Jail warning for stalker who terrorised woman facing jail for terrorising

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The Independent Online
An obsessive stalker was warned by a judge yesterday that he faces a "substantial" jail sentence after being found guilty of waging a four-year campaign which left his victim in fear of her life.

Peter Smith, 51, a restaurateur of West Wickham, Kent, once sent the woman a miniature cardboard coffin and on other occasions sent her offensive presents and literature through the post. The father-of-three's relentless pursuit of the terrified woman, on no less than 300 occasions, left her emotionally scarred for life.

Her trauma was so severe it amounted to actual bodily harm, the jury at Knightsbridge Crown Court decided. But it cleared him of a more serious charge alleging grievous bodily harm as well as a second count of causing actual bodily harm relating to an allegation that he drove his car at her.

Remanding Smith in custody for social and psychiatric reports, Judge Richard Walker, said: "You face a substantial prison sentence unless it becomes apparent to me that it is appropriate that your case should be disposed of under the Mental Health Act."

He added that having seen the way he conducted himself in the witness box, it seemed there were grounds for having "concern" about his future behaviour. As a result the judge thought it would be a good idea if his eventual sentencing remarks were used for granting a "permanent injunction" banning him from ever contacting his victim again after his release.

Smith's campaign of "intimidating, calculated and cruel behaviour" started in September 1992. The 48-year-old mother of two told the jury it began with repeated calls to both her London home and office.

For a while his behaviour was little more than annoying. But things took a more serious turn when he posted her a toy-sized coffin together with a box of matches and a note which read: "Burn this, you bitch. RIP." He also started lying in wait for the woman outside her place of work. Sometimes he would content himself with a glare, but on others he would block her path and threaten her.

Throughout, he was bombarding her with letters which would one day declare his undying love, and on others refer to her in such disparaging terms.

She told the jury that by this time her nerves were so frayed she was taking medication for hypertension. "It was making me feel desperately unhappy, physically ill and emotionally shattered. I was becoming frightened of even going out of my house in the morning."

Repeated complaints to the police resulted in his being bound over by magistrates to keep the peace on no less than three occasions. But Smith, she said, was not to be deterred.

In evidence, he claimed he had believed the woman was interested in him, and said the Crown had exaggerated its case.