Me & Mum… held at gunpoint
Marched from her home by armed police, a terrified Victoria Hardiman, 42, from Newmarket, knew who was behind it
Hands up! As I opened the front door, all hell broke loose
Piling his shopping on the counter, Steven Webb flashed me a cheeky smile.
‘Hello, beautiful, it’s your lucky day,’ he said. It was July 2013 and I loved working in my village shop.
There were always familiar faces popping in.
And Steven, then 41, who worked at the local horse stud, never failed to make me smile.
He popped in most days for his lunch, beers after work.
‘I suppose I should do some work, then,’ I’d laughed.
A single mum with four kids – Lucy, then 19, Christina, then 17, and two boys at primary school – I wasn’t looking for love. But Steven was so charming. So, that month, when he invited me to dinner, I said yes. We clicked, became an item. It wasn’t long before I introduced him to the kids.
Steven loved playing football with my boys, would have my eldest girls in stitches with his funny impressions.
In January 2014, the boys and I moved into the cottage that came with Steven’s job.
Together, we made it our family home and life was good.
Steven would watch the boys after school while I was at work. Only, Steven’s drinking started to bother me. He’d come into the shop every afternoon, buy a fourpack of beer.
By the time I got home at 7pm, he’d have drunk them all.
Hardly a skinful, but I didn’t like him drinking when he was alone with the kids.
But he didn’t stop.
Still, keen to make our relationship work, I bit my lip.
Then, in April 2015, debt collectors turned up asking for him. ‘Pretend
I don’t live here,’ he told my 11-year-old son.
I saw red.
‘Don’t ask my children to lie for you,’ I snapped. It was the final straw. ‘We’re leaving,’ I told Steven. The next day, I moved into my mum’s. After that, Steven avoided the shop whenever I was working. I was glad we were both getting on with our lives. Then, in August 2015, Steven sent me a photo of a letter made with letters cut from a newspaper. You’re a wife beater soon to be dead, it read. Why did you send me this? he texted. What?!
Of course I hadn’t sent it, I’d never even seen it before.
My boss got a similar, strange letter and, confused, we went
to Newmarket Police Station. I was upset and scared. Only one person could be behind this – Steven.
So much for water under the bridge.
The police made an appointment for us the following week to have the incident logged.
In the meantime, my daughter Lucy phoned me in tears. A letter had been sent to her dad’s house, too.
watch out, it read. But it didn’t say who it was from.
She contacted the police and we made a statement.
In August 2015, Steven Webb was issued with a formal warning to stop sending letters.
I hoped it’d done the trick. But, at 11pm on 8 September, I was awoken by a helicopter circling over Mum’s house.
Still in my PJS, I peered out of the window – to see the back garden lit up by helicopter lights.
The boys were asleep – so, checking they were OK, I went downstairs to Mum’s room.
‘I don’t know what’s going on,’ Mum said.
‘I’ll look out of the back door,’ I replied.
Then I saw lights at the front. I went to that door – and, as I opened it, all hell broke loose. ‘Hands up!’ a voice bellowed. Stunned, I did as I was told, then saw a police officer pointing a gun at me.
More armed men were behind my car, in the bushes.
Dressed in black masks,
I left my job, had panic attacks, was terrified of leaving the house
helmets and holding shields, they looked terrifying.
We were surrounded!
One marched me out of the house at gunpoint.
Another had Mum at gunpoint, too.
I turned to check that she was OK.
‘Face forward and don’t look at her!’ an officer yelled.
‘What’s going on?’
I gulped, breaking down as I stood outside in my bare feet. ‘Please tell me!’
My heart was hammering, and I was sick with fear.
Eventually, one of the officers turned to me.
‘We’ve had a report that there’s been a shooting in here. We need to search your house,’ he explained.
‘There’s got to be some mistake,’ I insisted. ‘Please don’t scare my boys, they’re asleep.’
Officers searched the house for evidence of a shooting.
‘Where did the call come from?’ I gasped. ‘From a phone box in a village called Ashley,’ the officer explained to me. The penny dropped. ‘It’s my ex!’ I cried. The phone was 50 yards from his house. Eventually, after finding nothing, the police left.
In the days that followed, I was crying constantly, my nerves totally shattered. Unbelievably, the boys had slept through the whole thing, so they didn’t ask any questions. Police played me the 999 call. ‘It’s Steven!’ I screamed, feeling sick at hearing his voice. If he could put us through that, what else was he capable of?
The police made enquiries. Meanwhile, I was too scared to sleep, was constantly on edge. Three months later, the police were back. But not with news of Webb, though... ‘There’s been an anonymous report to Crimestoppers of a stabbing here,’ the officer said. ‘Your name’s been given.’ Again?!
‘I’ve no idea what you’re talking about,’ I replied, explaining about Webb. The officers left but, 12 days later, they were back.
This time there’d been reports of a dead body in a car outside Mum’s house. After finding nothing, the police left. But then they got a call saying they were too late – that the body had already been moved and buried. Again, police played me the 999 recording.
‘It’s him again!’ I cried. ‘I’m not a criminal!’
The police continued to investigate. But, in May 2016, I was called to the police station.
This time, I’d been accused of sending threatening Facebook messages.
‘Would you like a solicitor?’ an officer asked.
‘I’ve got no idea what you’re talking about,’ I sobbed.
I was a law-abiding woman, a single mum who’d never done anything wrong.
Yet, again, I was being treated like a violent criminal.
The officer explained that messages had been sent from what looked like my Facebook account, to Webb.
Lucky I haven’t had you killed. I always get what I want, one read.
‘I didn’t write that!’ I gasped.
The account was fake – and, when I looked at the time and date, I realised the message had been sent when I was taking the boys to football training.
‘Please trace the IP address,’ I pleaded with them.
While the police investigated, I lived in fear of what Webb would do next.
What new, twisted and inventive way would he use to exact his revenge?
I left my job, had panic attacks and was terrified of leaving the house. Finally, Webb was charged. Last October, Steven Webb, 46, appeared at Ipswich Magistrates Court.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of committing an act with intent to pervert the course of public justice.
The court heard that he’d made false 999 calls, a false report to Crimestoppers and sent malicious messages via Facebook.
He was jailed for two years, issued with a restraining order preventing him from making any contact with me.
I broke down.
‘It’s over,’ I sobbed to my daughter Christina.
It meant that I could finally stop living in fear.
Now I’ve got a new job, and life is back to normal.
I still can’t believe Webb put me through all this, as revenge for being dumped.
But I survived two years of hell. Now I know
I can cope with anything.
Gun-wielding officers turned up in the night…
Can I finally stop living in fear?
Scheming Webb was out for revenge