Man imprisoned for stalking bank clerk in Cirencester
By Court reporter | 14th November 2023
A 36-year-old man who became infatuated with a bank clerk in a Cotswolds town and began stalking her at work was sentenced to 29 weeks imprisonment on Monday (November 13).
Benedict Gryspeerdt's victim became increasingly worried by his bizarre and erratic behaviour towards her in and around the Halifax bank in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, over a ten month period, Gloucester Crown Court was told.
She was terrified when Gryspeerdt handed her a note signed 'Deathcrush 666' - which she discovered was the name of a song about kidnap, torture and death by Norwegian black metal band Mayhem.
Prosecutor Simon Goodman said the target of Gryspeerdt's unwanted attention first became aware of him in 2017 or 2018 when he walked into the branch and she believed that he had been sleeping rough.
"Gryspeerdt told the woman, a customer services consultant, that he had just escaped from a mental hospital and warned her not to tell anyone," said Mr Goodman.
"This unusual meeting stuck in the woman's mind. Over time, Gryspeerdt became a regular customer, and he began making unusual comments to her. At first, she brushed these remarks aside because he appeared vulnerable.
"In 2020, the woman, having spent time away from Cirencester, returned to the branch. While she had been away Gryspeerdt kept asking other staff for her to see him specifically and he was making inappropriate comments about her to other cashiers.
"On the woman's return he started putting smiley faces on the bank slips, something he hadn't done with other cashiers while she had been away.
"His odd behaviour intensified in August 2022, when he started telling her she was beautiful and said he would like to buy some flowers for her.
"On one occasion he came into the branch and said he would have brought her some flowers but wasn't sure what days she was working. He told her that the flowers might be dead when she returned, and he stated he preferred dead flowers anyway.
"She told her manager about this and it was suggested that the bank send him a warning letter. The woman declined this suggestion because she realised that Gryspeerdt had poor mental health.
"From this point the woman decided to keep her guard up when dealing with him. He told her on a subsequent visit that it was dangerous for her to look into his eyes. He then suggested he would take her out socially and go for a drink.
"The woman ignored this proposal and continued with his transaction in a professional manner. Gryspeerdt repeated his request, but the cashier didn't respond. Gryspeerdt walked out of the bank in a huff saying: 'I'll take that as a no then'.
"In November, Gryspeerdt's actions got progressively worse as he kept up this infatuation with the bank teller. Gryspeerdt then began to make derogatory remarks to the woman. She told him not to speak to her like that. Gryspeerdt then changed tack by accusing the bank of stealing money from him.
"At the end of 2022, Gryspeerdt went into the branch enquiring after his account balance. He had no funds in his account, and this angered him. He started walking around the bank, talking loudly on his phone and claiming that the woman was his girlfriend and she had taken money from his account.
"Other customers in the bank became concerned for the cashier's welfare and offered to help defuse the situation.
"At the beginning of this year, he was still coming into the branch and each time he shouted out her name as he walked through the doors and stated publicly that he would buy her some flowers. By this time, she was actively hiding from him.
"On March 31, the woman was outside the bank during her lunch break when Gryspeerdt approached her. He asked her for a cigarette, to which she duly complied as she didn't want to aggravate the situation.
"He then followed her to the nearby Boots shop where she managed to lose him.
"A week later, on April 6, Gryspeerdt came into the branch again and spoke to a different cashier as the victim with had made herself look busy. The new cashier noticed that he was looking at her in a concerning way.
"Gryspeerdt then began shouting for the woman to reappear from behind the scenes and he was told that she was dealing with customers on the phone. He began alleging that the counter needed to be shut down as the bank was stealing his money.
"Once the new cashier had completed his transaction Gryspeerdt asked for a piece of paper and he wrote a note which stated, 'I'm sorry for not sending the flowers and words putting you off. This shows that you understood that your behaviour was upsetting.'
"He signed it off as 'Deathcrush 666' and passed it back to the cashier.
"When the woman saw the contents of the note, she felt uncomfortable and freaked out. She knew the reference to 666 as being a reference to the Devil but when she looked up the rest of the name she realised it was a song by a heavy metal band known as Mayhem - a Norwegian black metal band.
"She then looked at the lyrics to that song and was alarmed to discover it was about kidnapping, torture and killing and includes the line 'I'll send you to your Maker, I'll send you to your death'."
The court was told the woman knew from her small talk with Gryspeerdt that he was into heavy metal music. The woman became so fearful of Gryspeerdt that she stopped walking to and from her car alone.
"Gryspeerdt then returned to the bank on May 9, having previously been arrested by the police and released on bail," said the prosecutor. "He was told by one of the cashiers that his bank account had been closed. He then demanded to see the manager, who was not available, so the assistant manager came forward and told him he had been written to and that his account had been closed.
"Gryspeerdt then demanded his money back but was told that it had been closed due to insufficient funds. The assistant manager said she would call the police if he didn't leave. He left begrudgingly after about an hour.
"Gryspeerdt then returned later in the day and by this time he had become very angry. He demanded his money but was told his account with the Halifax had been closed and a letter to this effect had been sent to him.
"The branch's assistant manager was accused of lying by Gryspeerdt and he said she was just the manager's lackey. He was then heard making noises in his throat before spitting at her but the mucus only landed on the table."
Sarah Jenkins, defending said: "This case has been delayed to establish if Gryspeerdt was mentally fit enough to plead, which he is, and he has now admitted both charges.
"However he is concerned by the term stalking as in his mind his actions were not what he understands as stalking, but he admits that his actions were akin to harassment.
"When he was remanded in custody earlier in the year it was because his bail condition was to live and sleep at his address. However the police found him sleeping in the middle of a roundabout during the night, in breach of this condition.
"Gryspeerdt was remanded to HMP Bristol, but the prison had problems in dealing with his mental issues and he was later transferred to Wotton Lawn Hospital in Gloucester where he remains.
"There is no pre-sentence report as it would be difficult to see what probation could do for him. However he has technically been remanded for some time now and I feel that the guidelines would suggest that he has already served any sentence that the court could impose."
Gryspeerdt formerly of Beech Road, Cirencester, but currently residing at Wotton Lawn Mental Health Hospital, admitted a charge of assault on May 9, 2023, and stalking the woman between August 1, 2022, and April 15, 2023, causing her alarm of distress.
Judge Rupert Lowe told Gryspeerdt: "Your actions over the period got steadily worse, making the cashier fear for her life after you left her a disturbing note. The way you signed off tipped the scales as she discovered the extremely disturbing lyrics.
"She was so scared by this she had to change her day-to-day activities and could no longer live a normal life. You may object to the phrase stalking, but this is the legal terminology for your offending and you pleaded guilty when this was explained to you."
Judge Lowe sentenced Gryspeerdt to a prison term of 29 weeks, but said that because he had already served that whilst on remand he would be released forthwith.
Judge Lowe told Gryspeerdt that while he had formally been released from custody, it was up to the mental health authority to make the decision whether he is well enough to be released back in to the community.
Gryspeerdt was made subject to the terms of a five year restraining not to contact his victims by any means and not to enter Cricklade Street in Cirencester during banking hours.
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