A GB News presenter says she has been put through a year of hell after being stalked by a former Airline star who appeared on her show as a guest.
Ellie Costello was left fearing for her safety and suffering from ‘panic attacks’ after Leo Jones blitzed her with creepy messages.
The 29-year-old bravely revealed her ordeal after Jones, who found fame on the ITV reality show Airline before reinventing himself as a ‘travel expert’, was given a five-year restraining order today.
The 41-year-old was also given a suspended jail sentence at St Albans Magistrates’ Court for his year-long campaign that left her in ‘constant stress’ and having ‘sleepless nights’.
GB News presenter Ellie Costello on set. Miss Costello says she suffered a year of hell after being stalked by a former guest on her show
Leo Jones outside St Albans Magistrates’ Court. The 42-year-old has been given a five-year restraining order forbidding him from contacting Miss Costello
It comes as campaigners launched a ‘super complaint’ about police forces in the UK allegedly failing to protect women from stalkers, meaning police watchdogs must now consider whether to launch a national inquiry.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which was set up after the disappearance and murder of the London estate agent in 1986, says victims are being put at risk because of ‘systemic’ failures.
Miss Costello told the Daily Mail that she had never actually met the father-of-two in the flesh – having interviewed him over Zoom – before he started showing up at her filming locations.
On one occasion, he made it into her studio at 5am but she was not at work that day.
‘I was crying in the witness room before I came into court today, it took everything in my body to do it but I wanted the court to hear me in person in my own words what this has done to me,’ she said.
Jones, a self-styled ‘travel expert’ appeared on GB News where he was interviewed by Miss Costello (pictured)
Jones shot to fame in Airline, which ran for eight years until 2006 and followed the lives of EasyJet workers through the highs and lows of airport dramas, making them small-time stars.
He recently presented himself as a ‘travel expert’, analyzing the industry under Covid-19 travel restrictions and was first interviewed by Miss Costello on GB News in August 2021.
Following the broadcast the pair exchanged messages thanking each other but nothing further.
He was interviewed by Miss Costello again in October that year, after which he suggested they should present a travel show together before later telling her: ‘I love seeing you in the morning X’
When she didn’t respond he followed up with ‘you take my breath away’ and then, over the next three days ‘You motivate me beyond words’, ‘I love seeing you’, and ‘You are my sunshine I love you’ .
When Jones then asked: ‘How long do I have to wait to see you it is driving me insane,’ Miss Costello finally replied, telling him: ‘Please stop messaging me it is beyond inappropriate.’
But the court heard the messages only stopped for three months before Jones, using a separate Instagram account, says: ‘I know I’m not supposed to message you but thank you for everything you do for the travel industry,’ followed by ‘No one will ever come close to you’.
Miss Costello then blocked all his social media accounts from contacting her.
In June this year, Jones turned up at the GB News studio in Paddington asking whether she was available before later sending flowers with a message: ‘Something to say a good morning from Leo X.’
Miss Costello says she received creepy messages from Jones, which continued even after she told him to stop
Jones began to send creepy messages after being interviewed by Miss Costello on GB News (pictured)
Miss Costello also received an email from Mr Jones through her website that read: ‘Ellie I don’t want to be like a stalker I have feelings for you you have been pivotal on my journey’.
On the day of the Queen’s funeral, as she broadcast from crowds on the Long Walk at Windsor, the reporter saw Jones ‘with his hands in his pockets, laughing and walking towards her’.
Frantic, she called the police but was unable to get her words out, spluttering just ‘stalker’ as a panic attack kicked in. By the time the police calmed her down, he had disappeared.
Miss Costello bravely addressed St Albans magistrates’ court from behind a curtain yesterday detailing the harrowing impact Jones has had on her life and work, including being given a bodyguard.
Describing the incident on the day of the Queen’s funeral, Miss Costello said: ‘I’ve been left shaken in the aftermath of Leo Jones getting so close to me.
I had a panic attack, I couldn’t breathe or speak, when I realized he had gotten so close to me I really freaked out. He must have followed me after watching my broadcast that morning.
It has made me nervous about getting out of cars and going to places by myself. In my job it is impossible not to say where I am, I have a security officer to make me feel safe at work.
Jones, pictured here on GB News, was given a 26-week custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and a five-year restraining order at St Albans Magistrates’ Court today
Leo Jones shot to fame after appearing on the ITV reality show Airline, which followed staff at easyJet
The security officer has taught me ways to help keep myself safe, to wear less bright colors, to tie my hair up, how to position myself in relation to a road, to face outwards to see threats coming. I have had to change how I behave at work and everyday life.
‘I would not wish this upon anyone. I just want to feel safe and secure at work.
‘The last 16 months have been one of constant worry, constant stress and constant strain on my life.
‘The thought of seeing his face makes me cry. I am frustrated at myself for letting it go on for so long.’
She later told the Mail: ‘Some men watch female reporters and think they know you. He clearly felt by watching me that he knew me very well and we were in a relationship.
‘I got the sense he was very delusional despite the fact we’ve never met in person, he acted as if we were in a relationship.
Jones pleaded guilty to causing the presenter serious alarm, distress and mental anguish and was given a 26-week custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and a five-year restraining order.
He is now a carer for his elderly father, the court heard.
Miss Costello added: ‘All I wanted out of this was a restraining order because then I can feel safe. So the fact I’ve got one for five years is fantastic.’
The conclusion of Miss Costello’s case comes as figures revealed that in the year ending March 2022, only five percent of stalking reports ended up being charged by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The Telegraph reports that 30,000 cases were dropped due to ‘evidential difficulties’ despite victims supporting prosecution.
This has prompted the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to launch a ‘super complaint’ against British police, which it says is ‘failing to identify stealing behaviors as a course of conduct at an early stage, contributing to them being mischarged by the CPS’.
The charity is one of only a dozen or so charities that have the ability to launch this specific type of action, which means that police watchdogs have to consider whether to launch a national inquiry.
It added that ‘it is clear that the police are failing to understand and implement’ stalking legislation which was brought into force a decade ago, which is ‘ultimately leaving many victims unprotected’.
Suky Bhaker (pictured), CEO of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said she hoped the ‘super complaint’ issued by the charity would ‘improve the police response to stalking across the country’
Suky Bhaker, CEO of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, says: ‘We support thousands of victims every year across our National Stalking Service and a significant number of them tell us that they are being let down by the police and the courts at every step of their journey to justice.
‘Failure to identify and investigate stalking at the earliest possible opportunity results in an increasing risk of physical and psychological harm to the victim.
‘We hope that the outcome of this super-complaint will result in robust recommendations to improve the police response to stalking across the country which is so vitally needed.’
Claire Waxman, Victims Commissioner for London, says: ‘Too many stalking victims are being let down by the police and wider justice system – with stalking behaviors being ignored or minimized, and breaches of restraining orders not taken seriously enough.
I fully support the National Stalking Consortium’s super-complaint, which highlights a number of failures in the way stalking cases are being dealt with, leaving victims at risk of further harm and causing unnecessary distress.
‘While I hoped the revised stalking legislation would lead to better protections and justice for victims, ten years on the charge rate remains unacceptably low.
It is clear the justice system is still struggling to identify and tackle stalking robustly, leaving too many victims suffering and at risk.
‘Change is well over-due as stalking victims deserve to be protected’