A 'MANIPULATIVE' Winchester man has been jailed for sending threatening messages to a woman.

Michael Whitehorn, 33, of Jewry Street, was sentenced to three years when he appeared at Winchester Crown Court.

Whitehorn previously pleaded guilty to the offence and was sitting with his head in his hands throughout the hearing on Thursday, December 21. 

The court heard the woman from Andover was scared to leave her home after the barrage of messages which came from two anonymous Instagram accounts.

Martyn Booth, prosecuting, said: "The messages made threats of violence and rape. At the start, the defendant was one of her friends. He was setting up a smokescreen by sending messages to himself."

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The court heard that Whitehorn was identified by an email address linked to the Instagram accounts.

The woman would block his number, but he would then get a new one. 

Mr Booth said: "She went with her boyfriend to Middle Wallop. She thought that was unknown to the defendant but he drove past her and messaged her to imply he was watching her. He was arrested on August 16 and initially denied the allegations. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester Crown Court

"He continued to contact her even when on police bail. The impact of the messages was significant to the extreme. The defendant was jealous of the woman's boyfriend. The truth is they were never going to get together. It was pure fantasy."

The court heard that Whitehorn changed his phone number 12 times between January and August.

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Mr Booth read a statement from the victim. She had intended to read it herself but told him she felt too intimidated by two people sitting in the public gallery.

Hearing this the judge, Recorder Tom Brown, cleared the public gallery. 

Her statement said: "He persistently messaged me when we first met, which I thought was creepy. I was a happy person before I met him, confident too. 

"I used to trust people, but now I find that hard to do. If he was released I would be petrified at my current address. 

"I worry about the smallest things, I don't go out anymore. When I do go out, I make sure I'm on the phone to someone." 

Samantha Ball, mitigating, said: “He is genuinely remorseful for his conduct. He has been very emotional when talking about what he has done. He said he needed help with relationships. 

“He has no previous convictions. Custody has been a very shocking experience for him.”

Sentencing Whitehorn, the judge said: "Your advocate has said your behaviour was a manifestation of you struggling to express your love for the victim. But this wasn't love, it was jealousy and possessiveness. 

"This was manipulative, toxic, criminal behaviour. It has caused significant psychological harm."

Whitehorn was jailed for three years. He was also handed a six-year restraining order to not contact the victim or go to Andover.