A charismatic, green-eyed brunette sits in the middle the luxuriously furnished living room. She has enviable features and is charming. She has a large bottle of Gin and Tonic in her left hand, and a small cigarette in her right.

In front of her sit six women — young, successful, well-connected — who are all utterly enraptured. They’ve had this soiree in their diary for months.

As for me, I’ve carefully stowed the women’s designer handbags and hung up their expensive coats. When the brunette looks at me, she quickly refills her water bottle just as she wants it.

Other women don’t pay any attention to me except for holding their glasses.

Do I look like a hired hand? You’d be forgiven for thinking so. But the women gathered here are actually my friends and colleagues — and they are sitting in my £750,000 home in London’s affluent Kew Gardens.

Looking back at how she inveigled her way into every corner of my life; how she made me subservient in my own home; how she gradually, insidiously, turned me into her personal piggy bank, paying for everything from her cigarettes to her Botox injections, I cringe

I find it hard to look back on how she perverted every corner of me; how she subserviently made me in my home; and how slowly, insidiously she turned me into her piggy bank paying everything, from her cigarettes, to her Botox injections.

The woman who seduced my friends was not a life coach or motivational speaker, but was a psychic. I fell under her spell during my first 30 years, as I was at my peak career as executive producer of major television networks.

I find it hard to believe that she was able to infiltrate every aspect of my life, how she subserviently made me in my home, and how slowly, but surely, she turned me into her private piggy bank paying everything, from her cigarettes, to Botox injections.

I thought I’d buried this mortifying period of my life. It was almost as if I had been resurrected by the Apple TV True-Life Series The Shrink Next Door.

The series stars Will Ferrell as the neurotic Marty Markowitz and Paul Rudd as his charismatic therapist, Dr Isaac Herschkopf, who, under the guise of rebuilding his client’s self-esteem, charmed his way into every aspect of his world.

Herschkopf eventually moved into his client’s mansion, isolated Markowitz from his loved ones and went through millions of his money. I felt that this manipulation was very familiar.

You’re no doubt wondering how I could have been so stupid. But with the benefit of hindsight, I can see how this woman targeted me — and others like me — with an almost surgical precision. It could have happened to you if it did to me.

The psychic exploited my weaknesses so thoroughly — most of all that I had made a success of my life, despite being from a thoroughly ordinary background.

It might seem strange that a professional’s success could be mistaken for weakness.

Because I had to move from the Midlands where my family was working class to London, in my 20s, my career choice became more difficult because there wasn’t any financial security net. Although I loved my job, it was very competitive and contracts were only short-term.

At best, friendships were superficial. You watched your back and you certainly didn’t share confidences with anyone. It’s no wonder that my insecurity haunted.

In my 30s I owned a charming cottage with three bedrooms near Kew Gardens’ Thames, as well as a Mercedes soft-top from the 1930s and an enormous dressing room full of beautiful clothes.

However, my emotional state was in crisis. I had recently divorced and without any children to keep my mind occupied, I was scared about my future and felt as though I’d been cast adrift. Where was I now?

My family were far away, and I’d yet to tell them about my divorce because they hadn’t supported me in my choice of husband.

Because I couldn’t have shared my vulnerabilities with coworkers or girlfriends, there was nobody else with whom to share a heart to hear. I didn’t want to shatter my carefully crafted strong image.

This bravado meant that I was open to being exploited.

When a professional associate suggested I meet her psychic friend, I agreed — because, in truth, I was anxious about what my future held, and thought it might help me.

Friendships were superficial at best. You watched your back and you certainly didn¿t share confidences with anyone. Little wonder my insecurities haunted me (File image)

At best, friendships were superficial. You watched your back and you certainly didn’t share confidences with anyone. My insecurities haunted my soul (File Image).

My colleague was no fool — she held a well-paid corporate position in publishing. Now I realise this kind of word-of-mouth recommendation among professional women — and it is normally women who seek them — is how these expensive psychics build their client base.

More than this, the psychic — a decade or so older than me — presented herself as a ‘big sister’ figure, appealing to my need for female companionship.

I’m sure if she were a woman, I wouldn’t have given so much away too quickly. Because she was a girl, however, I lost my guard. Soon, she became my dear friend.

Our first meeting was for a drink in my private members’ club in Central London. There, my friend explained how the psychic ‘reads’ your soul using ‘spirit guides’.

Sometimes I wonder if she knew that I was divorcing or that I had done extensive research on my life before we met. Even if she hadn’t, I suspect I was a bit of an open book.

She stared at me intently, holding my gaze with her penetrating green eyes, before beginning to reveal — or so it seemed to me — a series of insights about my psyche.

She was aware that I was suffering. She knew I had lost a love, but assured me he wasn’t right for me, that there was someone better out there. My career would continue to grow, she predicted.

