A woman-hating loner who hid beside isolated footpaths and bike tracks in Fife and “jumped out” at females taking their coronavirus daily exercise during the first lockdown, was sentenced to more than 15 months imprisonment.
Mark Russell shadowed and terrified ten walkers or joggers, across a swathe of Clackmannanshire and part of Fife.
Alloa Sheriff Court heard Russell, 34, held “extreme, misogynistic views” about women and had been identified since primary school as having a personality disorder and problems with empathy and authority.
Sheriff Neil Bowie, who jailed him for 462 days, said: “The locations were isolated, on the majority of the occasions the first lockdown was in force, social distancing rules applied, and there was limited time for exercise.
“You have clearly demonstrated no remorse – indeed, the opposite.
“It’s been described that you have a very misogynistic attitude towards women.”
‘Weird and alarming’
Russell, of Dollar, Clackmannanshire pled guilty in October to eight offences of threatening behaviour and a ninth of breaching an undertaking, all between November 21, 2019 and May 7, 2020.
Solicitor Erin Monaghan, defending, said Russell’s behaviour was “weird and alarming.”
She said: “He has been treated since primary school for antisocial behaviour, problems with empathy, authority, and being isolated, and has been diagnosed with a personality disorder.
“His views are extreme.
“They cannot be described in any other way — they really are extreme.
“He has anger problems; his offending is very, very specific and it’s concerning.”
Sheriff Bowie ruled at an earlier hearing that there was “a significant sexual element” to Russell’s crimes.
First victim afraid to leave house
The court heard that during a “weird and alarming” six-month campaign, one 60-year-old woman Russell targeted became “so unsettled” she became afraid to go out alone.
Prosecutor Susannah Hutchison said: “In December 2019 she became aware of him passing on his bicycle and entering a wooded area near her home.
“She initially thought his behaviour was unusual.
“As the weeks passed, she became aware of him stepping out behind her as she passed.”
One evening in January 2020, as she was returning home at about 9.10 pm, he stepped out then walked “very close” behind her for 30 yards.
It got so bad she would not leave her house alone.
Weird behaviour continued
Russell was traced and warned but less than two months later, two women, aged 40 and 44, saw Russell “turn to face them” as they were out running on an old railway line near Dollar.
He “so unsettled them” they immediately turned and run back the way they had come.
After a full mile they suddenly heard footsteps behind them and Russell ran between them.
They slowed down but Russell matched their pace until they were all walking.
The following month a 46-year-old mother, walking with her children on the same old rail track, found Russell less than three-feet behind her.
She kept increasing her pace but was continually matched by Russell, who remained “uncomfortably” close behind her.
Eventually she and her children were running but Russell was running too, “adjacent and in close proximity”.
The mother then slowed to a walk and the accused did likewise.
Eventually he turned up some steps, then turned back, and walked straight towards and then past the woman, who was “by now very fearful”.
Arrest did not stop him
On April 21, 2020, about 4.25pm, he shadowed and terrified an 18-year-old girl on Back Road, Dollar, before hiding in bushes.
On May 3, 2020, he was arrested and released after giving an undertaking that he would “stay away” from cycle paths and popular walking routes.
He breached this only four days later, lurking in bushes beside the Clackmannan to Dunfermline West Fife Way cycleway, “staring” at two 28-year-old women walkers, “appearing, looking towards them, returning to the bushes” then following them closely, “mirroring their pace”.
He also “scared” a 31-year-old woman running on the same Devon Way cycle track with her 11-month-old baby in a buggy; a 52-year-old woman walking home in Alva one evening from a parish church meeting; and a 58 year old woman who was running alone on a country road near the Linn Mill Bridge landmark, over the Black Devon River.
In this case, Russell, having concealed himself near the historic bridge, wordlessly emerging as she passed.
Ms Hutchison said: “The way he jumped out gave her a fright, and made her feel uneasy.”
She ran off and after reading about similar incidents, contacted police.