A law graduate launched a terrifying campaign against his former lecturer – simply because the academic had once bumped into him.
Luke Harker, of Seamer, sent abusive emails to Hull University’s Christian Twigg-Flesner after harbouring years of hatred for the accidental corridor shunt.
In one email, stocky Harker told the bespectacled academic: “I would love to throw you on your head and break your glasses.”
On Monday Harker was handed a decade-long restraining order for the messages, while his solicitor Robert Vining said: “I’ve personally told the defendant this conviction means his chosen (legal) career has now effectively ended.”
Scarborough magistrates heard that over a two-month period, 26-year-old Harker sent threatening messages to the academic, who was then taking the blood-thinning drug Warfarin.
They included one message calling his former lecturer a “greedy negroid Jew” – the victim was neither Jewish nor black.
“Initially I thought it was a hoax,” said Professor Twigg-Flesner in his victim statement. “I am on Warfarin and any blow to the head could be potentially fatal. The very least I would like is an explanation and an apology face-to-face.” However that won’t be possible for the next 10 years at least, after magistrates slapped a lengthy restraining order on Harker which prohibits him from contacting either the victim or visiting the university’s campus.
Harker, of Abbots Garth, was spared prison after the probation service said he would be “too vulnerable” behind bars, having never been locked up before.
However, it wasn’t the first time he’d been in trouble with the law, with the court learning he had previously been cautioned for harassing a female co-student in 2014.
This time around the bench took a dimmer view of Harker’s “shocking” messages, which the court heard was sparked by a chance encounter in 2012 while he was a second year student.
Harker hung his head and fiddled nervously with a water bottle as the crown’s Katy Varlow recalled how the professor’s failure to move out of the defendant’s way was the catalyst for the student’s dangerous obsession.
“He felt aggrieved that it was done on purpose,” said the prosecutor.
“He retained his ill feeling, and it built up before he let him know how he felt – this was completely unprovoked.”
Harker then fired off a series of emails between last August and October.
Yet despite the court hearing how Harker would boast about his intellect and superior linguistic skills, he was caught after sending them from the email account he’d registered with the university.
The court heard how Professor Twigg-Flesner, a commercial law lecturer, was “stunned” by the emails.
“The victim has been put through a distressing time,” added Mrs Varlow. In police interview, Harker claimed he had called the professor a Jew because in his opinion he had a Middle Eastern look.
She added: “The victim is neither of African origin nor Jewish. He describes himself as white European.”
Yet despite getting his victim’s race wrong, Harker admitted a sole charge of racial aggravated harassment without violence.
Harker had hoped to launch a legal career, but two years after graduating he is currently on the dole and living with his parents.
And his criminal record means that his court appearances may be limited to appearing as the accused rather than as a brief.
“He’s told me he is sorry,” said Mr Vining, in mitigation.
He added that the only explanation his client had offered for his behaviour was that after failing to kickstart his legal career, he had began feeling under an enormous amount of pressure which forced the ill-will towards his old lecturer to boil over.
Magistrates sentenced Harker to 18 weeks in jail, after stating: “We are dealing with an offence so serious that only custody is appropriate.”
However they suspended that sentence for two years after the probation service argued prison would hinder his future employment options.
Harker will also have to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and carry a 10-day rehabilitation programme and pay £165 in costs and charges
Harker apologised again for his behaviour towards his former professor, whom he also has to pay £200 in compensation to.
The Scarborough News contacted Professor Twigg-Flesner following the sentencing. While he declined to speak about the case, he added: “I am grateful to North Yorkshire Police, and Humberside Police where I first recorded my complaint, for their actions in this quite distressing matter.”