A stalker’s victim said she had ‘forgotten what feeling normal is like’ and was forever looking over her shoulder.

Stephen Gittins, 69, bombarded his ex-partner with phone calls and messages, turned up at her workplace, her parents’ home and the stables where she kept her horse, and left unwanted gifts.

He was found guilty in his absence last month of stalking the woman between March and August this year and breaching a non-molestation order banning him from contacting her.

Returning to Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, Gittins’ lawyer John Berry asked for the case to be reopened.

Mr Berry said his client, who was remanded in prison in August after breaching bail conditions by contacting the victim, had not refused to leave his cell for the trial – but was too unwell to attend court.

While in custody he had experienced difficulties with a colostomy bag, fitted after part of his intestine was removed. “It was not stuck to his body. There was leakage and unpleasantness,” the advocate said. The decision was made that he ‘shouldn’t come’ to court for his trial on September 26.

A prison nurse had now managed to fit the bag properly, enabling him to attend court from HMP Bullingdon.

Asking for the case to be reopened, Mr Berry said Gittins was ‘perturbed and dismayed he didn’t have a chance to give his evidence to the court’.

The magistrates’ bench, which included two of the justices who sat on the trial last month, refused to set aside the conviction.

They were read a victim personal statement written by Gittins’ ex-partner, in which she said the harassment had left her ‘forever looking over my shoulder’ and ‘like a shell of my former self’.

She had been forced to change her appearance, move home, change vehicles and job, and her friendship group had ‘shrunk hugely’. “It is all consuming and every day revolves around Stephen; where he is, where he might pop up.”

Her stalker listened with a furrowed brow as prosecutor Ann Sawyer-Brandish read that the victim was ‘terrified he is going to use his car as a weapon’.

The victim claimed Gittins was ‘relentless in his pursuit to make my life a misery’. She added: “He will not be satisfied until he has completely broken me.”

Mitigating, Mr Berry said his client and the victim were in a relationship for a number of years. They had had a house and business together. Gittins had been trying to sell the former and was ‘attempting to communicate her a number of times to facilitate that’, it was suggested.

The bench said the case was so serious it needed to be sent to the crown court for sentence. Gittins, of Corn Street, Witney, was remanded in custody and will be sentenced on October 25.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward