As Catherine* prepared to marry her fiancé, she started to receive strange and unsettling messages.
Together, she and her future husband filed a complaint with the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) and deleted the app Viber.
It was not enough to get rid of the harasser: “You deleted Viber, don’t you want us to message you? Bad move,” read a message through WhatsApp.
Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky speaks to the ABC journalist who broke the story of Lydia Abdelmalek. Post continues after audio.
Catherine turned to one of her closest friends, Lydia Abdelmalek, for support.
But what Catherine didn’t know was that it was Lydia behind the messages. And she was willing to go to great lengths to trick her friend into believing it was someone else.
ABC reporters James Oaten, who broke the story after Lydia Abdelmalek was found guilty of six stalking charges last week, and Danny Morgan have outlined the ways Lydia continued to ‘support’ her friend, while also being the one sending her abuse.
Abdelmalek pointed the fingers at Catherine’s other friends, speculating that they were attempting to break up her relationship.
She also convinced her friend not to hire a private investigator to look into the stalking by claiming her family friend was already looking into it.
In April 2016, Lydia’s charade was slipping through her fingers. Police raided her home and found substantial evidence that showed she was behind the elaborate stalking and harassment of two women in Queensland.
But even then, with her back seemingly against the wall, she continued to lie to Catherine.
She doctored the police warrant to show that another person had been arrested for the stalking, police told the court during her trial.
Just before she was due to be a bridesmaid at Catherine’s wedding, Lydia backed out.
Catherine spoke about the manipulation at her former friend’s trial, recounting how she couldn’t sleep and cried daily.
“It was the worst year of my life.”
Lydia was found guilty of stalking six people, including Catherine and two Queensland women, Emma* and Jess* who she duped using a fake profile of Home and Away actor Lincoln Lewis.
At her trial, Jess recounted her mental health issues after the catfishing and spoke of how Emma, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety, took her own life last year.
Abdelmalek will be sentenced in June.
*Names have been changed.