Stalker used fake Instagram accounts to torment her victim and his girlfriend

A stalker set out to ‘destroy’ a man’s life by messaging his girlfriend and married women, pretending to be him.

Ian, who has asked only to be referred to be his first name, told how Annika Sands made his life a misery after she began stalking him online and waiting outside his gym.

Sands, 37, from Prenton in Birkenhead, set up ‘hundreds’ of fake Instagram accounts to message Ian and his friends and family, including his mum.

It was only after Ian Sands reported to police that he discovered she had also made a police statement against him, claiming he was her boyfriend and he was abusing her, the Liverpool Echo has reported.

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She later dropped the claims before making a further police complaint against Ian, claiming he was threatening to share ‘revenge porn’.

But her web of lies started to unravel when police raided her home and seized nine electronic devices, which showed she had been using tracking software to follow Ian’s every move.

Sands was handed a five-year Stalking Protection Order on Tuesday, January 25, after police found she had stalked three men and their families.

Now, Ian spoke out about how Sands made his life hell in the hope of helping other stalking victims.

He first met Sands in a pub in Oxton Village, Birkenhead, in November 2019 when she was on a work night out.

Ian recalled chatting to Sands in the pub before one of his colleagues came up to him and warned ‘she’s a f****** psycho’ but he ‘thought it was a joke’ at the time.

After the night out, Sands sent Ian a friend request on Facebook and they got chatting before arranging to meet up.

Ian, 40, said: “She asked whether I wanted to see her again. I said yeah but it was just before Christmas, it was November. I said ‘I’m really busy I’ll give you a call in January’.

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“I met someone then and it got quite serious and then on Boxing Day I got a message off Annika saying ‘do you still want to see me in January?’ I said ‘I’ve met someone, I really like her, so then she said I’m livid.’

“I said ‘listen, I don’t know you, I’ve met you once, I didn’t promise you anything.'”

Annka Sands

Ian said that it was the day Sands’ campaign of harassment first began as she started sending text messages to people pretending to be him, which he said led to the break down of his relationship with his girlfriend.

Ian said Sands sent the messages to friends, family and strangers including married women, using software that made it look like the messages had come from his mobile number.

The first text message, which was sent to his girlfriend, said: “Merry Christmas babe! Hope you like this as I think you’re amazing & I love you. Love Santa xxxxxxxxx.”

Ian said: “My number was on the phone. She said ‘look what you’ve just sent’ – I said I haven’t felt that, she didn’t believe me.

“Then her mate got a message.

“My girlfriend at the time was kicking off saying ‘why are you sending messages like that to my mate?’ My number was coming up on the phone so you would think that.

“Then the next day I had a phone call off her, it was a withheld number. She’s crying down the phone, begging me to leave her alone. I knew it was her by her voice.”

“When she started contacting my mum I was thinking ‘this needs to stop.”

Ian said Sands set up hundreds of fake Instagram accounts to message him and his friends and family.

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The accounts were made under a number of fake names including ‘Travis Mark’, a middle aged man who Sands posed as in order to message Ian’s mum.

The first time she messaged Ian using a fake account, Sands branded him a “disgrace” and sent a screenshot of an Instagram story about the dangers of revenge porn.

Ian said: “It was basically insinuating that I abuse women. I thought I’ve got to go to the police.

Annika Sands

“You don’t want to be known as an abusive boyfriend, it wasn’t nice. It made me feel anxious – you can lose your job for things like that.

“She was contacting my mum, ringing my boss at half 11 at night. She was following where I went. I was leaving the gym and she’d be sitting in the car outside and she’d follow me.

“She was texting friends pretending to speak to me begging me to leave her alone.

“She actually contacted the managing director of my company, I don’t know what she said to him. Obviously when she started contacting my mum I was thinking ‘this needs to stop.'”

Sands sent messages to married women claiming to be Ian, and even accused him of threatening to share intimate pictures of her.

But her lies were uncovered after Ian handed his phone into police for examination.

“She was actively trying to destroy my life,” he said.

Police raided Sands’ home and seized nine laptops which were fitted with tracking software she used to follow Ian’s whereabouts.

Following a lengthy investigation, police found Sands had stalked Ian and two other men between November 2019 and May 2021.

She was given a five year Stalking Protection Order on January 25, meaning that she is subjected to a number of conditions including not to contact any person if they expressly state that they do not wish to be contacted by her.

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A breach can result in jail time.

Ian said he welcomed the sentencing and thanked Detective Inspector Lyndsay Armbuster for how well she handled the case.

However, he said: “If the boot was on the other foot I would be in jail.

“It was more the emotion aspect of it, she was actively trying to destroy my life. She wanted to get a reaction out of me so she could be the victim.

“She was contacting my mum, contacting my boss. I think she thought I would be aggressive.

“I’m happy that she can’t contact me of my family or friends and if she does do it to anyone else she will get prosecuted.

“It was stressful at the time, I’m just glad it’s been dealt with now and I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else in the future.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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