TV STAR’S STALKER SCARE

Lost USB ex­poses 18 hours of spy footage

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - FRONT PAGE - ANNETTE SHARP

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.

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