Creepy stalker caught red-handed as he removes listening device
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William Nolan, 59, was given access to neighbour Debbie Wearing-Jones’ house in Erdington, Birmingham, so he could feed her two felines while she was away. But terrified grandmother Ms Wearing-Jones, a 64-year-old widow, was horrified when she discovered a voice recorder taped under her coffee table and then another behind the headboard in her bedroom.
Turning detective, Ms Wearing-Jones set up covert webcams to catch whoever it might be when they came to collect the recording kit.
She also cleverly hoovered her carpet in one direction to capture the snooper’s footprints.
When the grandmother-of-one watched back the footage she caught Nolan in her home retrieving his spyware recorders and she contacted the police.
Former security guard Nolan admitted to stalking without fear, alarm or distress and was jailed for 15 weeks at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on May 25, 2020.
The judge has described the case as one of the most serious “stalking” offences he had ever seen.
Nolan had a spare key to Ms Wearing-Jones’ house, so his family could feed her cats, Bellamy and Sami, when she visited her partner in Nottingham, East Midlands, every week.
“We’d talk on a weekly basis – just neighbour things like how are we, how’s life, how are things in general,” Ms Wearing-Jones said.
“I felt I could trust him with the keys to my house when I was out to feed my cats.”
She was having dinner at her home with her partner, 64, when he found a black plastic box under the table, held by double-sided tape, on November 7, 2020.
She initially thought it might be one of her grandson’s toys, but soon realised it was spyware, following an internet search.
The device featured a microphone and an on/off switch, with a port where a USB cable could be connected, in order to access the recorded audio data.
Ms Wearing-Jones recalled: “I was so upset and so panicky but my main concern was were they live listening devices, but we found they were recorders.
“I felt totally violated.
“Then we thought how’s it got there? Who’s put it there? And the next thing we thought was are there any more?
“We took the pictures off the wall, turned the settee upside down and looked in every foreseeable place in the living room.”
The couple then went upstairs to search the bedroom where they found one spyware device stuck behind the headboard on the bed.
“We slept very little and thought whoever planted them needs to come back to get them so you can play back via the laptop,” she said.
“We thought we need to catch them.
“I really didn’t think Bill or his wife would do something like that, but I needed to know for sure.”
The next day Ms Wearing-Jones reported the discovery to West Midlands Police, but was told with no sign of forced entry, she would need further evidence.
She then purchased cameras in an attempt to try and catch the stalker in the act.
Ms Wearing-Jones reportedly told Nolan’s wife that she would be out on Thursday afternoon until Friday morning, and left home.
About half an hour later, her male neighbour was recorded frantically searching for his missing devices, as can be seen in video clips released to the court.
Speaking of his return, Ms Wearing-Jones said: ‘The first thing I did was go upstairs and there were large footprints on the landing and by the bed so I knew somebody had come looking for the second device.’
She rewound the footage to around 3pm on Thursday – when Nolan’s wife left to get their grandchildren from school – and caught him on camera.
She said: “At 3.23pm I heard the front door open and caught him on camera. He went straight to the coffee table and I thought ‘I’ve got him’.”
Footage showed an apparently panicked Nolan rummaging through the kitchen drawer and then going out of shot briefly – to look for the device that was on her headboard.
Ms Wearing-Jones called her son, 32, to go and confront him.
She said: “I went next door and spoke to them about it and he went ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’.
“His wife said maybe he was looking for the cats, and I said ‘what, under the coffee table?'”
Ms Wearing-Jones called the police and submitted her evidence. Nolan was arrested on December 18, 2020.
She said he initially maintained he was looking for the cats in the video footage. But he later pleaded guilty to the charge and was jailed in May 2021.
Judge David Wain described the case as one of the most serious ‘stalking’ offences he had ever seen, but blasted the CPS for its choice of charge, saying the decision severely constrained his sentencing powers.
It meant the maximum sentence he could impose was 26 weeks, but he reduced it to 15 weeks due to Nolan’s guilty plea and personal mitigation.
The convicted stalker was ordered to pay £300 compensation and was banned from contacting his victim under an indefinite restraining order.
The judge said: “Putting one on the coffee table was bad enough but putting one on her headboard understandably caused her the most amount of distress imaginable.
“The safety she felt in her own home was destroyed.
“On discovery of the devices, she said she was hysterical that someone wanted to listen to her personal conversations.
“She felt sick to the stomach about the one on the headboard. That’s perfectly understandable.”
Ms Wearing-Jones, speaking out now to raise awareness about the seriousness of stalking, said: “I felt totally violated – Bill’s trade is CCTV and security and things like that so that was also worrying.
“To this day I worry thinking was there anything else planted? I still don’t know whether there is.
“I felt uncomfortable putting my underwear out in the garden, just the thought of him watching.
“For me, for somebody to put a recording device on your headboard, there’s only one reason why they want to do that and that’s a sexual reason – something only a perv would do.”
“I want to make people aware that you can’t trust anyone – after being neighbours for 30 years, being widowed, and then him doing this to me”
The retired practice manager lived next door to Nolan, a father-of-four and grandfather-of-two, for about 30 years.
She said they were “normal, friendly neighbours” who would chat regularly and trusted each other.
“I’d actually always thought myself lucky to have him as a neighbour,” she said.
“It felt good having long-term friendly neighbours who I could trust.
“It meant a lot to me having that support network after being widowed.
“They were lovely people too. His wife had always been the chattier of the two but Bill was a lovely, polite man, if a little shy.
“Of course, I know differently now.”
Ms Wearing-Jones said of Nolan’s reduced sentence: “I was disappointed but very happy that he’s been sent down for such a sick act.
“Family and friends say it’s like something out of a crime book.
“Even the judge said he’s never dealt with such a serious case of stalking.
“I was widowed about two years ago and I’ve now got a new partner so I don’t know if that had anything to do with what he was doing.
“These days I ask my niece to feed my cats, if I’ve learnt anything, it’s that you just don’t know who you can trust.
“It’s always better to play it safe.”
In mitigation, Pallo Bailey, who represents Nolan, said his client’s wife has remained ‘supportive’ but added his behaviour put a ‘strain’ on their marriage.
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