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Britain may grant posthumous pardon for last woman jailed for witchcraft

The government will consider whether to grant a posthumous pardon to the last woman jailed in Britain for witchcraft.

In 1944, Helen Duncan was convicted under the 1735 Witchcraft Act of pretending to raise the spirits of the dead.A court was told she claimed to have conjured up the spirit of a sailor killed on HMS Barham, a ship sunk by the Germans during World War II whose downing was then a military secret. British authorities decided to prosecute because they reportedly feared she might also reveal plans for the D-Day landings in France.

Duncan, a Scottish-born mother of six, was jailed for nine months. After her release, she returned to spiritualism, holding meetings around the country. She died at the age of 58 in 1956.

The case angered Britain's wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill, and led to the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in 1951.

Supporters have been campaigning for 50 years to clear Duncan's name.

The Home Office, which is responsible for Britain's legal system, said Home Secretary Jack Straw would consider a pardon once a formal request was made.