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An obsessive stalker bombarded his former lover with texts while lurking in her loft for 10 days before police officers eventually found him.
Ben Gould, 29, of Cambourne, Cornwall, terrorised his ex-girlfriend Hayley Smith, 37 for a year after the pair first crossed paths on the dating website Plenty of Fish.
Despite their relationship initially looking rosy, Ms Smith broke the brooding romance off after she discovered dog-loving Gould was still living with another woman when they first met.
Gould then launched his obsessive campaign of stalking, including following Ms Smith when she stayed at the homes of friends and families, bombarding her with texts and calls and even breaking into her caravan.
Feeling powerless, she alerted the police, who said they couldn’t locate the elusive Gould and issued a warrant for his arrest.
Officers still couldn’t find him even after he had messaged Ms Smith telling her he was ‘watching her’. It was only 10 days later when he was finally removed from his chilling hidey hole – the loft of her home – that he was arrested.
Ben Gould, 29, of Cambourne, Cornwall, (left) terrorised his ex-girlfriend Hayley Smith, 37 for a year after the pair first crossed paths on the dating website Plenty of Fish
The pair first matched on the dating website Plenty of Fish, where Ms Smith was impressed by the fact Gould was a father and a dog-lover too.
They went on their first date in a pub in 2018 and instantly hit things off.
Hayley said: ‘Things moved quickly and soon after I introduced Ben to my children. He was great with them and they adored him.’
After moving in together in June 2019, Gould’s ex messaged Ms Smith revealing he had actually been living with her when the couple had first met online.
Hayley revealed she was ‘heartbroken’ to hear this, and confronted Gould who denied everything, spelling the end of their brief fling.
But Gould wasn’t ready to give up, and over the next week he begged for forgiveness and sent dozens of text messages.
His stalking campaign ramped up when Ms Smith realised he had been watching and throwing stone at her living room window while she had the television on.
Terrified of what might happen, she gathered her children’s belongings and drove to her mother’s house, but Gould sparked another scare when he sent pictures of her friend’s homes where she had stayed.
Hayley revealed she was ‘heartbroken’ to hear Gould had been living with an ex when they first met, so broke off their budding relationship in 2019
At one stage he even messaged her asking where her Rottweiler, Odin was. Hayley later accused him of stealing the pooch, but police never charged him for this alleged offence.
After that latest terrifying incident, Hayley blocked Gould but he continued to ring her using unknown or blocked numbers.
Hayley says: ‘One evening, I got some things together and went to put them in the caravan.
‘But as I opened the door, I spotted Ben sat on the bunk bed.
‘Panicked, I screamed at him to get out. I grabbed the kids and bundled them into the car, speeding away.’
The climax of Gould’s months of torment came when he sent creepy text messages telling Hayley he was watching her from inside her own home.
The police were called but when they searched the house, Gould was nowhere to be found. Minutes later, Hayley received a text message from him.
She says: ‘Ben messaged telling me he was watching me. I was convinced he was in the house.
‘But officers couldn’t locate him.’
For the next ten days, Gould continued to message Hayley, with the police returning and eventually finding him more than a week later hiding in her loft.
The police returned and searched Hayley’s home again.
Hayley said: ‘Knowing he’d been so close to me and my kids sent shivers down my spine.
‘Thankfully he was arrested then and there.’
Hayley’s torment finally came to an end in January 2020 when Gould pleaded guilty to stalking at Bodmin Magistrates’ Court and was handed a suspended jail sentence
Hayley’s torment finally came to an end in January 2020 when Gould pleaded guilty to stalking at Bodmin Magistrates’ Court.
Justices handed him a 20-week suspended sentence and was handed a three-year restraining order. He was also told to pay a victim surcharge of £122.
Hayley says: ‘It wasn’t enough for what he’d put me and the kids through.
‘Psychologically I’ll never recover from the ordeal. Much more needs to be done to protect women from monsters like him.’