The Met's Police Central e-crime Unit (PCeU) has arrested 14 people in connection with an extraordinary phishing attack that robbed a British woman of her £1m life savings.

Many of the 12 men and 2 women detained in London and the West Midlands are accused of acting as 'mules' who helped launder the siphoned funds from the woman and other victims in return for payouts of between £9,000 to £75,000 each.

According to the PCeU, much of the stolen money was spent by the suspects in only three days during the Christmas period on "items ranging from cheeseburgers to high-end computers and even gold bars."

For a single person to be defrauded on this scale is very rare but the police said its investigation of the crime had involved a total of 150 officers in one way or another, a mark of how seriously the crime was viewed.

The victim was described as being a UK citizen living abroad who had left the country to care for an ill relative.

"Today's activity is a direct response to a sophisticated million pound phishing attack, combined with brazen money laundering, which involves a large number of suspects," said Detective Inspector Stewart Garrick of the PCeU.

"This is an example of how cybercrime creates real victims through the indiscriminate actions of the criminals involved. The victim in this case has suffered significant stress after her life savings - which she intended to use to purchase a property on her return to England - were stolen."

The number of victims involved and the full scale of the attack has not been detailed but more arrests are expected, the police said.