SINGAPORE, Nov 27 — They had been acquaintances back in secondary school since 2009, but in 2013, the young woman suddenly stopped contacting her former schoolmate because her boyfriend at the time disapproved of it.
A year later, when the woman and her ex-schoolmate were in the same university, the ex-schoolmate remembered how he was told by her that they should stop being friends, but he still wanted to try to get close to her again.
When he did not get what he wanted, he began stalking her, including hacking into her email, social media and school accounts, as well as filming up her skirt close to 100 times.
Calling it “one of the worst cases of stalking the courts have ever seen” and a “vicious smear campaign”, District Judge Mathew Joseph yesterday sentenced the 25-year-old man to 10 months’ jail.
The man will be appealing against his sentence.
In June, he admitted to one count of stealing her mobile phone, and another count of unlawfully stalking the woman over a three-month period. Another six counts of other offences were taken into account during sentencing.
Both he and the woman cannot be named to protect the victim’s identity.
The court heard that the former schoolmates were enrolled in a university here in 2014 and were in a statistics class together.
The man remembered how she broke off contact with him the year before, and developed a “hatred” for her. At the same time, he still wanted to know more about her.
Deputy public prosecutor Nicholas Khoo said: “He started to take upskirt videos of (her) because he ‘wished to get something which (he) long ago wanted, which is to understand more about her private life’.”
Some time in January 2015, he joined the same co-curricular activity (CCA) as her to get to know her better.
In February, he tried to date her, but they had not many chances to go out together, so he took more upskirt shots of her without her knowledge.
The next month, the two of them had an argument over him asking to hitch a ride with her father who was fetching her from campus.
Upset over this, the man stole her iPhone a few days later when they were with their CCA group at an outing.
Unlocking her phone
That same night of the outing, the man sent her a message on Facebook to tell her that someone might have found the phone, but needed her passcode to verify.
Believing his story, she gave him the passcode, but he then lied that the passcode was incorrect and it was not her phone that had been found.
With the unlocked phone in his hands, he went through all the contents — starting with her photographs.
He extracted the passwords of her emails, social media and student accounts, as well as her photos and chat history before discarding the phone.
Then he changed her passwords for some of those accounts, and even created a fake Instagram account with her name.
While going through her text messages, he saw that she had told her sister that he was of “low EQ” after he asked for a ride from her father.
Angered by this, he logged into her university student account and de-registered her from two courses on or around March 8, 2015.
He did this to elicit a response from her and to get back at her, the court heard.
A day after he did that, she made a report with the university, stating that her account had been hacked.
On March 11, 2015, he wrote to the university claiming he had the same problem, that his account was hacked.
Through the university’s investigations, it was found that the IP address which accessed one of the victim’s accounts matched one previously tagged to his student’s account.
Kept up lies
On March 23, the university confronted him with the evidence, but he denied it.
After that, he concocted lie after lie — to the young woman, to the university, and even to the police — as they questioned him about the evidence.
The police later raided his home and found his laptop and mobile phone.
They uncovered one upskirt video of the victim, and other personal photographs belonging to her.
Still, he denied any wrongdoing.
Further investigations revealed that he possessed 94 upskirt videos of the young woman between January and March that year — 53 of which were successfully taken.
Khoo urged the court to impose a 10-month jail sentence, calling the man a “vengeful adult offender” who “systematically conducted a series of unprovoked attacks” against his victim.
There was “constant escalation” of his behaviour, Khoo added, with the number of upskirt videos of her increasing month after month.
He disagreed with defence lawyer Raphael Louis’ call for probation, noting that the man’s actions had caused “tangible harm” to the young woman, who felt “traumatised fear and violated” from the offences.
District Judge Joseph, in delivering his sentencing remarks to the man, said: “The sheer persistence and audacity of your actions are quite breathtaking.”
He added: “In the digital age while (technology) can be used for good, you have turned it into a weapon to terrorise her.”
The judge stressed that a “clear and resounding signal” needs to be sent out — not only to him, but to others: “If you turn it into a weapon, you will feel the sting of the law.”
The man is out on bail of S$10,000 (RM30,494), while appeal proceedings are ongoing.
For stalking, he could have been jailed up to 12 months, and/or fined up to S$5,000. — TODAY