Stalked by fear

March 12, 1999

Gillian Hartshorne was "a secretary from hell", David Canter told Liverpool Crown Court last month. She made more than 500 abusive telephone calls to him and more than a dozen to PhD student Samantha Hodge. Hartshorne wept as recordings of the calls were played to the court.

"I felt very distressed and on occasions very fearful that she would follow through with the various threats that are contained within those calls," Canter told the court. "There are threats to take her own life. She seems to be implying she is going to get at me, attack me in some way."

Hartshorne, a divorcee with three children, joined Liverpool University's Centre for Investigative Psychology in September 1996 on a 12-month contract. After six months she began badgering Canter, director of the centre, about renewing it, saying that without the job her life was not worth living.

She falsely accused him of having an affair with Hodge, a graduate research student, whom she believed was being groomed to replace her. In one message, left on his answering machine at home, she asked: "Why didn't you tell your wife how good she is in bed?" In a call to Hodge at her mother's home, she said: "Why do think you can steal someone else's husband and get away with it and make him happy? OK, what's with sexual favours in return for a job with a monetary rise? What would you call it? I would call it prostitution."

She told Hodge: "I lost my husband because of someone like you," and warned, "I'm going to get you." Hodge told the Liverpool jury she took to locking herself in her office, fearing that the secretary would turn violent.

Hartshorne, who believed Canter was plotting to remove her from her post, left one message threatening to murder "all of you". But she told the court she felt more violent towards herself. "I had nothing and he mentally tortured me with the way he treated me. He is a very ruthless manI despicable and evil."

Hartshorne was moved to another department and dismissed in summer 1997, but in August police spoke to her about continuing harassment. She denied two charges of causing fear of violence to Canter and harassment of Hodge, but was found guilty early this month. She will be sentenced later this month.

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