'I don't think they realise how dangerous these people are... I think they think the person being stalked is just over-reacting'.
OBSESSIVE, possessive and unwilling to change their behaviour, these are the sinister stalkers who made life hell for their victims.
The number of stalking of offences recorded by police in the North East soared dramatically last year, with a staggering 967 crimes coming to our regions forces in 2017/18.
Many campaigners have welcomed the increase, saying it shows police forces are improving their responses to this potentially dangerous crime.
However, despite the fact that stalking carries a maximum sentence of 10 years behind bars, an alarming number of the stalkers to come before courts in the North East walk free.
Today the mum of murdered Alice Ruggles, who was killed by her obsessive ex in Gateshead, has told of her fears that the justice system is failing to recognise just how much danger stalking victims could be in. And the 58-year-old said in many instances judges do not appear to be treating the offence as seriously as other crimes.
Sue said: "I don't think the seriousness of it has got up to the judiciary yet. "I think they are thinking, 'he doesn't mean any harm' - I don't think they realise how dangerous these people are. I think they think the person being stalked is just over-reacting.
"If you are being stalked the impact on your mental health is so bad you end up looking like the weak one, and it can seem like you are an unreliable and hysterical and silly.
"But how many people have died as a result of stalking?" Northumbria University graduate Alice was murdered by her Trimaan Dhillon on October 12, 2016.
The former soldier had launched a campaign of frightening stalking and harassment after their brief relationship ended, before cutting the 24-yearold's throat at her flat on Rawling Road in Bensham, Gateshead.
Dhillon, whose regiment is based in Edinburgh, was found guilty of murder and jailed for life.
Following her death Alice's family launched the Alice Ruggles Trust, which aims to raise awareness of coercive control and stalking and improve the responses of police and other agencies.
And while Sue believes police officers are getting better at dealing with reports of stalking and supporting victims, the court system still has a lot of catching-up to do.
She said: "It's brilliant that the police have made all these changes, but they are not going to carry on doing that if every time someone goes to court they are going to get let off.
In sentencing Throckley stalker Scott Hulse, a judge said he was giving the 'control freak' a suspended sentence because he had clearly 'learnt a lesson' while on remand.
And Sue fears this comment suggests stalker are perhaps being given different treatment to the perpetrators of other criminal offences.
She added: "You wouldn't say that about any other crime."
JEFFERSON YOUNG NEWCASTLE University student Jefferson Young was banned from contacting his ex-girlfriend after bombarding her with twisted messages when their relationship hit the rocks.
The 21-year-old, of Jesmond Road, Newcastle, met his girlfriend during their first year at university and had an on-off relationship with her for several months.
But, when things turned sour, the chemistry student began to plague her with twisted messages, emails and voicemails in a bid to manipulate her into getting back with him, South East Northumberland Magistrates' Court heard.
Then in a fit of jealousy January 2018 - during a period the pair were separated - he sent a private video of his victim to her new boyfriend to humiliate her.
Young, originally from Lincolnshire, admitted stalking between May and August 2018 as well as disclosing private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress.
He was given a 12-month community order with rehabilitation and unpaid work, and ordered to pay costs of PS85 and a victim surcharge of PS85.
A restraining order banning him from contacting his ex or going to the area she lives in was also made.
SCOTT HULSE CONTROL-freak Scott Hulse left his ex afraid to leave the house after he started stalking her when she dumped him.
The 21-year-old had already stopped her going out and checked her phone messages during the relationship. But when he cheated on her three weeks after she gave birth to his child, the woman attempted to kick him out.
Hulse, however did not get the message and continued to harass and stalk the woman, leaving her petrified.
Hulse, of Hallow Drive, Throckley, Newcastle, pleaded guilty to coercive and controlling behaviour and two counts of stalking, at Newcastle Crown Court.
He could have faced years behind bars, but Judge Robert Adams said the month he had spent locked up on remand was enough to teach him a lesson and instead gave him a suspended sentence.
The judge told Hulse: "Undoubtedly, you caused her emotional harm because of the sustained and significant period over which you reduced her self-confidence by your actions. My intention was to send you to custody. However you have been in custody for a month and it's clear you have learnt a lesson and I hope you are capable of changing your ways."
Elaine Langshaw, chief executive of domestic violence charity Newcastle Women's Aid said Alice's murder showed just how serious the consequences of stalking can be, and urged the courts to use their full powers to keep victims safe.
"Lessons learned from the tragic case of Alice highlighted how 'stalking behaviours' led to homicide," she said.
"We can't accept excuses for domestic abuse such as mental health and addiction etc. These are not the reasons it happens and victims' safety needs to be priority."
MARC LIGHTFOOT OBSESSED marketing manager Marc Lightfoot left his ex living in fear by subjecting her to a campaign of stalking during which he kept turning up at her home and used various aliases to follow her online.
Lightfoot met a woman while they were working together at a bingo hall, but when the relationship turned sour, he found it hard to accept and wouldn't leave her alone. Newcastle Crown Court heard how the 34-year-old, of Renforth Close in Gateshead, bothered his victim so much in the workplace he was sacked, before repeatedly going to her home in Jesmond, and setting up fake social media accounts in order to contact and follow her. On one day he was seen approaching her flat 10 times between 3pm and 11.10pm. The next day he was arrested on suspicion of stalking and when his mobile phone was seized it was found to contain numerous different profiles using various aliases on social media.
Lightfoot was given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to do unpaid work after he admitted two offences of stalking involving serious alarm or distress.
Judge Jeremy Freedman, at Newcastle Crown Court, said Lightfoot was "truly full of remorse and contrition" but added: "Whatever temptation may befall you in future, I trust you understand you can't treat people in the way you have."
PAUL HEPPLE WHEN Paul Hepple's 26-year relationship with his childhood sweetheart came to an end he refused to move on, relentlessly pestering and tormenting her.
He was convicted of harassing her in March 2017 and given a restraining order which was supposed to protect her from him.
But Hepple ignored it and, despite breaching the order on a number of occasions, he was never locked up for it.
Finally in December 2018 he admitted three further breaches of the order and pleaded guilty to stalking his victim between August and September last year.
Hepple, of Osman Close, Sunderland, was jailed for 44 weeks.
MICHAEL MCLAUGHLIN SERIAL stalker Michael McLaughlin was jailed after subjecting his ex to a terrifying campaign of harassment.
The boyfriend from hell had already subjected a number of former partners to shameful behaviour in a series of offences over the past few years.
His most recent victim was bombarded with messages and unwanted calls, and McLaughlin even he turned up at her home honking his horn for 10 minutes and made threats to kill her and post explicit images of her online.
During the month-long stalking campaign, he also chillingly warned he was "prepared to do life" if she didn't contact him, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
In April 2018 McLaughlin, 28, of Stanley Street, Wallsend, was jailed for 16 months after he pleaded guilty to stalking.
| Alice Ruggles, above, was murdered by her Trimaan Dhillon, below. Left, mum Sue Hills