Stalked man sure death was coming

A Dunedin businessman who was stalked for more than two and a-half years by a government employee was convinced the man would kill him.

The 39-year-old defendant was yesterday found guilty of criminal harassment, threatening to do grievous bodily harm and intentional damage, following a week-long, judge-alone trial last month.

His name and occupation will remain suppressed at least until this morning’s sentencing in the Dunedin District Court.

The victim and his wife — whose identities are permanently suppressed — told the Otago Daily Times after Judge Paul Kellar’s verdicts yesterday they were starting to wrestle back control of their lives.

‘‘We’re still looking over our shoulder,’’ the man said.

‘‘Mentally, he has really hurt us.’’

Despite the recent trial, the victim revealed he was still receiving anonymous text messages and was informed a couple of weeks ago someone had created a fake profile on the dating app Tinder using his photo.

On December 2, 2014, the harassment reached its peak when the defendant’s messages took a violent turn.

He told the victim to ‘‘get your affairs in order’’ and advised him to ‘‘buy something bullet-proof’’.

‘‘I honestly thought that afternoon was my last day on Earth. I felt sick,’’ the victim said.

‘‘I thought ‘he’s lost the plot and he’s going to do it’.’’

The family man convinced himself he was going to be executed outside his front gate, like Scott Guy was in 2010.

‘‘Every time I drove past the letter box, I thought ‘is that where he’s going to finish me?’,’’ he said.

The saga began on June 14, 2012, when the defendant parked his car blocking the rear driveway to the victim’s business.

The company owner called the council, who promptly ticketed the vehicle, which led to a confrontation between the men.

‘‘He deliberately parked across the entranceway to [the business] the next day to make a point,’’ Judge Kellar said.

Despite the defendant claiming he had no animosity towards the victim, the judge highlighted the fact he subsequently made a complaint to police over alleged damage to his car.

‘‘From what should have been an innocuous incident about parking I am sure that [he] has engaged in a sustained period of harassment of [the victim] for . . . over two years,’’ Judge Kellar said.

It began with anonymous text messages from a range of unknown numbers.

But in February 2014, things escalated when the public servant set up a fake homosexual online dating profile using the businessman’s name and contact details from his work website.

When police raided the defendant’s house nearly two years later, forensic electronic evidence from his laptop identified him as the culprit.

It showed the man had accessed the victim’s company website an hour before a photo from it appeared on the dating site.

‘‘It is simply too much of a coincidence,’’ the judge said.

He noted much of the abuse had a distinctly homosexual theme. The victim’s contact details were written in marker pen at a gay hangout and graffiti featuring the man’s name alongside gay slurs began popping up around the city.

When police analysed the defendant’s phone, they found he had communicated with colleagues over an app during which he voiced his hatred for the victim.

hey also shared a photo of him and defaced it with drawings of penises.

A similarly defaced image was mailed to the businessman’s home in 2015.

The victim said told the ODT he had spent countless hours questioning his stalker’s motives.

‘‘I struggle to understand where he’s come from; the things he’s done, the extent he’s gone to,’’ he said.

‘‘Everything’s been premeditated. He’s thought every move out quite thoroughly and executed . . . without a trace.’’

Since the anonymous abuse began, the family had invested heavily in home security and found the harassment had gradually but totally changed the way they lived.

‘‘It’s not normal but they’re steps we had to take. You live in such a paranoid world, it almost becomes the norm. But it’s not normal,’’ the man said.

As for today’s sentencing, the victim and his wife said they were content to leave it in the hands of Judge Kellar.

After convicting the defendant yesterday the judge indicated jail was not likely, but the man was likely to spend some months attending counselling.