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Ribble Valley stalker fell for church warden
3:22pm Friday 30th August 2013 in News
A PENSIONER stalked a church warden and bombarded her with phone calls, notes, invitations to his yacht club and offers of holidays.
Colin Hodgson, 75, also sent widow Bertha Stanley unwanted gifts, visited her home and florist business uninvited and left her a note telling her he would go to the ends of the earth for her.
His campaign of harassment only ended when he placed a love note on the gravestone of Mrs Stanley’s husband on the anniversary of his death.
Hodgson pleaded guilty to stalking the 65-year-old when he appeared before Blackpool Magistrates’ Court.
Prosecutor Don Green told the hearing: “This is a lengthy case involving this man’s unrequited love which turned obsessive.”
The court was told how Hodgson would split his time between his Ribble Valley home and his boat, which was moored at a yacht club in Skippool Creek on the River Wyre.
The two met in November 2009 at St Annes Parish Church, Singleton, the village nearest to the yacht club.
Mr Green said: "She is a churchwarden and they started to chat as he sat by himself in a pew.
"Later he discovered she was a florist and found out her work phone number. He invited her to an event at his yacht club but she told him she was a widow and not interested in a relationship. She said she was flattered but did not want to go on a date."
But Hodgson started to make frequent calls to her and her staff, magistrates heard.
He invited her skiing and even sent ski boots and clothing to her home.
Hodgson referred to her as his ‘lady-friend’ and she began to get so worried she had to hide in the rear of her shop and stopped going to church.
After leaving Mrs Stanley a note saying ‘I am in love with you and would go to the ends of the Earth for you’, he began to send her bizarre gifts, including vitamins, a road sign and pottery.
Worried Mrs Stanley finally called the police, who warned Hodgson, who lives in a wooden lodge in Longsight Road, Copster Green, about his conduct and gave him an official warning.
But Hodgson continued to send notes.
Mrs Stanley again called in police when, on the anniversary of her late husband’s death, she found a note from Hodgson on his grave.
Mr Green said: “She was shocked and personally violated.”
After his arrest, Hodgson told police he did not think what he had done was harassment.
John McLaren, defending, said: “My client thought he was helping someone but she did not want help. The latest incident was clearly in the face of an official caution.
“He is a lonely man almost 76 years of age and does not have any family of his own.
“He was clearly besotted by this woman. However he now wishes to apologise – he is a chastened man.”
Hodgson was described as intelligent but eccentric by a fellow yachtsman at Skippool Creek, where he has been a member for several years.
He was given a jail sentence of 50 days suspended for 12 months.
He was placed on a year’s supervision and made the subject of a year-long restraining order, under which he must not contact his victim, enter the village of Singleton and not stop on Mains Lane, where Mrs Stanley’s business is located, apart from at traffic lights.