Oxford stalked

Oxford Uni lecturer stalked by man who flew 4,000 miles to her with a can of pepper spray

He sent his bags to her office and wanted her to ‘be his Valentine’

A lecturer at the University of Oxford has shared the “fear and revulsion” she felt after being stalked by an American man who flew over 4,000 miles with a can of pepper spray so she could “be his Valentine”.

Augustine Lopez is from Florida and flew to Heathrow, despite never having any contact with Dr Rebecca Smethurst. He was armed with a can of pepper spray and had no hotel reservations so had his luggage sent to the lecturer’s office at The University of Oxford.

He sent her a picture outside her office and said: “I found the building but not you ‘I owe you a delightful time, be my Valentine.”

Dr Rebecca Smethurst is a lecturer at Oxford University’s astrophysics department and she has over 732,000 subscribers on YouTube where she posts videos about the universe. It is understood this is where Lopez came across the lecturer.

He then camped outside her office and tried to gain access before he was arrested. He later appeared at Oxford Crown Court where he denied stalking Dr Smethurst, causing her serious alarm or distress, dealing with goods with fraudulent intent and possession of a prohibited weapon.

Dr Rebecca Smethurst (Via YouTube)

The jury heard that despite never meeting or talking to Rebecca Smethurst, he bombarded her with emails, one of which asked her to “be his Valentine”. The court heard he was found in possession of the can of pepper spray but Lopez claimed this was an “oversight.”

The prosecutor told the court: “Mr Lopez came to this country specifically with one sole purpose. That sole purpose was to stalk Dr Rebecca Smethurst. The Crown says Mr Lopez flew to this country with no hotel reservation and he didn’t know a soul in this country. When he got to Heathrow, he sent his luggage to her [Dr Smethurst’s] workplace.

“Mr Lopez does not know her. All we say he knows about Dr Smethurst is what he has acquired from social media.”

She added: “This is an individual that caused Dr Smethurst serious distress and alarm. His contact with her – unwanted contact – is unsettling and impacted on her daily life. He sent her unwanted messages, those being emails, Instagram and the like.

“Not only did he send his luggage to her workplace so he could try to collect it, but he also stalked her outside her workplace. There are witnesses who saw Mr Lopez hanging around the place that she works. On one occasion, he tried to enter her workplace but was stopped by a receptionist.”

The jury heard from the Oxford lecturer that the receptionist described how a man had approached the building and asked her to speak with the complainant. Dr Smethurst described how this had reminded her of an earlier “rambling” email she had received via her work email address.

Around a month after the incident, Dr Smethurst found Instagram messages from Lopez, the jury heard. Among them was one message with a picture of the outside of her workplace that said: “I found the building but not you. I owe you a delightful time, be my Valentine.”

Rebecca Smethurst, who was audibly upset while giving evidence, said: “The messages made me feel a mix of fear and revulsion. My skin was crawling that this person thought that I wanted to read this. It felt like such an invasion of my own life and privacy.”

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Featured image via YouTube and Canva.