Deborah Butler of Grace Avenue, Allington, who called for justice in the case of missing Madeleine McCann gets prison term for fraud
21 January 2015by Mary Grahammgraham@thekmgroup.co.uk
A woman who became known for publicly calling for "justice" over the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been handed a jail sentence after defrauding Â£18,000 from her vulnerable parents for a spending spree.
Deborah Butler hit the headlines in 2009 by distributing leaflets giving "10 key reasons which suggest Madeleine was not abducted".
Some were delivered to the Leicestershire street where Madeleine's parents Kate and Gerry live.
Deborah Butler shortly before she set off on a charity walk across Spain and Portugal
The 51-year-old denied she was targeting the family, whose daughter has not been found after disappearing from a holiday apartment in Portugal in 2007, but simply wanted the then-closed investigation to be re-opened.
Away from the media spotlight, Butler, of Grace Avenue, Allington, set herself up as official carer to her parents, Alan and Dorothy Johnson, who suffered from dementia.
In 2011 she took control of their bank cards, which they did not know how to use, and went on a spree buying items for herself including a TV, laptop, designer clothes, a Spanish holiday, plus more mundane essentials such as petrol and food.
Madeleine McCann, who went missing in Portugal in 2007. Photo courtesy of PA/PA Wire.
The 51-year-old also arranged for carers and attendance allowances, plus the Johnsonsâ€™ state pension to go to her bank account.
In October 2011 her mother died and other family members found conditions at her parents seaside flat in Eastbourne had deteriorated as the pensioners struggled to cope. Conditions were described as 'squalid.'
The family also discovered a large chunk of the Johnsonsâ€™ savings missing and Butler was arrested.
Monarch House in Eastbourne's Royal Parade where Deborah Butler's parents (now deceased) lived in 'squalid' conditions
She always insisted her purchases were for her parents. But investigators were adamant everything bought was being used at her Kent home.
Butler denied four charges of fraud totalling Â£18,411 at a trial in December but was convicted.
At Lewes Crown Court on Friday she was sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years.
Deborah Butler with a leaflet headed 'What really happened to Madeleine McCann'
DC Julie Nightingale, of Sussex Police, said: â€œThe victims were treated as a stream of income.
â€œThey were very vulnerable but Butler left them to live in squalor while she enjoyed life at their expense.â€
She must complete 200 hours of unpaid work and will be supervised by the probation service.
The KM approached Butler after the case but she said: â€œI wonâ€™t be making any comment.â€