A stalker who used fake Instagram and Whatsapp accounts to impersonate women and tell their families they were having affairs has been jailed for over seven years.
Matthew Hardy, from Northwich, Cheshire, was locked up for 90 months and handed a restraining order at Chester Crown Court today.
The 30-year-old pleaded guilty in October to stalking involving fear of violence and harassment after breaching a restraining order.
It comes as two of his victims revealed the ‘hell’ Hardy put them through after creating fake accounts online and bombarding them with messages.
Lia, 23, said the thug sent her ‘hundreds’ of posts on Instagram and Whatsapp and claimed he was in her home town watching her.
Meanwhile Jill, 42, said she ‘slept with a baseball bat’ amid fears the person contacting her would get in her house.
Lia (pictured) said the thug sent her ‘hundreds’ of posts on Instagram and Whatsapp and claimed he was in her home town watching her
Lia, who he first targeted through Instagram, said he hounded her with ‘hundreds’ of messages for three years.
She told how even if she blocked his account he would simply create another one and continue to harass her.
She said he alluded to affairs and created accounts posing as her and family members.
Lia, who was 21 when he first contacted her from an unknown account, said a flood of messages soon followed through the site and Whatsapp.
Hardy (pictured) pleaded guilty in October to stalking involving fear of violence and harassment after breaching a restraining order
The youngster told the BBC: ‘He made out he was in my town, watching me when I went out.
‘He was constantly messaging me and saying he’s only just getting started and I should be worried about what he’s going to do next.
‘He used to work through the night, so [I would] wake up to hundreds and hundreds of messages.’
She said he also sent flirty posts to her father’s friends while pretending to be her as well as inviting her neighbours to her house for dinner.
He told one woman who lives near her she was having an affair with her husband – on their wedding day.
Hardy spent ten years harassing people online, using fake profiles to spew lies about them.
He targeted random social media users who varied in age, jobs and where they lived during the abuse.
Jill was another victim and revealed he would go after her family and imply she was having an affair.
The probation officer feared the messages were coming from someone she had worked with and called the police.
Her partner had suddenly started getting messages from a person pretending to be a member of Jill’s family.
It left the couple ‘terrified’ and the victim said she spend ‘a good few nights’ sleeping with a baseball bat in one hand and her phone in the other.
The abuse only lasted a few days before her family unveiled the thug by entering his details into a harassment website.
PC Kevin Anderson, who led the probe, said Hardy caused some woman ‘to change some of their daily habits and live in constant fear that they were being watched’.
He said ‘On other occasions, it caused them to lose trust in their friends and family members, and even led to the breakdown of long-term relationships.’
Hardy pleaded guilty in October to stalking involving fear of violence and harassment after breaching a restraining order.
Judge Steven Everett said social media giants ‘do not seem to care very much’ about whether their users were ‘able to safely use their accounts’.
Instagram and Whatsapp owner Meta said those that ‘impersonate someone else are against our rules and we remove them when brought to our attention’.
The firm said: ‘We understand how distressing this must have been for the victims and are sorry they had to experience it.’
It added that the company had ‘provided data’ to help the investigation by Cheshire Police.