A city bank worker has been jailed for stalking a Brighton doctor and subjecting her to a four-month campaign of terror.
Al Amin Dhalla, 42, was given an indeterminate jail sentence at Lewes Crown Court this afternoon (Friday 29 June).
Judge Charles Kemp said that he should serve a minimum of six years before he can be considered for release. He has already served 14 months on remand.
The judge also gave orders to destroy the obsessive Canadian’s haul of weapons – including an air rifle, pistol and crossbows – and made him the subject of a restraining order. He will be deported to Canada after serving his sentence.
Dhalla was sentenced today after being found guilty by a jury in February of arson, aggravated harassment, theft, criminal damage and trying to pervert the course of justice.
He stalked 35-year-old trainee doctor Alison Hewitt after she ended their relationship and harassed Miss Hewitt’s mother Pamela Hewitt.
He 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 from serious danger.
On passing sentence Judge Kemp said: “From the outset of your relationship with Miss Alison Hewitt you lied about your age, how long you had been in the country and your origins, claiming that you were an orphan when clearly you were not.
“You would not accept the ending of your relationship with Alison and set about a campaign to win her back, harassing both her and her mother, Mrs Pamela Hewitt.
“And as time went on this campaign became more sinister and serious involving setting fire with the use of accelerants to Pamela Hewitt’s home and masquerading as a doctor at the hospital where her daughter worked.”
Judge Kemp accepted the report by Dhalla’s probation officer stating that Dhalla had a narcissistic personality, was a rejected stalker and posed a high risk of reoffending.
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.
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.
Miss Hewitt said after Dhalla was convicted: “I want to thank the police who have kept my family and I alive.”
Detective Superintendent Nev Kemp, from Sussex Police, said: “Dhalla is a dangerous narcissistic individual who knew no boundaries during his focused harassment campaign against Alison and her family.
“No one should ever have to fear for their lives in this way following the break-up of a relationship.
“His victims had every aspect of their daily lives invaded and were made to feel incredibly vulnerable and isolated.
“I would like to acknowledge their bravery and thank them for working so closely with the police investigation and, in doing so, helping put Dhalla behind bars for a considerable amount of time.
And Detective Chief Inspector Rebecca Mears, of Thames Valley Police, said after Dhalla was found guilty: “Without a doubt, the joint actions of all five forces prevented a tragedy.
“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.”
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.