Brighton doctor's stalker faces prison

Posted On 15 Feb 2012 at 6:47 pm

The man who stalked a Brighton doctor after she ended their relationship faces prison.

Al Amin Dhalla, 42, has been found guilty by a jury at Lewes Crown Court of arson, aggravated harassment, theft, criminal damage and trying to pervert the course of justice.

Dhalla, a Canadian who came to Britain three years ago, put trainee doctor Alison Hewitt through a four-month campaign of terror last year.

He also harassed Miss Hewitt’s mother Pamela Hewitt and set fire to Pamela Hewitt’s Buckinghamshire home and tried to set fire to a police station.

He was arrested twice in three days – the second time by armed police who believe they averted Miss Hewitt, 35, from serious danger.

She said: “My message is to anyone out there who is being harassed or stalked: if you’ve tried to control the situation yourself and failed, if your family and friends have tried to help you and failed, then you need to go to the police.

“You cannot control this situation by yourself. You need professional help. You must talk to the police in order to begin to get your life back – and it takes time.

“I want to thank the police who have kept my family and I alive.

“Finally, I ask that those currently involved in debating stalking and harassment laws look at this case.

“It is yet another example of how important it is that harassment laws are updated.

“Stalking destroys lives and we need to take it seriously.

“If it is not me, it will be somebody else tomorrow, maybe even yourself.

“So please, let’s help and do everything that we can to help and support that next victim.”

Dhalla was arrested by Sussex Police after bombarding Miss Hewitt with obsessive messages, sending malicious letters to her employers and having her followed by a private detective.

He began harassing her after she broke off their relationship when he was exposed as having told a series of lies about his identity.

His sinister actions quickly escalated and he plotted to take revenge against Miss Hewitt and her family, blaming them for the breakdown of the relationship.

The London-based bank auditor met Miss Hewitt in November 2009 through an online dating agency called the Executive Club of St James which had a £9,000 joining fee and targeted high-earning professionals.

They started seeing each other early in 2010 and before long Dhalla had moved into Miss Hewitt’s Brighton home.

Her family raised concerns over his “unseemly haste” to marry her and uncovered lies that he had told her.

She ended their relationship at the end of December 2010.

By early April Dhalla had bought a van in London and adapted it to allow easy access into the back from the driver’s seat.

He equipped himself with an air rifle with telescopic sights, a BB pistol, two mini crossbows modified to increase their power and rounds of ammunition.

This, detectives believe, indicated that Dhalla was intent on kidnapping and harming, if not killing, his victims.

Suspicions were raised after he was spotted using a field near Chippenham, Wiltshire, for target practice.

His adapted van was found with tools, weapons and a satellite navigation device pre-programmed with a number of addresses.

They included Pamela Hewitt’s home, her parents’ secluded Lundy Island holiday cottage and the hospitals in Sussex where Alison worked as a trainee doctor.

Dhalla was charged with offences concerning the discharge of weapons and bailed by the courts.

A cross-border police operation began shortly afterwards when the home belonging to Pamela and her partner David Gray near Aylesbury was deliberately set alight.

Then an attempt was made to set fire to a police station near by.

Five police forces swung into action to locate and protect Miss Hewitt and her family.

Officers from Devon and Cornwall found Miss Hewitt’s parents and flew them to safety in a coastguard helicopter.

They were taken to be with Miss Hewitt in Sussex where local officers took them into protected custody.

Thames Valley and Sussex Police worked together to take charge of the manhunt to find Dhalla and gather crucial evidence relating to the arson attacks and harassment.

Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Mears, of Thames Valley Police, who jointly led the operation, said: “Without a doubt, the joint actions of all five forces prevented a tragedy and without this joint working we could very easily have been dealing with up to three murders.

“This horrific case clearly demonstrates the serious threat that stalking presents and how rapidly and dangerously it can escalate.

“I hope today’s court result will enable the victims to rebuild their lives and attain a degree of normality after their frightening ordeals.”

Sussex Police officers circulated Dhalla’s photo at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath where Miss Hewitt worked.

Staff quickly alerted police that he was masquerading as a doctor, dressed in a white coat and wearing a stethoscope around his neck.

He was seeking details of the staff rota to try to locate Miss Hewitt.

The next morning Dhalla turned up at the hospital but was spotted by staff who called police.

Armed officers from Sussex Police arrested him and found another hire car near by.

It contained empty fuel cans and various weapons including a loaded crossbow in the front passenger seat.

Detective Inspector John Wallace, from the Brighton Anti-Victimisation Unit, who jointly led the investigation, said: “Dhalla presented a real and present danger to the Hewitt family.

“The severity of his offending and the planning required to commit these offences left police in no doubt that their lives were being threatened.

“Dhalla is a cunning and resourceful criminal who displayed an obsessive and compulsive behaviour in systematically stalking and terrorising this family.

“The joint efforts of all five police forces undoubtedly saved the lives of one or more members of this family.

“The tenacity shown by my officers to locate and arrest Dhalla inspires me with confidence and shows a real commitment to their duty to protect and serve the public.

“This pattern of repeated harassment over a long period of time affects every aspect of a victim’s life, impacting on their freedom and their right to privacy, causing untold continued distress.

“This case highlights the importance of reporting domestic abuse to police so we can quickly take action to protect victims from harm.

“If you are a victim of harassment or domestic abuse, please seek help.”

Pamela Hewitt’s husband David Gray said: “Our daughter has endured considerable harassment and our primary consideration has always been for our daughter’s safety.

“The family is hugely relieved that it is all over.

Dhalla is due to be sentenced at Lewes Crown Court on Monday 16 April.

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