Stalker jailed for 'disturbing' hate campaign

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The Independent Online

An "evil" woman stalker who targeted an eminent psychiatrist and his fiancee in a "uniquely disturbing" hate campaign was jailed for nine years today.

Maria Marchese, 45, hid behind the anonymity of text messages, emails and phone calls to terrorise Dr Jan Falkowski and his lover during a four year "nightmare".

One of them warned accountant Deborah Pemberton, 35, that she would be burnt in her wedding dress, while a second suggested "dig your own grave".

Another read "your life will end, gunman paid".

The chilling threats eventually forced the couple to cancel their wedding and finally split them up.

Their tormentor was arrested, released and returned to her old ways, accusing the 45-year-old doctor of drug-raping her in his consulting rooms.

Fortunately, just before he was due to stand trial, last minute forensic evidence exonerated him and turned the police spotlight on her once again.

Passing sentence at Southwark Crown Court, Judge John Price told an impassive Marchese: "It is difficult to imagine a more serious case."

Her "uniquely disturbing" obsession caused "enormous pain and suffering".

While both had feared for their lives, Miss Pemberton, 35, was driven to the brink of suicide.

As Marchese's victims listened from the public gallery, the judge said both a psychiatrist and a senior probation officer were convinced she posed a threat to other men and was "highly likely" to re-offend.

He therefore had no hesitation in imposing a life-long restraining order, banning her from approaching either a string of yachting organisations Dr Falkowski was associated with or the hospital where he planned to work.

Marchese, from Bow, east London, who was bound over to keep the peace years earlier after stalking another couple, was convicted of three counts of harassment, making threats to kill and perverting the course of justice.

The Argentinian-born 45-year-old, wearing a black dress and shawl, stared at the judge as he explained she would have to serve four-and-a-half years for the harassment and threat to kill.

Then, in what the prosecution believes is a record for making a false rape allegation, he added a similar term for perverting the course of justice.

As she was led to the cells, both Miss Pemberton and Dr Falkowski were congratulated by friends and supporters.

Outside court, a spokeswoman for the Crown Prosecution Service said Marchese, who is planning to appeal against her conviction, was "a dangerous individual who wreaked havoc".

Welcoming the outcome, Detective Constable Malcolm Davies said: "I think the sentence was just in relation to the calculated series of acts that Miss Marchese carried out again these two people."

He said he now hoped they could rebuild their lives.

With his new girlfriend Bethan Ansell by his side, Dr Falkowski said he was: "very, very pleased with the verdict.

"This has had a catastrophic effect. It had made a substantial impact on my life over the last three to four years.

"I think my life will never quite be the same again, but now I want to put it all behind me."

Miss Pemberton, who has since moved abroad, said the verdict had provided "closure and justice" after years of pain.

"That woman changed the course of my life for ever.

"I hope that today's sentence will mean that no one else will have to go through the experience and distress that has been a major part of my life for the last four years."

During Marchese's three-week trial last year, Mark Fenhalls, prosecuting, told jurors: "This was a long and malicious campaign of harassment... what happened, you might think, was a doctor's worst nightmare."

The court heard Marchese met the psychiatrist in 2001, while he was treating her then partner. She became besotted and quickly tracked down his phone numbers.

But her "affectionate" text messages turned "aggressive", when she found he was engaged. Hundreds of abusive calls and messages followed.

She also burgled his riverboat home in Limehouse, east London and turned on the gas, risking a lethal explosion.

Eventually the couple cancelled their September 2003 wedding, but pretended to go ahead as part of an elaborate police charade to draw Marchese into the open.

She was arrested, but in a move the judge confessed "baffled" him, the CPS decided not to prosecute.

That left her free to launch what the psychiatrist told jurors was an even worse ordeal - the false allegation that he had raped her.

To back up her claims, she gave police some underwear smeared with semen taken from a condom she had found in his dustbin.

Dr Falkowski, a record-breaking powerboat racer, was arrested, charged with the attack and then suffered under the shadow of suspicion for 18 months.

Fortunately, forensic tests ordered by Dr Falkowski's defence team found DNA traces from Miss Ansell, who he did not meet until a year after the alleged rape.

A "very relieved" Dr Falkowski, whose ordeal is to be the subject of a television drama, is now looking forward to a skiing holiday with Miss Ansell before he starts his new job at Mile End Hospital, east London.