App helped pre­sen­ter who faced rape threats

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - JAMIE HAR­RIS [email protected]­erndai­ly­

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

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