A GB News presenter says she endured a year of hell after being stalked by a former Airline star who appeared as a guest on her show.
Ellie Costello feared for her safety and suffered “panic attacks” after Leo Jones bombarded her with creepy messages.
The 29-year-old boldly revealed her ordeal after Jones, who rose to 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 also received a suspended prison sentence at St Albans Magistrates’ Court for his years of campaigning which left her in “constant stress” and “sleepless nights”.
GB News presenter Ellie Costello on set. Miss Costello says she went through 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 issued a five-year restraining order prohibiting him from contacting Miss Costello
It comes as campaigners have filed 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 investigation.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which was set up after the London estate agent’s disappearance and murder in 1986, says victims are at risk from ‘systemic’ failures.
Miss Costello told the Daily Mail that she had never actually met the father-of-two in person – having interviewed him via Zoom – before he started showing up at her filming locations.
One time he showed up at her studio at five in the morning, but she wasn’t at work that day.
“I cried in the witness room before going to court today, I needed everything in my body to do it, but I wanted the court to hear me personally in my own words what this has done to me,” she said.
A self-proclaimed ‘travel expert’, Jones appeared on GB News where he was interviewed by Miss Costello (pictured)
Jones rose to fame in Airline, which ran for eight years until 2006 and followed the lives of EasyJet employees through the highs and lows of airport dramas, turning them into minor stars.
He has recently presented himself as a ‘travel expert’, analyzing the travel industry under Covid-19 travel restrictions and was first interviewed by Miss Costello on GB News in August 2021.
After the broadcast, the pair exchanged messages thanking each other, but nothing else.
In October of that year, he was interviewed again by Miss Costello, after which he suggested they co-host a travel show before she later told her, “I’d love to see you in the morning X.”
When she didn’t respond, he continued with “you are breathtaking,” then, over the next three days, “You motivate me beyond words,” “I love you,” and “You are my sunshine, I love you.” .
When Jones then asked, “How long do I have to wait to see you, it’s driving me crazy,” Miss Costello finally replied, telling him, “Please stop messaging me, it’s beyond inappropriate.”
But the court heard the messages only stopped three months before Jones, using a separate Instagram account, said, “I know I’m not supposed to message you, but thank you for all you do for the travel industry,” followed by “No, one will come near you someday.”
Miss Costello then blocked all of his social media accounts from contacting her.
In June this year, Jones came to the GB News studio in Paddington to ask if she is available before later sending flowers with a message: “Something to say good morning from Leo X.”
Miss Costello says she received creepy messages from Jones, who continued even after telling him to stop
Jones started sending 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’ve been pivotal in my journey.”
On the day of the Queen’s funeral, while broadcasting from the crowd on the Long Walk in Windsor, the reporter saw Jones “with his hand in his pockets, smiling and walking towards her.”
In a panic, she called the police, but couldn’t get her words out and just sputtered “stalker” as a panic attack began. By the time the police calmed her down, he was gone.
Miss Costello courageously addressed the St Albans magistrates’ court yesterday from behind a curtain and spoke of the harrowing impact Jones has had on her life and work, including being given a bodyguard.
Miss Costello described the incident on the day of the Queen’s funeral, saying: ‘I have been left in shock at the wake of Leo Jones coming so close to me.
“I had a panic attack, I couldn’t breathe or speak, when I realized he had come so close to me I was really shocked. He must have followed me after watching my broadcast that morning.
“It has made me nervous to get out of cars and go places on my own. In my job it is impossible not to say where I am, I have a security guard who makes me feel safe at work.
Jones, pictured here on GB News, was today sentenced to 26 weeks in prison, with two years suspended, and a five-year restraining order at St Albans Magistrates’ Court
Leo Jones rose to fame after appearing in the ITV reality show Airline, which followed easyJet staff
“The security guard taught me ways to keep myself safe, wear less bright colors, tie my hair back, position myself in front of a road, look out to see threats coming. I have had to change my behavior at work and in everyday life.
‘I don’t wish this on anyone. I just want to feel safe and secure at work.
“The past 16 months have been one of constant worry, constant stress and constant pressure on my life.
“The thought of seeing his face makes me cry. I’m frustrated with myself for letting it take so long.’
She later told the Mail: “Some men look at female reporters and think they know you. He clearly felt by looking at me that he knew me very well and that we were in a relationship.
“I got the sense that he was very delusional despite the fact that we never met in person, he pretended we were in a relationship.
Jones pleaded guilty and caused the presenter severe alarm, anxiety and mental anguish and received a 26-week jail sentence, suspended for two years, and a five-year restraining order.
He is now a caregiver 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 that I have one for five years is fantastic.’
The conclusion of Ms Costello’s case comes after figures showed 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 have been dropped due to ‘evidence problems’ despite victims supporting prosecution.
This has prompted the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to file a ‘supercharge’ against UK police, which it says ‘fail to identify antiquated behavior as a line of conduct at an early stage, leading them to be falsely charged by the CPS’.
The charity is one of only a dozen charities with the ability to launch this particular type of action, meaning police watchdogs should consider whether to launch a national investigation.
It added that ‘it is clear that the police do not understand and implement the stalking legislation that came into effect a decade ago, which ‘ultimately leaves many victims unprotected’.
Suky Bhaker (pictured), CEO of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, said she hoped the charity’s ‘super charge’ would ‘improve police response to stalking across the country’
Suky Bhaker, CEO of Suzy Lamplugh Trust, says: ‘We support thousands of victims within our National Stalking Service every year and a significant number of them tell us that they are abandoned by the police and the courts at every step of their journey . to justice.
‘If stalking is not detected and investigated at the earliest possible stage, the risk of physical and psychological harm to the victim increases.
“We hope the outcome of this super-complaint will result in strong recommendations to improve police response to stalking across the country, which is so vital.”
Claire Waxman, Victims Commissioner for London, says: ‘Too many victims of stalking are being abandoned by the police and the wider justice system, with stalking behavior ignored or minimized and restraining order offenses not taken seriously enough.
“I fully support the National Stalking Consortium’s super-complaint, which highlights a number of shortcomings in the way stalking cases are handled, putting victims at risk of further harm and causing unnecessary suffering.
“While I hoped that the revised stalking legislation would lead to better protection and justice for victims, after ten years the rate remains unacceptably low.
“It is clear that the legal system is still struggling to vigorously identify and address stalking, leaving too many victims suffering and endangerment.
‘Change is much too late, victims of stalking deserve protection’