Stalker is jailed for terrifying obsession

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The Independent Online

Crime Correspondent

A Falklands war veteran, whostalked a woman with whom he became obsessed, was jailed for three years yesterday for the psychological harm he caused.

Anthony Burstow, 36, a former Royal Navy petty officer, terrified Tracey Sant, 28, by sending her a soiled sanitary towel in the post, stealing her underwear from a washing line and writing sinister notes. One was signed "666" - the mark of the devil - Reading Crown Court was told.

Burstow, of no fixed abode, admitted a charge of "grievous bodily harm". The prosecution argued that Burstow's harassment caused "psychological" damage to his victim. Judge Josh Lait said he subjected Ms Sant to a "prolonged mental ordeal" and "sought to control her whole life".

The case comes at a time of growing concern about the activities of stalkers whose victims face persistent harassment. Under existing laws, stalking is not a crime. Only the ensuing actions, such as threatening, abusive, or insulting behaviour that enable police to act.

Paul Reid, prosecuting, told the court yesterday that Ms Sant and Burstow, both of whom were married at the time, struck up a friendship in the summer of 1992 while she was a civil servant in Gosport, Hants. The relationship ended in August 1992 because Ms Sant felt Burstow was becoming too involved. This started his obsession.

In January 1993, Burstow was bound over to keep the peace for two years after making nuisance phone calls and following Ms Sant in his car. In September 1993, he was jailed for three months for damaging her car. In March 1994, he was jailed for 18 months for burgling her home and taking underwear.

Ms Sant moved to live with her parents in Crowthorne, Berks, but Burstow sent disturbing packages, including the sanitary towel, made more offensive phone calls and scattered condoms in the garden. Police arrested him on 12 July last year as he lay in wait for her.

Ms Sant suffered from severe depression, panic attacks and sleeping difficulties, brought on by Burstow's psychological warfare.

It was one of a handful of cases where the psychological effects of stalking have been used to prosecute.