‘Sinister’ man behind Spotted Portsmouth admits stalking woman for six months

Paul Nelson outside Portsmouth Crown Court at an earlier hearing
Paul Nelson outside Portsmouth Crown Court at an earlier hearing
Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Michael Lane

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THE ‘sinister’ man behind the Spotted Portsmouth Facebook page stalked a woman for six months forcing her to consider fleeing the city, a court heard.

Paul Nelson, 46, hacked the woman’s email and social media accounts, tracked taxis she took and tagged her on Instagram in a ‘macabre’ photo of a knife block in the shape of a person.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard Nelson, of Western Parade, Southsea, was rebuffed by the victim after asking her out in 2015 - sparking months of distressing stalking.

Prosecutor Henry Gordon told how Nelson - branded a ‘determined’ stalker by a judge - loitered near her home ‘staring at her’, put up posters near her home calling her a ‘grass’ and shouted at her in the street.

Nelson, who runs Spotted Portsmouth on Facebook, also put up stickers advertising the page on lampposts near her home in Stanley Street, Southsea.

This morning the court heard how he tracked her life by searching her email account, turning up at the Mountbatten Centre, in Stamshaw, when she was giving blood on June 8, 2016, after reading her appointment confirmation.

Nelson – who has a previous conviction for harassment in 2014 – was able to know where the victim would be in the city after he read emails from taxi firm Uber confirming pick-up times, Mr Gordon said.

Experts uncovered huge amounts of data about the victim - including private Facebook and Google chat logs - had been downloaded on to Nelson’s laptop when it was seized by police during his arrest on August 3, 2016.

Nelson was tracked by his IP address after he hacked the 31-year-old victim’s Gmail account on May 22, 2016.

Despite her resetting the password Nelson was able to keep access to it for months, even reading correspondence between the victim and police about the case.

The prosecutor told how Nelson had set up a back-up account he controlled that would give him access when she changed the password.

Today Nelson appeared in the dock due to stand trial but at the last minute admitted stalking causing alarm or distress between January 18, 2016, and July 30 of the same year.

In a statement, the victim said: ‘I fear that Paul Nelson is the type of person to harbour a grudge and think that the anxiety he has caused me will never fully go away.’

She added: ‘I would quite often break down in tears, I didn’t think he would ever leave me alone.

‘I considered leaving my friends and my job and moving to another city.’

Mr Gordon told how the victim set up a new Instagram account on June 16 after Nelson hacked it.

Just two days later on June 18 Nelson tagged her in a post.

‘She was tagged in a photo that the defendant himself had posted,’ Mr Gordon said.

‘A knife block in the shape of a person with kitchen knives sticking through the block.’

He added: ‘He had made the comment: “The most macabre kitchen knife set I ever did see - my neighbour’s a mental.’

Mr Gordon said he then blocked the victim from seeing his post. Mr Gordon said: ‘Having done ‘enough to get her attention, he promptly deleted the comment in which she was tagged, no doubt wanting her to receive the evidence of her harassment.’

Earlier on May 3, 2016, the victim’s Vauxhall Corsa’s windscreen was smashed just 48 hours after she got it - with her certificate of insurance later found on Nelson’s computer. He had downloaded it on May 1, the court heard.

Mr Gordon added: ‘On July 29 screws had been placed to the front and rear of her tyres so as if she moved that her car would have suffered a puncture.’

The victim’s housemate had also spotted Nelson outside the pair’s home looking ‘up to the second floor window which was the (victim’s) bedroom’ on July 8

Nelson came up to the dock from the cells today after he was arrested at 1.30am for breaching his bail by walking by the victim’s workplace in Palmerston Road and making a ‘sinister’ laugh towards her, the court heard.

He told the judge he had gone to photograph the ‘Good Vibrations’ sign put up at Castle Field over the weekend and had not intended to see the victim.

But the judge said Nelson made a ‘sinister laugh in which he leant towards her,’ adding: ‘It was deliberate laughter in her face.’

The defendant sighed as Mr Gordon asked for a lifetime restraining order including seizing his laptop.

Before remanding Nelson, Recorder Gordon Bebb QC said: ‘Clearly a custodial sentence is at the forefront of my mind.’

An earlier police investigation had started in 2015 after the victim rebuffed him asking her out.

The victim had to call police as she feared she was being followed, and Nelson had a ‘confrontation’ with one of the victim’s colleagues.

Nelson had sent the victim a message in 2015 about her boyfriend, saying: ‘I hope he is good for you.’

Speaking ahead of the sentencing on Friday, barrister Charlotte Hole, defending, said: ‘There were in the years and months that led to this offence a number of matters involving bereavement, loss of a home, and loss of a job which led to him drinking excessively.

‘Whilst not providing mitigation, it helps provide some explanation.

‘He’s struggling, as a result of his personal life, with matters of depression and anxiety for which he has sought some help.’

Nelson had denied breaching his bail.

He previously attempted to get the case moved to Southampton in an apparent bid to stop The News reporting on the case but this was rejected by a judge at an earlier hearing.