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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 21:47 GMT 22:47 UK
Man guilty of stalking newsreader
Julia Somerville pictured in 1995
Ms Somerville: Letters were "disturbing"
A man has been convicted of harassment after sending hundreds of obscene letters to television newsreader Julia Somerville.

David Hughes, 47, sent 390 letters to the broadcaster over a 12-year period.

He moved close to her home in London to live near her, Highbury Corner Magistrates Court was told.

Hughes was found guilty of one charge under Section 2 of the Harassment Act.

District Judge John Perkins made an interim order under Section 38 of the Mental Health Act, and sentencing was adjourned until 20 September.

Ms Somerville, 54, confronted Hughes for the first time on Thursday when she gave evidence against him.


"I felt extremely disturbed and felt he was capable of transferring his wishes into actions

Julia Somerville

The newsreader said: "It was peculiar and disturbing to receive things like Easter Day cards and St Valentine's cards.

"I felt extremely disturbed and felt he was capable of transferring his wishes into actions."

Hughes told the court he believed he had not been harassing Ms Somerville because she had never told him to stop sending her letters.

But he admitted he had been cautioned by Greater Manchester Police over his letter writing campaign in 1995.

Obscene 'jokes'

In some of the letters, Hughes called Ms Somerville "precious Mrs Hughes" and asked her to meet him.

Prosecutor Johannah Cutts told the court: "Most of the letters were obscene and contained fantasies on the sender's part but were never going to be true.


There was a degree of familiarity in the letters but they became increasingly persistent that the sender and Ms Somerville should meet up

Prosecutor Johannah Cutts

"There was a degree of familiarity in the letters but they became increasingly persistent that the sender and Ms Somerville should meet up."

Hughes, who gave his address as Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, north London, admitted that they were "bawdy" and contained double entendres.

But he said: "After listening to Ms Somerville on the radio I knew she was a woman of the world."

Andrew Fereman, defending, said such remarks were "only Mr Hughes' sense of humour."

Moved house

The letters began about 1990, and up until 1999 came with a postmark in north Cheshire.

Then in 1999 Hughes moved to London, the court heard.

He claimed it was a coincidence that he had moved to the same Muswell Hill area as Ms Somerville - although letters he had sent previously had made mention of Muswell Hill.

Hughes said his interest in Ms Somerville began when he had been at BBC Television Centre in the mid-1980s to present his ideas for television programmes.

"Five years passed and I read an article in a newspaper saying she had separated from her husband and I thought I would introduce myself to her by writing to her.


I told her all about myself, that I had various interests in television and I had ambitions of wanting to start my own channel to run against ITN

David Hughes

"I told her all about myself, that I had various interests in television and I had ambitions of wanting to start my own channel to run against ITN."

In the letters, Hughes also outlined a manuscript he claimed to have been writing for 14 years called Rule Britannia.

He said: "It's radical economics on how to run a country."

Details of it were also sent to the Queen and Downing Street.

Second stalker

Ms Somerville left court after her 10-minute appearance in the witness box and was not there to see Hughes convicted of harassment.

The newsreader used to present the BBC's Nine o'Clock News, and later ITV's News At Ten. Last year she became a newscaster on ITN's rolling news channel.

In 1995, she took out a court injunction to stop sound engineer Geoffrey Brewis contacting her.

She said he had visited her home, followed her and made nuisance phone calls.

See also:

18 Oct 99 | Entertainment
Stalking the stars
10 Jan 00 | UK
Newsreader's stalker jailed
08 Feb 01 | Health
Stalking on the increase
01 Aug 00 | UK
ITN joins all-news battle
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