A Somerset man who sent greeting cards to a woman in which he used sexually explicit language and threatened to commit rape has pleaded guilty to an offence of stalking at Bristol Magistrates’ Court today.
Gordon Andrew Hawthorn, 68, from Street, sent BBC Points West presenter Alex Lovell cards over a period of more than six years but they became more graphic and threatening in nature between January 2016 and March 2018.
Hawthorn signed some of the cards ‘Gordon’ and always included a pattern of five crosses – one large X and four small Xs around it.
He was caught after the police issued a public appeal for information in March 2018 and released extracts of handwriting, including the distinctive signature.
A member of the public who’d also been sent cards saw the appeal and recognised the handwriting and cross pattern.
She contacted officers and provided vital information which directly led to Hawthorn’s arrest.
He was interviewed and later charged with one count of stalking involving serious alarm/distress – an offence under the Protection of Harassment Act 1997.
Hawthorn will be sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on January 3, 2019.
Lead officer DC Patrick Prescott said:
“This is a disturbing case in which a local TV presenter was sent a series of graphic and frightening messages contained within greeting cards over a period of several years.
“Alex’s life was directly impacted by these cards and she had grave concerns over who was responsible and whether they would carry out the threats they were making, resulting in her reporting the issue to us in early 2016.
“As part of our investigation, we worked with a criminal profiler at the National Crime Agency to examine and risk-assess the offender’s behaviour.
“We had the cards forensically examined and obtained a full DNA profile of the offender. We also carried out detailed research to examine the type of cards the offender was sending, finding out where they were produced, who stocked them and where they could have been sent from.
“The breakthrough came when we launched a nationwide media appeal in which we released images of the cards and some of the distinctive hallmarks of the offender, resulting in a member of the public calling in with crucial information.
“Gordon Hawthorn was subsequently arrested and in interview said the cards and their content stemmed from an escalating obsession. He said he would never have acted on the threats he made – but the victim could not have known this.
“I’d like to publically thank the person who contacted us with that vital information and I’d also like to praise the bravery of the victim. It took courage to report the offences to us and she’s been fully supportive of our inquiry throughout. “
Force lead for stalking and harassment DCI Simon Brickwood said:
“Stalking can include any persistent and unwanted behaviour which causes the victim anxiety, fear or distress.
“It doesn’t have to be physically watching or following someone. It can take the form of social media, texting, calling, being sent unwanted gifts, or in Alex’s case being sent cards or letters.
“This behaviour can be extremely intimidating and have a significant impact on the lives of victims. No-one should live in fear of another person.
“If you believe you’re a victim of stalking or harassment, please seek help and don’t suffer in silence.”