Andrew Meldrum
Andrew Meldrum

A voyeur who installed spyware on women's computers so he could spy on them as they undressed has become the first man in the UK to be convicted of "cyber stalking".

Andrew Meldrum, 30, was sentenced to a year in prison at Woolwich Crown Court on Friday, suspended for two years, after pleading guilty to unauthorised access to computers.

While pretending to fix the computers of three women, IT expert Meldrum secretly installed spyware, and watched them for 18 months through their webcams.

Police found more than 11,000 pictures on Meldrum's computer of the women naked, in their underwear, and of a victim with her boyfriend in her bedroom.

The judge, Recorder Mark Heywood, described the former London University student as "jealous and controlling" as he handed down the sentence.

"It's clear from the evidence that many, many, many recordings were made by the computers of the three young women... concerning the most private acts in their own homes," he said.

"This course of offending showed persistence and a degree of premeditation […] for your personal sexual gratification."

Police were alerted in November 2010 when one of the victims, who was then 21, discovered the spyware on her computer.

She immediately suspected that Meldrum was responsible, as he had recently had access to the machine.

She told a 23-year-old friend, and it emerged he had also used the software to spy on her. She in turn contacted a 28-year-old friend who had also been targeted.

The court heard that he had installed software on one computer that automatically sent a photograph from a victim's room every two seconds to Meldrum's computer.

He persuaded one victim to position her computer at the foot of her bed, claiming she would be able to watch films better, but using the position to spy on her in bed with her boyfriend.

Detective Constable Nick Pailthorpe, from the Metropolitan Police, said: "Meldrum effectively hacked into their lives.

"I hope that they can take some consolation in the guilty verdict that sends out a clear message to anyone that this type of intrusion into a person's private life is not acceptable."

He was found not guilty of one count of voyeurism and one count of theft.

One of the victims told ITV: "It makes you question your trust in people. And makes you question how you live your daily life, and what you do in your home daily, knowing that someone is constantly watching you."

When asked about the breach of trust she had experienced, she said: "It's just quite difficult really to know who to trust."