Emily Maitlis feared for family after letter from 'obsessed' man, court told

Updated: 
The London Evening Standard Londoner's Diary 100th Birthday Party - Arrivals

BBC presenter Emily Maitlis worried for her family's safety after receiving a letter from a man who developed an "obsession" with her after she spurned his advances at university, a court heard.

Edward Vines denies two charges of breaching a restraining order imposed on January 26 2009, preventing him from contacting the Newsnight presenter or her family.

His trial at Oxford Crown Court heard the 46-year-old sent two letters to the journalist and emails and letters to her mother Marion Maitlis between May 10 and June 26 last year.

The subject of the letters centred around Vines' belief that Ms Maitlis had acted "scornfully" towards him after he had told her he loved while the pair were studying at Cambridge University in 1990.

The jury heard Vines, who was flanked in the dock by nurses from the secure hospital where he resides, has a string of convictions dating back to 2002 as a result of his actions towards the presenter.

In the first letter, sent to BBC Newsnight in May 2015, he accused her of making up allegations of harassment, an offence for which he was jailed for four months in 2002.

Ms Maitlis' statement, read to the court by prosecutor Julian Lynch, said: "I was at the BBC, going through my post when I noticed an envelope addressed to me. I opened it and straight away saw the name 'Edward Vines'.

"I did not read the contents of the letter and handed it straight to security.

"When Edward Vines contacts me, it causes me considerable stress and makes me worry about my safety and that of my family."

Vines befriended Ms Maitlis in October 1989 while at university, Mr Lynch told the jury.

He said: "You will hear in brief terms they were friends while they were there and at some stage Mr Vines fell in love with Ms Maitlis, a love it seems she did not return.

"Thereafter it seems their relationship broke down. That seems to have begun the obsession in Mr Vines' mind. That obsession results ultimately in a number of criminal convictions."

Those convictions included breaches of restraining orders in 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014 and also earlier this year, for which he awaits sentence.

The charges Vines now faces relate only to the letters he sent last year, which Mr Lynch described as "long and rambling".

While the first letter reached Ms Maitlis, the second, sent to the Newsnight offices in June, never reached her before it was screened by security.

Mr Lynch said: "The letters to Ms Maitlis are quite lengthy and they go into matters relating to their relationship at Cambridge. You may think hearing the letters they are rather long and rambling."

In the letters, Vines describes his version of the events that led to the breakdown of their friendship, saying he believed he had told her in January 1990 that he loved her. He repeatedly says he wants to speak with the presenter to understand why she then "changed" and became "scornful" several months later in the April of that year.

He went on to claim her allegations about being harassed were "largely made up" and borne out of an apparent unwillingness on her part to admit that she loved him. He admitted he was "frigid" and added: "You are not prepared to admit you wanted me to like you more."

Vines, whose address was given as Grosvenor Road, in Oxford, pleaded for a reply from Ms Maitlis, saying: "I need to speak to you if I'm to live my life in peace."

Vines also added he was seeing a psychotherapist, who he claimed had told him he was not suffering any mental health problem or obsession relating to the presenter.

The jury heard Vines claimed the doctor helped him analyse two letters Ms Maitlis had sent him in the early 90s, in which she told him they had simply "grown apart".

But he disputed this in his latest letters, as well as dismissing her fears over the 1999 killing of Jill Dando as the reason why she originally reported him to police and accusing her of committing perjury during the 2002 harassment case.

In one of the letters to Ms Maitlis' mother, Vines said he was "experiencing low moods and suicidal thoughts" as a result of the breakdown in his friendship with her daughter.

Vines, who appeared in court wearing a dark jacket and a blue striped shirt, told police in interview he had a reasonable excuse to contact Ms Maitlis because he had exhausted all legal means, including through various court appearances and the police.

He also denied ever harassing the television star, saying his guilty plea was "wrought out" and telling officers: "I pleaded guilty under an enormous amount of media pressure and pressure in prison."

The trial continues on Monday.