By Rob Kidd
A businessman who was stalked for more than two-and-a-half years by a policeman was convinced the man would kill him.
Constable Jeremy Fraser Buis, 39, was yesterday revealed as the man who had harassed Danny Pryde since a row over a parking spot in 2012.
Buis, who has been on paid leave for nearly two and a-half years, was sentenced to 200 hours' community work and ordered to pay the victim $15,000 after being found guilty of criminal harassment, threatening to do grievous bodily harm and intentional damage, following a week-long, judge-alone trial in March.
Pryde and his wife told the Otago Daily Times after Judge Paul Kellar's verdicts they were starting to wrestle back control of their lives.
"We're still looking over our shoulder," said Pryde - who voluntarily gave up his name suppression.
"Mentally, he has really hurt us."
On December 2, 2014, the harassment reached its peak when Buis' messages took a violent turn.
He told Pryde to "get your affairs in order" and advised him to "buy something bullet-proof".
"I honestly thought that afternoon was my last day on Earth. I felt sick," Pryde said.
"I thought 'he's lost the plot and he's going to do it'."
The family man convinced himself he was going to be executed outside his front gate, like Scott Guy was in 2010.
"Every time I drove past the letter box, I thought 'is that where he's going to finish me?'," he said.
The saga began on June 14, 2012, when Buis parked his car blocking the rear driveway to Pryde's business, Pryde Engineering.
The company owner called the council, who promptly ticketed the vehicle, which led to a confrontation between the men.
"He deliberately parked across the entranceway to [the business] the next day to make a point," Judge Kellar said.
Despite Buis claiming he had no animosity towards Pryde, the judge highlighted the fact he subsequently made a complaint to police over alleged damage to his car.
"From what should have been an innocuous incident about parking I am sure that [he] has engaged in a sustained period of harassment of [the victim] for . . . over two years," Judge Kellar said.
It began with anonymous text messages from a range of unknown numbers.
In February 2014, things escalated when the public servant set up a fake homosexual online dating profile using the businessman's name and contact details from his work website.
When police raided Buis' house nearly two years later, forensic electronic evidence from his laptop identified him as the culprit.
It showed he had accessed Pryde's company website an hour before a photo from it appeared on the dating site.
"It is simply too much of a coincidence," the judge said.
He noted much of the abuse had a distinctly homosexual theme. Pryde's contact details were written in marker pen at a gay hangout and graffiti featuring his name alongside gay slurs began popping up around the city.
When police analysed Buis' phone, they found he had communicated with colleagues over an app during which he voiced his hatred for Pryde.
They also shared a photo of him and defaced it with drawings of penises.
A similarly defaced image was mailed to the businessman's home in 2015.
Pryde said he had spent countless hours questioning his stalker's motives.
"I struggle to understand where he's come from; the things he's done, the extent he's gone to," he said.
"Everything's been premeditated. He's thought every move out quite thoroughly and executed . . . without a trace."
Since the anonymous abuse began, the family had invested heavily in home security and found the harassment had gradually but totally changed the way they lived.
"It's not normal but they're steps we had to take. You live in such a paranoid world, it almost becomes the norm. But it's not normal," Pryde said.
After sentencing in April, Pryde said he believed the sentence was light and described the $15,000 emotional-harm payment, which the court heard Buis had borrowed, as "dirty money".
"I'd almost be prepared to give that away to charity. He tried to destroy my business and my marriage. [Money] doesn't fix those things," he said.
Both he and the judge were at a loss to explain why Buis had undertaken the campaign.
"I've been staggered at the extent of the planning and degree of sophistication in it," Judge Kellar said.
"This is inexplicable behaviour. You held a responsible position, had a completely clean record ... I can assume you were otherwise a person of good character and standing in the community. You've let yourself and your family down very badly through this offending that really got out of control."
The judge described the situation as an "absolute tragedy" for both the victim's and defendant's families.
Southern District commander Superintendent Paul Basham confirmed yesterday Buis had been suspended in February 2015 and an employment process was ongoing.
Buis had been on paid leave for nearly two-and-a-half years, which Basham stressed was standard employment practice.