AN AMERICAN woman who has stalked Stephen Hawking online for years was arrested and then released by police in Tenerife after travelling to the Canary Islands and issuing death threats against the famous physician, who was in Spain for an astronomy conference.
After refusing to subject herself to psychological analysis, the 39-year-old American who lives in Norway, was handed a four-month suspended sentence by a local court which took into account that she had no criminal record in Spain.
She has been prohibited from going within 500 metres of the scientist or contacting him online for the next eight months.
The alarm was raised by Hawking’s children who noticed an escalation of her online abuse, culminating in a brazen death threat as she sent a message saying “ I am going to kill you”, followed by “I’m next to you and can kill you”.
Realising that the woman was actually in Tenerife where Hawking was appearing at the Starmus festival, security placed the 74-year-old under armed guard while police searched for the woman, eventually arresting her at a four-star hotel adjacent to the conference hall.
The local court has issued a statement outlining events which read:
“She had been pursuing Mr Hawking throughout the world and in the last few days had sent him grave threats through social media and to his personal email.
“In the various emails he received she outlined plans to end his life during the scientific conference being held in Tenerife.
“Because of the information contained in the emails, it appeared the person sending them could have been inside the conference venue.
”The crime she was convicted of covers threats to carry out crimes against someone including murder, wounding, rape and torture.”
Judges excused the British-born Hawking, who garnered international acclaim with his concise ‘A Brief History of Time’, from appearing in court for health reasons. The professor was diagnosed with motor neurone disease aged just 21 but has since gone on to defy doctors predications and transform humanity’s understand of black holes.
The physicist made headlines earlier in the week when he expressed his belief that pollution and ‘human stupidity’ were the biggest threats facing mankind.