressie" of a golden platinum sex toy on her doorstep for Christmas.

Cross-examined by prosecutor Kevin Jones, Cavalli denied the agreed evidence given by Caramel café owner Giovanni Baccouche, where he said Cavalli asked him for £10,000 to pay for medical bills.

It was accepted that Cavalli had pleaded guilty to a separate charge of fraud by false representation, after two fake Cartier payslips were found at her home. Cavalli said the payslips were obtained for the purpose of her obtaining her rented home in May 2019, prior to meeting the pensioner.

Questioned why, upon entering the Mappin and Webb jewellers in Chester on January 3, 2020 with the pensioner, Cavalli had lied to a staff member for 25 minutes about working as an event manager for Cartier, the defendant responded she had knowledge of Cartier, had been introduced by the pensioner to staff as someone who was "working hard", and she did not want to reveal what she did for a living.

It was on that day the pensioner bought a Rolex watch for her.

On Tuesday morning, Smith, of Abbotts Walk, Windsor, gave evidence in court, explaining he had applied to become a Metropolitan Police officer, having worked for a bookies, but his application was rejected.

Asked by defence barrister William Chipperfield if he knew about the relationship between Cavalli and the pensioner when he visited her before Christmas, he replied: "No."

He knew the pensioner was to be a temporary guarantor in the purchase of a £13k Ford Focus, which would replace his Fiat Punto he said was "falling into disrepair".

Upon receiving £1,000 from the pensioner via Cavalli, Smith had responded in a text that was "way too much, I have only met him once."

Cross-examined by Mr Jones, Smith denied having told the pensioner he was a police officer.

Asked if the Evans Halshaw employee had been lying when she gave her agreed evidence that Smith had told her he was a Met Police officer, Smith replied: "Yes."

The jury is expected to retire to consider its verdict on Wednesday.

The trial continues.