‘Pure evil’: Catfish victims tell of pain as sentence appealed

Another stalking survivor read an emotional statement about the toll of the “tragic and bizarre” case.

The woman – who cannot be named for legal reasons – said she had been lured into believing she was speaking to Lincoln Lewis and shared intimate details of her life.

When she discovered it was not the actor to whom she was chatting, Abdelmalek created a new identity and a cast of characters to harass her.

Lydia Abdelmalek, who posed as actor Lincoln Lewis, is in custody after she failed to overturn her conviction.Credit:ninevms

“There is no shadow of a doubt that that is who is responsible for destroying my life,” the woman said of Abdelmalek, whom she refused to name in court.

“Having been tormented by that voice for so long, I could recognise it in my sleep.”

The woman said Abdelmalek had used the tactics abusers utilised to groom their victims, and she had been lured in, kept isolated and made to keep silent.

“I was frantic, fearful, suspicious and angry all the time,” she said.

The woman said she had been forced to move repeatedly, changed her role at work and eventually stopped answering her phone in a bid to escape her stalker. When she found out about another victim, the two became close until the other woman took her own life.

“She sent me a message that I will never forget,” she told the court.

“In her final hours, she had reached out to me, but I couldn’t deal with my own feelings, let alone help her, so I was ignoring my phone as usual. At the time I saw her cry for help, it was too late. If I hadn’t been so weak myself, I might have been able to help her and I haven’t been able to forgive myself for that.”

The woman urged Judge Claire Quin to use the catfishing case to send a clear message about how serious the crimes were and how grave the consequences could be.

“The consequences of the appellant’s actions must be severe enough that they serve as a deterrent not only for them, but for any others contemplating this type of assault,” she said.

Abdelmalek was initially jailed for two years and eight months in 2019 for the stalking campaign, but appealed against the conviction and sentence.

During the lengthy appeal against conviction, she took to the stand and denied she was behind the “merciless” campaign and was instead a victim herself.

Experts told the court they were able to link emails in the catfish scheme to the Lalor woman. Photos, chat messages and phone numbers were also found on devices Abdelmalek owned.

Quin said in her judgment in May that the stalker’s evidence during the appeal was “confusing, inconsistent and was deliberately evasive”, particularly when challenged.

The hearing continues.

Crisis support is available from Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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