It didn’t occur to me to question the accuracy of anything she said, nor did I wonder about placing my delicate emotions in the hands of a woman employed in a sector that has zero regulation. Her words were the balm I needed, the chink of hope I’d desperately been searching for.

I felt my bruised self well-rested, so it was natural that we exchanged phone numbers. And for me to suggest meeting again.

A pattern began to emerge over the next months. Whenever she was coming to London, she’d call a couple of days beforehand, ostensibly asking if I wanted to catch up. Each time she would throw little titbits into the conversation about something that ‘might’ happen for me.

These were exciting nuggets like a successful meeting or unexpected offers to travel to New York to work. Her best evidence was the smallest chance that proved she was correct each time.

Soon, the calls began to arrive on a daily base. They briefly checked that I was well before asking me for my help with her clients.

While I’d paid somewhere in the region of £100 for my initial reading, after a couple of occasions she’d stopped charging me. There were times I’d have to press the notes into her hand.

This was probably a smart change of tactics. After all, how could I think she was on the make if she wasn’t officially charging me?

She made money other than television. Thanks to my introductions, her black book was filled with impressive names, such as television executives and presenters.

She’d call to give me the lowdown on what they were like, what kind of homes they lived in, and was funny — and brutal — about the kinds of things they confided in her.

She made me feel special and like a friend through her confidence. She was likely sharing her observations of me with other people, which I didn’t realize.

It was then that the phone rang and she asked if she could stay with me. She was seeing a client late — unavoidable, apparently — and would miss her last train home.

She would have known I wasn’t going to say no, or ask why she couldn’t stay in a hotel. It was her who had taught me and helped me see that she was a friend. She would tell me often how great a friend I was. Over the space of a few months, that one night turned into another and another — and before I knew it, every time she was in London she would automatically assume she could use the spare bedroom in my home.

Soon, she was asking for alcohol and cigarettes. She’d never ask outright. Rather, she’d ‘forget’ to buy any cigarettes or ask if I’d mind getting in some gin, because she couldn’t drink my preferred Pinot Grigio.

She has never baked, bought groceries or used her money to buy anything. We’d eat out and yours truly would end up footing the bill.

By now, she’d been in my life for six months, and I had easily spent thousands on her.

Why couldn’t she ever pay? It was explained to me that there were relatives to help, and I saw a few people with disabilities or illnesses. On another occasion she ‘confessed’ her love life was non-existent, too. It worked if her goal was to make me feel bad for her. Is there any proof she provided? It is not. At that time, I trusted people’s word. Why would she lie?

My friends were queuing up to meet her, which only served to confirm my belief in her skills. She charged everyone £100 a pop for the privilege.

She was waiting for me at the door, and my friends were also there. She charged everyone £100 a pop for the privilege.

As she spent more time among the famous clientele I had provided, she would tell me about the tweakments they’d had to turn back the clock. She also needed Botox and fillers to fit in.

Then, the question was: Could I lend her the money to purchase it?

You might be the one who saw these warning signs. But I naively agreed not only to foot the bill — a good few hundred pounds — but to take her to the clinic.

I was surrounded by friends who were eager to get to know her. This only reinforced my belief in her ability. She charged everyone £100 a pop for the privilege.

I continued to be a taxi driver and paid her for meals and drinks. She didn’t even have to make her bed — I’d make sure my cleaner tidied her room.

Soon my friends started to stop by my place not just to meet me but also her. I was no longer a bystander in my life. It was rock bottom.

My suspicions of her intentions started when she was talking about her unhappy love life to a friend. After my friend turned around, I saw the psychic start to roll her eyes. Surely she wasn’t some play-actor trotting out one line after another?

The veil was lifted after a couple of months. Through some internet research, she actually was quite well-off, despite her portrayal of herself as a poor businesswoman.

Finally, the scales fell from my eyes and I was able to cut all ties instantly. It was clear to me that she wouldn’t be coming back into my spare room if I let her take even one inch. My life was going to be a new beginning without her.

I was shocked to learn that she had cost me thousands and I wouldn’t see her again.

While I requested reimbursement for cosmetic changes, it was denied. I looked at small claims court to see if that would work. An internet search showed that she did not have any assets.

Everything — her house, her car, her business — was in a family member’s name. My only option was to stop losing. Today, if I’m feeling vulnerable I’ll accept that life isn’t all love and light and it will pass. I’m no longer waiting for someone to come along with the magic solution to all my problems.

I’m also now very careful about who I welcome into my home and my affections. I’ve learned the hard way not to make anyone greater than me in my life.

Many people who read it may think I am a fool and that they wouldn’t fall for this.

But to those who think my experience is unique, I would say this: you’d be surprised by just how many others have been through a similar ordeal and fallen prey to women like her. And trust me, we’re none of us fools. 

Did you fall for this trick? Email your story to femailreaders@dailymail.co.uk