Man jailed for stalking wife by posing as ex-boyfriend from school

A jealous and controlling husband who stalked his wife for nearly two years by impersonating her school boyfriend has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Paul Playle set out to humiliate and degrade his childhood sweetheart and wife of 27 years, Amanda, by assuming the identity of Anthony Reynolds.

The 43-year-old set up email and Facebook accounts to send messages purporting to be from the ex-boyfriend she met at school.

But his comments became sinister, revealing he was watching her and had a detailed knowledge of her personal life.

At the same time, he played the role of a loving husband by comforting her while she became a recluse at the hands of her stalker.

Even after being arrested and released on bail, Playle continued to send threatening messages, which only stopped when he was remanded in custody.

Sentencing him at Lewes Crown Court on Wednesday, Judge Christine Henson said the evidence was "overwhelming", adding: "You are the author of your own fate. You watched your wife effectively crumble before you because of the fear she was experiencing from this online abuse.

"You pretended to comfort her. That is the most calculating and cruel behaviour.

"You're in complete denial of your crime."

Dressed in a blue T-shirt, Playle, of Bexhill, East Sussex, lowered his head and cried in the dock.

Nursery worker Mrs Playle, who watched as her husband was led to the cells, said she was affected so badly by the "unbelievable" ordeal that she had considered suicide.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, she said she would never understand why it happened, adding: "I am terrified to leave the house, go to work or the shop across the road. I panic when my phone goes off.

"I'm embarrassed and I burst into tears for no reason.

"To think it was the one person I believed I could always trust. I no longer trust anyone anymore."

Prosecutor Gareth Burrows described the lengths Playle went to to humiliate and control his wife while comforting her as a "worrying and significant feature" of his offending.

In the messages, sent between December 2015 and June 2017, Playle would question her about previous sexual encounters and called her a "slag".

There were days when the messages were "excessive" and he would also contact her mother, father and work colleagues as well as hacking into her own accounts to send similar messages.

He also set up other accounts pretending to be a girlfriend and friend of Mr Reynolds.

In one message, he said: "Nice handbag, do you want to meet in Starbucks for a coffee?" when she was out shopping and holding a new bag, or made comments about being able to see her jogging.

He even hid her passport to try to stop her going on holiday with friends.

Police caught him after the stalker sent an image of the entrance to Gatwick Airport to Mrs Playle.

Gatwick Airport
Gatwick Airport

Officers were able to track his car arriving at the terminal and spotted him on CCTV taking the picture in question.

Some of the emails were found to have been sent through his home router.

Playle repeatedly denied being responsible, claiming he had been "stitched up", but a jury took less than 30 minutes to convict him of stalking and coercive and controlling behaviour.

Before knowing her husband was behind the messages, Mrs Playle said she would "panic" if she had not heard from him or their three children.

The pair met when they were 16 and she said she was faithful to him during their marriage, adding: "We had hard times but thought we had a stable family.

"My children are devastated. My eldest daughter is a totally different person since the trial."

She asked her husband to admit what he had done so everyone could move on.