App helped presenter who faced rape threats
BBC news presenter Alex Lovell revealed that an app called Hollie Guard provided her with great comfort during two years of rape threats from 68-year-old Gordon Hawthorn.
The app in question uses a number of safeguarding features designed to help those in a threatening situation, and has been downloaded more than 25,000 times.
Hawthorn, of Street, Somerset, this week pleaded guilty to one charge of stalking involving serious alarm or distress to Ms Lovell. He will appear in court again on January 3.
Ms Lovell, who works for BBC Points West, spoke about how the free app allowed a user to alert a chosen contact by shaking their phone.
Hollie Guard was developed following the murder of Hollie Gazzard, from Gloucester. The 20-year-old was stabbed multiple times by her ex-boyfriend, Asher Maslin, 22, in 2014. The killer, a former security guard, was sentenced to life imprisonment and ordered to serve a minimum 24 years.
He attacked Ms Gazzard four days after she ended their year-long relationship, in which she suffered repeated violence at his hands.
In the wake of her death, Ms Gazzard’s family set up a trust in memory of the hairdresser and partnered with mobile security company Panic Guard on the app.
Hollie’s father, Nick Gazzard, said: “We’re delighted that the app was of comfort to Alex and one of the things that we believe it does provide is to help individuals feel safe. We would hope that no one would have cause to use it, but if they do have cause to use it the functionality is there to use, to help them stay safe.”
Hollie Guard transmits the user’s location and any audio or video evidence. Users can set different alert settings to suit their needs, such as a meeting timer that can be set before seeing someone new – they write out a description of the meet-up beforehand and the information is sent to the emergency contact once the timer expires. When travelling, users can get the app to notify friends and family of their movements.
“We have about 25,000 people who are using it and it’s recommended by a number of police forces and used by a number of police forces for individuals that might have been subject to various crimes or are vulnerable within their particular area,” Mr Gazzard said.
“It’s getting more known and more widespread, recommended more, and particularly around university campuses as well.”
The app has also proved life-saving in non-stalker-related cases. It helped one woman who was jogging and was about to go into a diabetic coma.
Hollie Guard is available to download for free on iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
Alex Lovell who was grateful for the Hollie Guard app while she was being stalked
Murder victim Hollie Gazzard