Investigating harassment

PC Jeevan Sahota is one of Bedfordshire Police’s Accelerated Detective Programme students. Last year he investigated a harassment case which resulted in two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for a persistent offender.

I was given this case in March 2020, when I was assigned to the Crime Investigation Team.

At this point the victim reported that she had been receiving threatening and upsetting text messages, emails and even letters by post, for three months. There was no way to immediately link the online messages to one person as they were all sent from different phone numbers.

The messages contained demands for money and threats that a compromising video of the victim would be released to her friends and family. In fact, the video never existed, but the offender kept sending upsetting and offensive messages.

When I began to investigate this case, the behaviour escalated. The victim was by now also receiving unwanted food deliveries, sometimes up to ten times a day. The deliveries would arrive at different times of the day, sometimes very late at night or in the early hours of the morning.  It was clear that the offender was trying to disrupt her day to day life.

Additionally, fake social media profiles were created, with the offender impersonating the victim, sharing her personal details and inviting strangers to her house.

I saw the negative impact this harassment had on the victim. No one should go through anything like this and I was dedicated to identifying the person responsible.

The victim shared the impact the unwanted deliveries and messages had on her life. She said she would feel constantly on edge and powerless, and any time the doorbell rang her heart would beat rapidly out of control. The victim was so scared that she didn’t even want to leave her home.

I sought advice from our Central Intelligence Bureau and applied for data charter to get information from an online food ordering service. The result showed that all the accounts used were connected to a various phone numbers which turned out to be spoofed.

When looking through the data I found that one number was still active, and I could find the person who was the named user.

I spoke to the victim and asked her if she recognised the name Anwar Hussain. The victim not only knew the name, but also considered him a friend who was extremely supportive to her through this ordeal, and even encouraged her to report it to the police.

I knew that we needed to proceed cautiously so as not to alarm Hussain to give him time to destroy evidence. I encouraged the victim not to cut contact and keep the conversation going with him. In the meantime, I arranged an arrest warrant with the Metropolitan Police, as Hussain lived in London.

After his arrest all the electronic devices found in his home were investigated and our Digital Forensics Unit found a staggering amount of evidence.

The seized devices contained poorly photoshopped images Hussain was using to blackmail the victim. We also found software he was using to spoof mobile numbers, making it easy for him to continue his campaign of harassment.

Hussain pleaded guilty to blackmail and harassment, and was sentenced in February 2021 to 30 months’ imprisonment.

This is one of the cases I am most proud of, as this is why I became an officer in the first place, to help people in need. I understand the impact harassment can have on a victim’s life, and I would like to encourage anyone who has been targeted by similar behaviour to report it to the police.

To report stalking, call police on 101. In the case of an emergency, always dial 999.

Or you can call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300, or speak with Paladin, the National Stalking Advocacy on 0203 866 4107. 

If you’ve been affected by crime, Signpost can offer free, confidential help, whether you’ve reported it or not. Contact 0800 0282 887.

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