An obsessive ex is facing jail after his “grand romantic gesture” of a huge mural by Portslade train station persuaded his distressed ex to ring the police instead of him.
James Long, 45, commissioned the artwork on a wall in Boundary Road in July last year in a bid to get Emily Neal’s attention when seven months of bombarding her with gifts, flowers and creepy bank transfers had failed.
The 25sqm mural featured her favourite comic character, Durham Red from 2000 AD, and a 300-word plea for her to reunite with him, and was placed at the spot of their first date.
Miss Neal was alerted to it when a well-meaning resident posted it on the local Facebook group, captioned “Desperately seeking Emily”. The post was later deleted.
However, this proved to be his final attempt to contact her as she then called the police.
At his trial at Brighton Magistrates Court yesterday, Long, of Broadwater, Worthing, denied he was stalking or harassing her, instead saying he was simply seeking a reconciliation.
He said: “That it could even be perceived as harassment was a shock to me.”
He added: “If that’s what she thought of the most romantic thing I could think of, I didn’t want to pursue it any further.”
But prosecutor Dominic Dudkowski said Miss Neal had made it clear she wanted no contact with him after she broke up with him by text in December 2018 following a disastrous holiday in Cuba.
District Judge Tessa Szagun agreed with the prosecution, finding Long guilty. She said: “The victim described your behaviour as threatening and she said it mad her feel violated.
“In some instances she had particularly told you it was causing her distress and she believed your behaviour was deliberately playing with her emotions.
“It had the impact of stopping her opening her curtains, she really felt quite paranoid as if she was being watched.
“This culminated in the very public demonstration of what you mistook for an affection for her which you considered was the most romantic gesture you could think of.
“It’s actually quite amazing to me that you were at this time so blinkered in this thought process that you were unable to hear the clear message that this contact was causing her distress.
“You have been consistently saying that your intention was very different and I find that if you did not know, because I cannot be sure that you did not, certainly you ought to have known and it should have been obvious to you that this unwanted contact that persisted over such a long time was causing so much distress.”
Mr Dudkowski said the pair had broken up after a huge argument in Cuba, after which he had threatened to cancel her flight home.
In a text sent after they got back, Miss Neal said his bullying behaviour on the trip was not an isolated incident, and wrote in capitals he was not to contact her or come to her work or home.
She repeated this message by email when he turned up to deliver presents on Christmas Eve, saying she had been distressed by his visit.
But he continued to send emails, flowers and gifts to both her home and her work.
In January, on the anniversary of their first date, he left a banana with the words “two years today” written on it and a can of Red Bull on the first floor balcony of her office.
In March, he sent two £1 bank transfers to her account, using the reference to message her “Miss you sexy face x” and “Please talk to me”.
He sent her friend a message asking her to pass on a request to meet up for coffee, adding: “She will hate it but nothing else has got her to talk to me.”
He also contacted one of her neighbours in a bid to get a message through to her.
Long pleaded not guilty at Brighton Magistrates on 17 October. His trial began on 14 January and concluded today.
Sentencing was postponed until after probation reports have been prepared.