Man jailed for sending ‘disgusting' rape threat cards to BBC presenter

Gordon Hawthorn was jailed for two years and six months at Bristol Crown Court.

A man who bombarded a BBC regional news presenter with dozens of “grossly violent and offensive” greetings cards has been jailed for two years and six months.

Gordon Hawthorn, 69, admitted stalking Alex Lovell by sending 38 cards to her at BBC Points West in Bristol over a two-year period.

The cards, often featuring animals on the front, included threats to rape the presenter and claims he had attacked five other women.

They were signed with a distinctive set of five crosses and initially the name ‘Gordon’, with Hawthorn ending them with ‘your stalker’ or ‘your soon to be rapist’ as they became more sinister.

Ms Lovell contacted Avon and Somerset Police after receiving a card in which Hawthorn stated his New Year’s resolution was to have sex with her, with or without her consent.

BBC Points West presenter Alex Lovell (BBC/PA)
BBC Points West presenter Alex Lovell (BBC/PA)

Hawthorn was identified after another woman, who had received a Valentine’s Day card at her workplace, recognised his handwriting on a police appeal.

Judge Martin Picton jailed Hawthorn for two years and six months and imposed an indefinite restraining order preventing him from contacting Ms Lovell or visiting the BBC in Bristol.

The judge described Hawthorn’s cards as “disgusting and frightening” and said they contained “grossly violent and offensive material”.

“People in the public eye are entitled to the same respect and privacy as everyone else in society,” the judge told Hawthorn.

Gordon hawthorn court case
The cards often had animals on the front (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

“The fact that someone has a high public profile does not mean that it can be open season for people such as yourself.

“You need to understand, as does the public in general, that serious consequences result from appalling behaviour of the kind that features in this case.

“For two years, she could never be sure that she was safe.

“Ms Lovell would have an awareness, whenever she was on screen, that the author of those letters was watching and thinking the kind of thoughts that you expressed in your messages to her.

“When out and about she could never be sure that the author of the cards was not spying on her or posing a threat to her safety.”

One of the cards sent by Gordon Hawthorn (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)
One of the cards sent by Gordon Hawthorn (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

Judge Picton said the cards made Ms Lovell feel “disgusted, frightened and miserable”.

The court heard Hawthorn began sending cards to Ms Lovell at the BBC in November 2012, often on occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter and her birthday.

When police examined Hawthorn’s computer, they found he had conducted research on the presenter to establish details including her date of birth.

Prosecuting, Nikki Coombe said the cards described what Ms Lovell had been wearing on television became more “graphic and distressing”.

Ms Lovell reported the cards to the BBC and police became involved following one card on January 12 in 2016.

This read: “Make no mistake Alex that I am going to have sex with you this year, even if it means I have to rape you.”

The presenter later told police that reading his explicit threat “caused her blood to run cold”, Mrs Coombe said.

A card and envelope sent by Gordon Hawthorn to Alex Lovell (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)
A card and envelope sent by Gordon Hawthorn to Alex Lovell (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

Hawthorn’s cards went on to describe how he was following her in the street, had been close enough to smell her hair, knew what she was wearing and threatened to come to her home.

“Mr Hawthorn also said in one of these cards that he had previously sexually assaulted other women and threatened to do that to Ms Lovell, essentially adding her to the list of six other women,” Mrs Coombe said.

“There’s no evidence that he has carried out anything like that in the past.”

In March 2018, police published images of Hawthorn’s cards and appealed for information about the sender.

Jessica Harding, who had worked in a pub where Hawthorn drank, came forward to say she had received a Valentine’s Day card that matched those sent to Ms Lovell.

Officers attended the pub in Street, Somerset and arrested Hawthorn.

A custody image of Gordon Hawthorn (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)
A custody image of Gordon Hawthorn (Avon and Somerset Police/PA)

In police interview, Hawthorn said he never intended to harm Ms Lovell and described his threats as a “fantasy”.

“He also sent Ms Lovell an apology card after the media appeal, describing himself as a stupid old fool, saying he wasn’t a threat to her and promising not to contact her again,” Mrs Coombe said.

In a victim personal statement, Ms Lovell said she had been looking over her shoulder wondering if her stalker was nearby every day since receiving the first threat.

Security measures were increased at the BBC and at the home she shares with her husband.

Representing Hawthorn, Catherine Spedding said her client was remorseful and had been in a relationship with his 74-year-old partner for 34 years.

Speaking after the case, Ms Lovell appealed for victims of stalking to “tell someone who can help”.

Alex Lovell at a charity event in London (Ian West/PA)
Alex Lovell at a charity event in London (Ian West/PA)

“The nightmare is finally over and I’d once again like to thank my friends and family, BBC colleagues and police for all their help and support,” she said.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Brickwood, of Avon and Somerset Police, paid tribute to Ms Lovell’s bravery in speaking out.

He said Hawthorn was now “paying the price for his cruel campaign of harassment” against the presenter.

“This case highlights the fact that stalking doesn’t have to be physically watching or following someone,” the detective said.

“It can take the form of social media, texting, calling, being sent unwanted gifts, or in Alex’s case being sent cards or letters.”

Ms Lovell hosted Brainteaser on Channel Five in 2002 after working on a live shopping channel.

She has been presenting on BBC Points West since 2005.

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