A "disturbing" stalker who bombarded a woman with messages on Facebook and sent flowers and chocolates to her workplace has been slapped with a restraining order and suspended jail term.

Piers John Woodward, of Worthing, Sussex, who also traced his 23-year-old victim at work and waited for her outside with gifts, yesterday became the first person prosecuted under new stalking legislation.

The 30-year-old had met the woman while she was working in an Italian ski resort in early 2012.
He subsequently sent her several friend requests on Facebook and messages pleading with her to call him, to which she did not reply.

Woodward then managed to obtain her mobile phone number and began bombarding her with calls and texts, only relenting when the victim's friend answered the phone and told him it no longer belonged to her.

But in February last year, several bouquets of flowers and boxes of chocolates were delivered to the woman's workplace - despite her never telling Woodward where she worked.

In July, the victim arrived at work to find Woodward waiting on a bench outside with a present for her. He tried to talk to her but left when a colleague intervened. Six days later he returned and briefly spoke to the woman, before she said she had to leave.

The woman, who was increasingly concerned for her own safety, then reported Woodward to the police. He was arrested in Worthing on August 9 and charged with stalking the next day.

He was found guilty at Croydon Magistrates' Court in December and yesterday sentenced to 18 weeks in prison, suspended for two years.

Trainee detective constable Sue Day-Sawyer, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "This conviction is the first for the borough of Croydon since the recent legislation concerning stalking was brought in.

"It's an important case as it will send a message that this sort of disturbing activity is taken extremely seriously by police.

"Any victims in a similar situation in Croydon can be reassured that we will take their allegations seriously and bring any offenders to justice for the crime of stalking."

Woodward will also be bound  by a curfew and was ordered to pay £680 costs.

If you have concerns about stalking, call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 or contact police by calling 101.