In December 2015, Amanda Playle – a mum of three girls from East Sussex – received a Facebook friend request from a man named Anthony Reynolds, a man she had once dated in high school.
The two began talking, but when Anthony suggested they meet up for a drink, Amanda decided to cease all contact with her ex.
Two weeks later, Anthony got back in touch with Amanda, and his messages had become more sinister, branding her a cheater and telling her she was unfit to be a mother.
“It was really vile,” Amanda told ITV’s This Morning.
Despite unfriending Anthony, he was still able to contact her through her friends’ pages. And every time she deactivated her Facebook account, it was somehow always re-activated and Anthony was able to message her once again.
Watch Amanda speak about the moment police told her her husband was her stalker:
Shutting down her social media account for good, Amanda soon began to receive emails from Anthony, threatening her with rape and threatening to harm her family and children.
“Some days I would be getting hundreds a day, they would just be flooding through,” Amanda said.
“I didn’t know how because my personal information wasn’t on my Facebook.”
Anthony soon began emailing members of her family – including her mother, who was ill in hospital at the time – and her colleagues, spreading horrific rumours about their relationship.
For almost two years, the emails also detailed places Amanda had been, what she had been wearing and the people she had spoken to while out.
Against the advice of her own husband, Amanda went to the police, who soon told her a horrifying truth: it was very likely that 'Anthony' was not who he said he was, and it was most likely the messages were coming from her husband of 27 years, Paul Playle.
"I just didn't believe it, didn't want to believe it, couldn't believe it," Amanda said.
"I was quite adamant to the police that they'd got it wrong."
But the evidence was undeniable: the IP address of the sinister messages were traced back to Amanda's own home, and CCTV footage showed Paul taking an image of Amanda at Gatwick Airport that he later sent to her as "Anthony".
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Having become so terrified of leaving her house, and at one stage even contemplating suicide, Amanda said she had no inkling the man that had been her "rock" was behind everything.
"I always said to people, 'It's like this stalker knows my inner thoughts and my inner feelings', but actually he was sat right beside me... of course he knew," she said.
In January, Paul was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison after a jury took less than 30 minutes to find him guilty of stalking and coercive and controlling behaviour.
"You are the author of your own fate," Judge Christine Henson said during sentencing, Daily Mail reports.
"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."
Despite his sentence, Paul continues to deny his involvement in Amanda's stalking.
For Amanda, the hardest part is reconciling the man she says she "can't fault as a father" with the one who made her so afraid and embarrassed and who had destroyed her ability to trust others.
"The girls adore him. For them it has been really horrendous, they can't put the two together that this was him and this was dad," she told This Morning.
"It's heart-breaking because the girls want to see their dad but they're not allowed to."
You can watch Amanda's full interview with This Morning here.
According to the Australian Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007, stalking is defined as "the following of a person about or the watching or frequenting of the vicinity of, or an approach to a person's place of residence, business or work or any place that a person frequents for the purposes of any social or leisure activity".
NSW Police advise anyone who believes they are a victim of stalking to report it to the police so the matter can be investigated as soon as possible.
It is also recommended victims make and keep a record of the incidents you believe may count as stalking. Specific information like the date, time, details of what happened and names of potential witnesses should be noted.
If the stalking is electronic, copies of emails, text messages or any other form of communication should be kept to assist police in building a strong case than can lead to a conviction.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, please call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800 RESPECT.
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