Insta stalker left victim so terrified she slept with baseball bat next to bed
A victim of a 'relentless' social media stalker has said he made her life 'hell for three years' before he was eventually caught.
In a terrifying decade-long spree, serial 'catfish' Matthew Hardy, 30, used hundreds of fake social media profiles to stalk numerous victims who lived in 'constant fear'.
Hardy, who was jailed for nine years on stalking charges, employed layers of deception to get close to people.
Chester Crown Court yesterday (January 26) heard how he would sometimes pose as friends and family members of the victims he stalked in order to gather information about them that would cause embarrassment.
After gaining the trust of his victims, he would send them vindictive messages that he knew were a lie – causing his victims upset and distress.
One victim told the BBC that Hardy ruined her life for three years after targeting her on Instagram.
"People think it's only just a few messages, but it is not… it is hell," 23-year-old Lia told the broadcaster. "He does not stop. If you don't reply, he will inundate you. If you block the account, he just makes another one. People say just block it out but you can't as he does not let you."
Hardy also sent flirty messages to some of her father's friends, masquerading as her, and contacted her neighbours, inviting them round to her house for tea reports the Manchester Evening News.
Hardy also stalked a 42-year old probation officer named Jill who was initially worried she was being followed by someone from her work and reported the messages to the police.
Jill said that the worst part of the ordeal was not knowing the motive of the stalker and she was so terrified that she slept with a baseball bat next to her bed.
She feared that the catfish would come to her house and would keep one hand on her phone and another on the baseball bat.
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Hardy, of Forest Place, Northwich, had earlier pleaded guilty to three counts of stalking with intent to cause alarm or distress, two counts of stalking without intent to cause alarm and breaching a restraining order from 2013, which banned him from using false details on social networking sites.
He also admitted stalking a further four women, which were taken into consideration upon sentencing.
Following the sentencing, Police Constable Kevin Anderson from Northwich Local Policing Unit, said: "The impact on those affected by his actions has been immense, causing some of them to change some of their daily habits, and live in constant fear that they were being watched."
Anyone who believes they have been a victim should contact police on 101, or in an emergency call 999.
Alternatively, advice and support is available via the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300, or online at https://www.suzylamplugh.org/.
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