A man who stalked a BBC presenter with letters in which he threatened to rape her has been jailed.
Gordon Hawthorn, 69, of Street, Somerset, sent the threats to Points West’s Alex Lovell over six years.
Ms Lovell started suffering panic attacks as a result of the threats, which included claims he was watching her closely enough “to smell her hair”.
At Bristol Crown Court the judge, Martin Picton, said Hawthorn left Ms Lovell “frightened and miserable”.
Ms Lovell began receiving Hawthorn’s cards at the BBC’s regional centre on Whiteladies Road, Bristol, in 2012.
Hawthorn – who was jailed for two and a half years – had previously pleaded guilty at the city’s magistrates’ court to one count of stalking involving serious alarm or distress.
He sent the presenter letters for more than six years but they became more threatening between January 2016 and March 2018, police said.
His conduct “amounted to stalking and caused Ms Lovell serious alarm or distress, which had an adverse effect on her usual day-to-day activities”, the charge stated.
Reacting to the sentence, the 45-year-old said she welcomed the “strong message” sent out by the courts and that “justice has been done”.
‘Cards just filthy’
“I am really pleased that it is over but also that it sends a strong message that it’s not OK and that anyone reporting being frightened in this way is going to be taken seriously,” she added.
Ms Lovell said she had suffered panic attacks and at times had been “convinced he was near”.
“He said… that he was watching, that he was close enough to smell my hair.”
“There were four years of cards that were just filthy, and then suddenly there were two years of threats that got progressively worse.”
She added notes were “really terrifying”… and they stated “that he was strong enough to have raped several times before.”
Hawthorn was caught following a police appeal, which led to a member of the public telling officers she had received a similar card.
During his police interview Hawthorn was read a number of the messages he sent her.
One card, with a rabbit on the front, said he “only rapes blondes” and asked: “How does it feel… to now learn that your stalker has already raped six women.”
It was signed: “From your stalker and soon to be your rapist.”
Judge Picton said Hawthorn chose to send “disgusting frightening letters” to the presenter.
“The letters you sent caused distress and fear. She knew the author of those letters was watching.
“When out and about she couldn’t be sure you wouldn’t be watching for her.”
Det Ch Insp Simon Brickwood from Avon and Somerset Police said Hawthorn was “paying the price for his cruel campaign of harassment”.
“This case highlights the fact that stalking doesn’t have to be physically watching or following someone.”
He praised Ms Lovell for her “bravery in speaking out about her distressing ordeal to encourage other victims of stalking and harassment to seek help and report offences”.