THINGS turned sour when businessman Stephen Wall was dumped by his partner of three-and-a-half years after he had stumped up £160,000 to set her up in her own business.
Wall began stalking his ex, regularly driving past the Warwick café he had funded, and attempted to ‘repossess’ a Land Rover he had bought her.
And at Warwick Crown Court the 50-year-old pleaded guilty to stalking Sherry Ashby and two charges of breaching a non-molestation order she had taken out against him.
Wall, of Kenilworth Road, Hampton-in-Arden, was given a community order for 12 month and ordered to take part in a rehabilitation activity.
Prosecutor Graeme Simpson said Wall and Miss Ashby began a relationship in November 2016, and it lasted for three-and-a-half years until March last year when she “Towards the end it was a tempestuous relationship, but during the relationship he provided financial assistance for her to set up and run a café business in Warwick.”
In April last year, after the relationship had ended, Miss Ashby obtained a non-molestation order against Wall.
But between May and September he breached the order by stalking her, repeatedly driving past the business, Botanics coffee shop and deli in Chase Meadow Square.
He also repeatedly changed his WhatsApp profile picture which had the effect of sending her notifications each time.
Then on June 3 Miss Ashby was in her Land Rover on the A46 when she saw Wall’s car ahead of her, so slowed down.
But because of a traffic tailback they ended up alongside each-other – and he pointedly tore up £50 notes and threw them from his car as a gesture to her.
Later that month Miss Ashby saw some men on the drive of her home, including Wall’s cousin who told her he was repossessing her car.
Miss Ashby, who says she has been ‘living in fear’ and had been prescribed antidepressants because of Wall’s actions, called her parents who arrived and ushered the cousin away.
Lee Marklew QC, defending, who described Wall as ‘a successful businessman, said: “Today is an acutely embarrassing day for him.
“After they had started to live together he made a significant financial contribution to the relationship by setting up the Botanics coffee shop so she could realise her dream of setting up her own business.
“Because he was in love with her, he made her a joint director, although she had no money to pay to set up the business.
“He made £160,500 available to the café through a series of director’s loans until February 2020 and paid her an allowance of £2,000 a month while the business got on its feet, and he bought her a Land Rover Discovery for £33,000.
“While this gave him no greater entitlement to complain when they split up, he still bore her in his heart.”
Mr Marklew said after they split up and Wall stopped paying her an allowance, she illegally removed him from the register at Companies House, and his name was only reinstated as a result of civil proceedings.
She took out the non-molestation order following an incident at her home after she had invited him for lunch and had asked him to continue paying her an allowance, which he refused to do, and what followed led to him being given a police caution.
She shut him out of the business affairs, and although he focussed on his own business, he was ‘exasperated and at times indignant about her attitude towards what he had done for her.’
And when Botanics re-opened as lockdown rules were eased, he ‘started to swing by’ to check on it because he feared Miss Ashby would deliberately run it down to spite him.
Mr Marklew said the two of them began bickering ‘in a childish manner,’ with her also repeatedly changing her WhatsApp profile and texting him in the early hours.
He added the meeting on the A46 had happened by chance when they had become gridlocked, and the attempt to seize the Land Rover had taken place at the suggestion of his cousin.
Sentencing Wall, Recorder Balraj Bhatia QC told him: “I accept you are a man of positive good character, decent, caring and well-respected and running a very successful business.
“It seems it was quite an intense relationship. You gave freely of your time and your affection, and you reflected your commitment to Miss Ashby by investing a significant amount of money so she could realise her ambition.
“That gives you no greater right in terms of your expectations or returns from your partner, but they do give an explanation for why you behaved as out of character as you did. You no doubt felt used.”