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US cyberstalker pleads guilty

Used PC 'to annoy, abuse, threaten and harass'

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A US man has pleaded guilty to cyberstalking a former girlfried. Believed to be the first person to be fingered under US laws prohibiting Internet stalking, Robert James Murphy, 38, of Columbia, South Carolina, originally denied a hearing in April 26 counts of using his computer "to annoy, abuse, threaten and harass" Joelle Ligon, a 35 year-old Seattle woman.

Yesterday, Murphy pleaded guilty to two counts of cyberstalking in an agreement with federal prosecutors, AP reports. He is to be sentenced at the end of October.

In May, Chubb Insurance warned that stalkers are increasingly using email and the Internet to prey on their victims. Although widely regarded as a crime that happens to celebrities, a study found that one in eight adults in the UK is a victim of "persistent or unwanted attention".

Experts identified ordinary men and women in their 40s - especially those holding managerial positions or working as lawyers and doctors - as "typical victims" of stalking.

In many cases, people are followed or receive menacing phone calls, in eight out of ten cases email is used to threaten or abuse victims.

According to the report: "It is anticipated that the rapid technological advances of recent years will facilitate stalking offending further. Although no figures are available yet, stalkers are taking advantage of email to harass their victims. The Internet and electronic databases provide rich potential sources of information for offenders on their victims. This is making it more difficult for victims to hide from their stalkers." ®

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