A senior journalist has been fined £500 and given a three-year non-harassment order after found guilty of stalking a female PR consultant with whom he had been in a relationship.
Terry Murden, 57, business editor of the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday newspapers, had denied that on various occasions between June 27 and October 4, 2013, he engaged in a course of conduct which caused Nicki Sturzaker, 39, fear and alarm by attending her flat uninvited, leaving unwanted gifts and notes, repeatedly sending emails which he knew were unwanted, swearing and uttering threats towards her, refusing to stop when asked, acting in a threatening and abusive manner, contacting her employers, and making reference to her in newspaper articles written or edited by him.
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Murden, of New Orchardfield, Edinburgh, first appeared at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in October 2013, and was found guilty by Sheriff Donald Corke on July 3. Sentence was deferred then for a background report.
In her evidence, Ms Sturzaker told the court she was employed as a consultant with the PR firm, the Big Partnership, when she was introduced to Murden in 2011. She said at first their relationship was "purely work" but that had changed about a year later.
Fiscal Depute, Arlene Shaw asked her if the relationship had become "romantic". "Yes," replied Ms Sturzaker: "I met him for lunch and at that point he declared he had fallen in love with me".
The relationship had ended in November 2012, she said. "I phoned him and said 'That's it'. I had a lot of complications going on in my life". She added that they had remained in contact "as friends". Then in January 2013, she said he had sent her an email saying he was going to make direct contact with her clients. "I panicked because I felt it was blackmail and would affect my job."
In June 2013, Ms Sturzaker said Murden accused her of having a relationship with another man. She denied this and told him: "You have nothing to do with my life" to which, she said, he replied: "F..k you. You are blacked."
Between July and October that year, Ms Sturzaker said she received 15 emails from Murden and contacted the police. They had suggested she make it clear to Murden that their relationship was over. She told the court: "I informed him I did not want any communication from him in any form as it was over and the police were there and they are monitoring the situation".
A couple of days later, she received an email from Murden saying: "OK understand. There really was no need for any of this. You gave me the best moments of my life. I will love you always. Regards, Terry."
Asked by Ms Shaw how she felt, Ms Sturzaker replied: "I felt his behaviour was erratic and irrational. He published two articles in one week about my departure from Big Partnership which I thought was an abuse of his position as business editor."
The articles contained details of her salary and that she was a single parent. "Why did they have to refer to my being a single parent? What had that to do with my job or my ability?" "He had cost me my job," she said. "I felt humiliated. I changed my mobile number. I wanted to get as far away from him as possible". Despite this, she said, emails and gifts continued to be sent.
In his evidence, Murden said the accusation that he had cost her her job was totally unfounded. After their initial meeting in April 2011, Murden said there was email traffic between them. "It got more and more frequent," he said "business and some social. We started to meet for lunch and dinner and formed a relationship. I spoke to her every day."
In October 2012, he said, he received an email from Ms Sturzaker at 6.30am. "She was clearly concerned about her relationship with the Big Partnership. I was concerned and tried to help her bolster her position."
As for the two newspaper articles, Murden said Ms Sturzaker had told the paper she was leaving the company. He said he had not written the articles and added: "I don't know who wrote the articles. It could have gone through several pairs of hands."
He admitted takings flowers to her house one evening: "I wanted to understand why she was acting as she was" he said. "I felt there was still a possibility we could still be friends."
When Murden appeared for sentencing today, Ms Shaw told Sheriff Corke that the Crown was seeking a five-year non-harassment order prohibiting Murden from contacting or approaching or attempting to contact or approach Ms Sturzaker and not to reference her on social media in any way.
Defence solicitor, Jim Stephenson, said his client would accept the order, but Mr Stephenson questioned the five-year period. He said Murden had worked all his adult life in high-level employment. The relationship between him and Ms Sturzaker, he said, had "its stops and starts and Mr Murden had difficulty coming to terms with the ending of the relationship". He did accept with hindsight that he should not have sent her repeated emails.
The lawyer said the conviction could have serious consequences for Murden's employment, as investigations into that had still not reached a conclusion. With the possible loss of his employment, he would have no income and had a mortgage on the family home and rent for the flat where he was living at present.
Mr Stephenson said his client's relationship with his wife was quite strong and added: "I understand that they live separately, but it may well be there could be reconciliation."
Sentencing Murden, Sheriff Corke told him: "The offence of which you were found guilty is a statutory offence of stalking and the fear and alarm you caused Ms Sturzaker is your responsibility, not hers."
Fining Murden £500, Sheriff Corke said that because he was a first offender and there had been no problems while he was on bail, he would place him on a three-year order. "That will take you to the age of 60 and enable both of your to get on with your lives," he said.