Police say sex-toy queen target of poisoning

Laura Donovan Contributor
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LONDON (AP) — Jacqueline Gold brought sex toys to the British masses one set of pink furry handcuffs at a time, amassing a fortune while reinventing the family lingerie company as a female-focused brand.

But the sex-shop magnate, whose books — including an autobiography titled “Good Vibrations” — and business acumen made her Britain’s 16th richest woman now is in the news for another reason: Her nanny was in court Wednesday, accused of spiking the racy retail boss’s soup with windshield-wiper fluid, a substance highly unlikely to be poisonous in small quantities.

The ex-nanny is accused of trying to poison her boss with salt on Sept. 29 and trying again with sugar on Oct. 4 before using windshield wiper fluid on Oct 5. She was arrested the next day.The charge: three counts of administering poison with the intent to annoy.

The accusations came after Gold, a glamorous brunette, criticized her cook last fall when her soup tasted odd. The chef then became suspicious and removed the leftover broth from the trash to investigate.

The seemingly made-for-TV drama of sex, money and malice has captivated tabloid watchers from Britain to New York, raising more questions than answers about whether greed, frustration or revenge played a role.

Jacqueline Gold’s father David Gold built an adult entertainment empire and founded the Ann Summers sex toy and lingerie chain. As chief executive, Jacqueline earned accolades for shifting the company’s focus from men to women.

No possible motive for the alleged crimes against Gold has been suggested by police or prosecutors. It is not immediately clear what prompted officials to point the finger at Allison Cox, 33, who looked after Gold’s young daughter. The case is unusual because the sustances at issue are not all that harmful, says Robert Forrest, a forensic chemistry professor at the University of Sheffield.

“You can give a poisonous substance to someone … just to annoy them,” Forrest said. “The satisfaction the perpetrator gets is from knowing that you are humiliating the victim.”

It was not possible to verify what if any physical side effects Gold might have suffered from the meals in question. A representative for Gold said his client will not comment on an ongoing legal case.

Some wiper fluids contain types of alcohol that can damage vision and cause blindness if ingested in high doses. Drinking wiper fluids that also contain detergents could also cause nausea.

Salt in large quantities can cause more than excessive thirst— it has been linked to deaths of babies— but an attempt to spike meals with sugar could be hard to prosecute since sugar is found everywhere and not particularly poisonous, Forrest said.

The brand of wiper fluid used could shed light on possible side effects of ingesting, toxicology expert Dr. John Jackson said, noting that most of the fluids on the market are not labeled as harmful. Given typical serving sizes, it would be very difficult to incorporate a dangerous amount of windshield-wiper fluid into soup, Jackson said.

“If just eaten or drunk and the person doesn’t vomit or inhale, I wouldn’t have thought it would do very much harm,” Jackson said. “In all probability, it would be unlikely that there would be any severe effects,” he said, adding that he needed more information on chemical composition and the dosage size administered to determine if side effects could have occurred.

Cox did not enter a plea Wednesday and was released on bail pending a Jan. 20 hearing.