TV STAR’S STALKER SCARE
Lost USB exposes 18 hours of spy footage
SPORTSCASTER Mel McLaughlin has moved out of her home after a USB stick containing 18 hours of surveillance footage of the unwitting star was found left at a McDonald’s restaurant. The stalking incident comes after Channel Seven’s rising star received death threats and there was a break-in at her home.
A USB stick left behind at a fast food outlet contains hours of unauthorised surveillance footage of TV sportscaster Mel McLaughlin, sparking an investigation into a celebrity stalker.
The misplaced USB stick was handed to staff at a McDonald’s in Mascot in March. The manager passed it on to police, who were already investigating a string of threats recorded on a Seven Network phone used by McLaughlin.
The chance discovery of the USB stick led to police officers stepping up their investigation into “dozens” of reported threats and a break- in at McLaughlin’s north shore apartment.
Police have interviewed a man in relation to the threats although McLaughlin, 37, has requested the investigation not proceed any further.
Seven Network Sydney news director Jason Morrison yesterday confirmed the network had been in contact with police.
“Police have been involved in investigating a series of threats and serious incidents,” he said.
“I am aware that police have spoken to a suspect several times and warned him.
“Despite that warning, the problem has continued.”
Television insiders claim the man threatened “to destroy” McLaughlin if she obtained an AVO.
Morrison said: “Police have been great in helping Mel with security and are taking this very seriously. The next step is to take out restraining orders to further protect her from the man.”
The man allegedly hired a private investigator to follow McLaughlin and capture 18 hours of footage of the presenter in casual, domestic and professional situations.
The footage discovered on the USB includes vision of the oblivious TV identity walking with a colleague in a city mall, attending the cinema with children, driving in traffic and visiting relatives.
Some of the footage is believed to have been shot through the glass walls of Seven’s Martin Place newsroom and in Seven’s carpark.
A Seven Network source said McLaughlin had told colleagues the alleged stalker was a former associate.
McLaughlin’s colleagues fear the man may be obsessed with her and jealous she has begun a new relationship.
The new man in McLaughlin’s life is retired British League One soccer player Ashley Westwood, 40, who had a career playing for third-tier British football division clubs including Crewe Alexandra and Bradford City until 2012.
He moved on to coaching duties in India and it was while working in that capacity in late-2015 that Westwood met McLaughlin, who was working briefly as a soccer commentator at Star TV and living at the same Mumbai hotel as Westwood and his then pregnant wife Huma.
Westwood, who has been unemployed since March when his contract as head coach of Malaysian Super League team Penang was cancelled by mutual consent, has five children by three women. According to friends of the Westwoods, Huma, a juvenile probations officer in Northampton, recently filed for divorce.
Westwood yesterday denied his relationship with McLaughlin began while his wife was pregnant.
“I have been separated from my second wife since early-2016 and we are going through divorce proceedings,” he said. “I started seeing Mel last year, after the breakdown of my marriage. “We’re very happy.” Sources say police believe some of the “dozens” of telephone threats made to a Seven mobile in McLaughlin’s possession may have been intended for Westwood.
Rattled by a break-in at her apartment earlier this year, McLaughlin has since moved out of her home. She did not wish to comment when contacted yesterday.
News of the stalking investigation comes days after an unrelated incident in which the TV host was publicly insulted at a Sydney bar as tempers flared during ALeague grand final celebrations last Sunday.
Westwood and local soccer commentator and retired Sydney FC player Mark Rudan clashed heatedly outside Frankie’s Pizza Bar on Hunter St in the early hours after the match.
Fox Sports commentator Rudan was allegedly assaulted by an unnamed 18year-old as he and a group arrived at the bar at the same t i me McLaughlin and her boyfriend were leaving.
Wit ne s s e s have said the two men started ex- changing angry insults — Rudan allegedly shouting crude abuse at McLaughlin — before bouncers stepped in and police arrived, although officers did not take statements.
The argument between Westwood and Rudan had begun earlier in the evening at The Clock Hotel in Surry Hills, where 41-year-old Rudan had been drinking with Fox Sports colleagues.
While McLaughlin, a Fox Sports presenter from 2007 to 2013, remained downstairs, Westwood went upstairs and had an argument with Rudan, angrily demanding he “take a walk outside” with him, which Rudan declined to do.
Rudan, who is married to childhood sweetheart Sylvia, with whom he has children, refused to comment about the altercations.
Channel 7 sports reporter Mel McLaughlin, Picture: Britta Campion
Mel McLaughlin and Ashley Westwood together in India. Mel with Huma Westwood in India in 2015. Mark Rudan was in a heated clash outside a CBD bar, in an incident unrelated to the stalking.
Mark Rudan and David Beckham.