A man who sent a barrage of “disgusting and frightening” greetings cards threatening to rape a BBC regional news presenter has been jailed for two years and six months. Gordon Hawthorn, 69, previously admitted one charge of stalking involving serious alarm or distress to Alex Lovell, who works for BBC Points West.
Bristol Crown Court heard Hawthorn, of Street, Somerset, bombarded Ms Lovell with dozens of greetings cards – signed with a distinctive set of Xs – from 2012.
In January 2016, Hawthorn wrote that his New Year’s resolution was to have sex with the presenter – with or without her consent.
He initially wrote the name ‘Gordon’ at the end of the cards but signed them “your stalker” and “your soon to be rapist” as they became more sinister.
Judge Martin Picton jailed Hawthorn for two years and six months and imposed an indefinite restraining order, banning him from contacting Ms Lovell or going to the BBC’s regional centre on Whiteladies Road in Bristol.
“People in the public eye are entitled to the same respect and privacy as everyone else in society,” the judge told Hawthorn.
“The fact that someone has a high profile does not mean that it can be open season for people such as yourself.
“You need to understand, as does the public in general, that serious consequences result from appalling behaviour of that kind that features in this case.”
The judge told Hawthorn that his cards, sent to the BBC on Whiteladies Road, caused Ms Lovell both distress and fear.
“For two years she could never be sure that she was safe,” the judge told Hawthorn.
“Ms Lovell would have an awareness, whenever she was on screen, that the author of those letters was watching and thinking the kind of thoughts that you expressed in your messages to her.
“When out and about she could never be sure that the author of the cards was not spying on her or posing a threat to her safety.
“What you threatened to do to her was designed to and did cause her to feel disgusted, frightened and miserable.”
Ms Lovell contacted Avon and Somerset Police in January 2016, following the threat to rape her in a New Year card.
The card, received on Janaury 12, read: “Make no mistake Alex that I am going to have sex with you this year, even if it means I have to rape you.”
After reporting the matter, Ms Lovell received further cards – including dates when Hawthorn claimed he would rape her.
On November 29 in 2017, Hawthorn wrote that he had previously raped other women and kept their underwear as a trophy.
Police issued a public appeal about the cards in March 2018 and a woman came forward to say she had received one that was similar.
Hawthorn was caught after DNA tests matched with two of the cards sent to Ms Lovell.
In a victim personal statement, Ms Lovell said she felt as if she had been “punched in the stomach” when she received the first rape threat.
She experienced panic attacks due to the stress caused by Hawthorn’s cards and used an app called HollieGuard, developed by the Hollie Gazzard Trust, for safety.
Miss Gazzard, 20, was murdered by her ex-partner in the hairdressers where she worked in Gloucester in 2014.
Following his arrest, Hawthorn told police he would never have acted on the threats he made to Ms Lovell.
Avon and Somerset Police released audio recordings in which the stalker said he was “disgusted” with his actions but laughed after saying he would have carried on had he not been caught.
Asked why the language he used in his cards got darker over time, Hawthorn said: “I don’t really know, its just the way it sort of progresses.
“I said such and such last time, what can I say next time to maybe make it a bit more…? That’s it really.”
He said he was aware the cards would upset Ms Lovell but added: “The thing about stalking … I never followed her at all.”
Asked how he felt after being caught, Hawthorn said: “Disgusted with what I’ve done. Like I say it’s really an obsession and pure fantasy on my part.”
Hawthorn also admitted he would have carried on sending rape threats to the presenter had he not been arrested by police, saying: “I would have sent her a birthday card at the end of this month (laughs). I probably would.
“Like I said I got an obsession for her but a harmless obsession. Not harmless but there’s no way I would do anything
Officers praised Ms Lovell’s bravery and said it had taken courage to report the cards.
Ms Lovell hosted Brainteaser on Channel Five in 2002 after working on a live shopping channel.
She has been presenting on BBC Points West since 2005.