This woman was so terrified by her cyberstalker that she slept with a knife by her bed
We tend to think that getting into a fight with a troll on the internet is an ultimately harmless affair. No matter how nasty or personal their attacks might be, we can always log out, switch off and go away for a while, safe in the knowledge that whomever we've been fighting with will soon probably forget all about it and leave us alone. The idea that this could spiral into something much, much worse never enters our head.
But for 51-year-old Nicola Brookes, a stranger on the internet eventually became her worst nightmare - a cyberstalker who subjected her to a three-year-long campaign of bullying, harassment, and threats, which left her so afraid for her own safety that she would sleep with a knife by her bedside every night.
The horror story had an innocuous beginning back in 2011, after Nicola left a harmless comment on an X-Factor fan page in which she defended contestant Frankie Cocozza, who was the target of online abuse himself. When Nicola called out the trolls, a number of accounts sprung up with the intention of harassing her, with some of them accusing her of prostitution and drug dealing.
Nicola didn't understand why she had become public enemy number one on social media, and new accounts were springing up faster than she could report them. It was clear that these people were organised, dedicated and utterly malicious. Nicola took the case to High Court, and in 2012 she won the legal right for Facebook to reveal the identities of the troll accounts that were targeting her - one of whom was a police officer.
But despite this, there was one troll who was more cruel and obsessive than all the others. This man was 39-year-old Nicky Wright, who bombarded Nicola with hate posts via 28 separate Twitter accounts and other 18 Facebook profiles, along with public hate pages, public internet radio, video channels and blogs.
Wright contacted Nicola in 2015, claiming to be a fellow-victim of cyberstalking and harrassment in order to gain her trust. Whenever she attempted to block him, new accounts would spring up afterwards, and he had an uncanny ability to acquire Nicola's personal information, no matter how hard she tried to keep things under wraps.
Between June 2016 and September 2017, Wright was attacking her on a daily basis, photoshopping pictures of her, creating videos slating her, and posting her hate mail. He even attempted to feed libellous stories about her to national newspapers. She went to the police to report him, and they urged her to screenshot every abusive message coming from him.
Eventually, Wright was jailed for 22 weeks for stalking and harrassment at at Brighton Magistrates Court, but Nicola believes that his sentence has been too lenient. In a recent interview she stated:
"Nicky Wright is a dangerous, unbalanced fantasist. He is not going to stop. When he gets out of jail, he’ll continue to target me, but if there was a register and he was on it, at least it would help police intervene much sooner and prevent him from escalating his abuse."
"I was already aware of his presence online, so knew he was just another predator. You could tell by the rest of his Tweets that he wasn’t a victim. He was an attention-seeking troublemaker ... I was still trying to move on from it all, but here he was, dragging me back into it. For months, I tried to ignore him, but he’d grow more and more vile. I’d never met him. He was a total stranger, but that wasn’t a shock. Total strangers had been bullying me since the Frankie Cocozza comment."
"It should never have taken three years and countless officers to jail him. I felt incredibly unsupported by police, like I was left alone with the biggest threat I’d ever faced. It’d take all my courage just to pop out to the shop, and I never went out after dark. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering if I was going to see him. He could’ve marched straight up and punched me, stabbed me, thrown acid in my face – anything. I lost friends because I became such a recluse. I even slept with a knife near my bed. Wright seemed like he really did want me dead."
Indeed, this isn't the first time a victim stalking has been left high and dry. Why not read all about the bus driver who was stalked by a love-crazed passenger for six years?