Police Officer jailed for virtual reality stalking - Harpenden

16/03/2017

A British Transport Police Officer was jailed for 18 months today, Thursday, 16 March 2017, for a virtual reality stalking campaign against his partner in an attempt to make her feel jealous.

Steven Campbell, aged 28, created a fake former girlfriend and set about the worst form of psychological, controlling, abuse that the sentencing Judge said he had come across.

Campbell, from Harpenden, Herts, sent emails and Facebook messages purporting to be from 'Nicola Cole' both to himself and to his partner. He built up the image of her whilst belittling his partner and destroying her self-confidence, St Albans Crown Court heard.

The stalking began with a request by 'Nicola' to go for coffee with Campbell, and went on to the personal abuse of the victim, the sending of pornographic images to her and sinister photographs of her home.

Prosecutor Andrew Howarth said the abuse began in October 2014 when Campbell showed his victim an email from 'Nicola' in which she said she wanted to meet for coffee. He replied he could not see her because he was in a relationship. Further messages to the victim and Campbell followed. Campbell showed the messages to the victim, who contacted 'Nicola' asking her to leave them alone.

Before Christmas 2014, 'Nicola' told the victim that she liked the wreath on her front door, but not the victim's Christmas tree. Mr Howarth said: "The woman was petrified and felt physically sick when she was sent a photograph of the wreath on the front door from Nicola."

After the victim went to the police, an officer was suspicious about the existence of 'Nicola Cole.' When he examined the image of the wreath on the front door, he noticed in the corner there was a reflection of a man in a hoodie. He was also suspicious that 'Nicola' knew both the movements of the defendant and the victim.

Campbell was arrested on 15 January 2015, and his computer was seized. He told the police that 'Nicola Cole' had studied Finance and Administration at the University of Strathclyde, but no one of that name had graduated there. There were 208 other Nicola Cole's on the electoral register who had to be traced. In all, over 200 hours of police time was wasted trying to find the fictitious 'Nicola Cole.'

After he was bailed pending further enquiries, he returned to live with the victim and continued to communicate with her via Nicola. But, on 28 March 2015, she returned early from work and found Campbell acting nervously. His laptop had been seized by the police, but he had bought a new one which he was hiding under the bed.

Computer experts found that he had been operating 'Nicola's' Facebook and email accounts through TOR and Proxy Servers. Pornographic images sent to the victim were also recovered from the laptop.

The police also found two other former girlfriends of Campbell in Scotland, who had received messages from a woman called 'Megan,' who claimed to be his "ex" and who "stirred up trouble.

Campbell, of Northfield Road, Harpenden, pleaded guilty to aggravated stalking. The court was told he had resigned from the police.

Defending, Nick De Freitas asked for credit for Campbell's guilty plea. He said: "He was off sick during this period of offending. He was on anti-depressants and was in a very low place. It started because he wanted to make his girlfriend jealous. He wanted her to know how good he was. To say it spiralled out of control is an understatement. He has no previous convictions. As an ex police officer he has concerns about going to prison. He is not the same person today as he was then. He has undergone cognitive behavioural therapy from his GP."

Jailing Campbell, Judge Jonathan Carroll told him: "You engaged in the most malicious, nasty, manipulative form of controlling psychological abuse that I have come across. You created a fictitious ex-girlfriend and sent messages in that name over Facebook and email to you and your victim. She thought was in a trusting and loving relationship. It was a gross, extended breach of trust."

In addition to the custodial sentence, the Judge made an indefinite restraining order banning Campbell from contacting the victim.

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