Croydon journalist threatened with arrest for harassment

Police officer: David Holt

Police officer: David Holt

Lawyers are set to challenge harassment notice served by the Metropolitan police to local newspaper journalist.

On Monday three police officers visited the Croydon Advertiser’s head office in Surrey, to serve a Prevention of Harassment Letter to Chief Reporter Gareth Davies.

Over the past year, Davies has been conducting an in-depth investigation into a series of frauds committed by Neelam Desai which date back to 2008.

The weekly newspaper have published five lead stories about the “Croydon conwoman” this month.

In order to put allegations to the accused, Davies has doorstepped Desai once and emailed her twice in a “polite and professional” manner the reporter insists.

However, Desai has claimed to the police that Davies has repeatedly contacted her for an interview via email and on social networking site Twitter.

The harassment letter reads that Desai: “has stated that she does not wish to be contacted or written about by Mr Davies as she feels harassed by these actions. Mr Davies has failed to accept this, but continued to write and and make unsolicited contacts which result in Ms Desai feeling intimidated and persecuted.”

When the notice was served, one of the officers allegedly added: “You say you were just doing your job, but that’s what the News of the World and the phone hackers said.”

Davies, who won print and digital journalist of the year at the South of England Media Awards last November, is “determined” to continue his work.

Despite being told he could run the risk of arrest Davies said: “I don’t feel I’ve done anything wrong. Our job is to ask questions. We have to put allegations to people.”

Desai, 33 of Beulah Grove, is alleged to have conned £35k out of three men whilst using a fake identity on Asian marriage site

The scam worked by Desia claiming to be raising money for the homeless under the name Nisha Patel, and using photographs of a woman now married to a man who used to be in Desia’s year at John Ruskin College.

Desai first made a complaint against Davies to the Press Complaints Commission last month, claiming that the reporter had physically abused her when he doorstepped her home address. However when Davies went to the police to volunteer his version, Desai dropped the matter.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: “The letter was issued by one of our local safer neighbourhood team officers in response to a number of reports from the woman who felt she was being harassed. The officer did this to ensure the reporter was fully aware the allegations of harassment were being made against him.”

Desai has pleaded guilty to fraud and is set to be sentenced at Croydon Crown Court on 25 April.


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