Women who were duped into an online romance with an Australian soap star were subjected to cruel messages, ugly threats, and personal images.
Lydia Abdelmalek began her heinous scheme to “catfish” people a decade ago, and her ruthless stalking campaign would have disastrous effects.
One of the victims would end up killing herself.
She started relationships and stalked women under the guises of Australian heartthrob Lincoln Lewis and British soap star Danny Mac.
She assembled a “cast of characters” along the way to carry on the plot.
After losing her appeal on six stalking charges in the County Court of Victoria on Thursday, the 32-year-old is now behind bars.
She denied being the culprit behind the horrible atrocities during the lengthy court struggle.
During the appeal, Crown Prosecutor Angela Moran remarked, “You are a liar.”
“You’re a fantasist,”
“I’m not,” Ms Abdelmalek said.
Dr. Louise Mahler, a body language specialist, claimed there were evident signs she was lying when police interrogated her.
Dr Mahler told NCA NewsWire that crucial clues were how she sat, what she did with her hands, and how she communicated to officers.
Dr. Mahler demonstrated the pose by saying, “She sits like this, like ‘come at me.'”
Her body language during the interview was “defensive,” and she was uninterested in the questions.
“It’s almost like she’s playing a game,” the expert stated of her actions.
During the interview, Abdelmalek totally covered her mouth, which was seen as a sign of dishonesty or a desire to quit communicating.
Dr. Mahler described it as one of the “weirdest things” she’d ever seen when she put her fingers in her nose.
“That’s basically a complete restriction of airflow from the body, which implies ‘I don’t want to speak.'”
Abdelmalek appeared to her to be a “confident liar” who was calculated and wanted to be put to the test.
Judge Claire Quin dismissed the catfisher’s account of events when she handed down her judgement on Thursday.
When challenged, Abdelmalek’s evidence was “confusing, inconsistent, and deliberately evasive,” according to the judge’s ruling.
Judge Quin stated, “Her account does not make sense.”
The verdict, which was delivered this week, came as a comfort to her victims, who hugged and cried as the judge read it out.
When Abdelmalek was escorted to the cells, one of the guards waved goodbye.
One of the victims thanked Victoria Police and prosecutors for their painstaking efforts in the case outside of court.
“Now it’s off the streets and hopefully off the keyboard,” she said, “and it can’t ruin anyone else’s life.”
Because of the incident, she was taking things day by day.
“I’m not sure how that’s going to look, but it’s looking a lot better at the moment,” she added. “My life has been on pause for about ten years, so I’m not sure how that’s going to look.”
In court, she and the other victims were forced to relive the ordeal they had had at the hands of the catfisher.
The stalking campaign against one woman was “unrelentless,” with the court hearing that she received up to 60 calls and messages every day.
In 2018, she would commit suicide.
Because of the size, her sister said it grew into a “twisted and nasty bombardment of texts,” and they initially suspected more than one person was behind it.
“I honestly believed these individuals were capable of completely destroying my, my sister’s, and my parents’ lives, and it would be the ultimate price to pay.”
The catfish even staged a kidnapping at one point, but it was all a lie.
In an unusual turn of events during the hearing, the defence presented a kilogramme of ten-year-old chocolate to the court as an exhibit.
When the real Lincoln Lewis was spotted on a flight, another woman who thought she was dating him found it was a deception.
“I realised it was just a fruit loop impersonating Lincoln Lewis,” the woman, who asked not to be recognised, told the court.
She faced the con artist, who had devised yet another complex disguise, claiming to be “Michael Jason Smith.” However, the catfish afterwards claimed that their real name was “Danny Mac,” a British actor who chose the alias to dodge an ex.
In order to figure out who was behind the horrific scam, the woman taped conversations and planned a strategy with the help of cops to apprehend the perpetrators.
In 2013, she requested a $200 transfer to repair a broken phone screen.
The money was transferred into her account from a Melbourne bank, and when authorities verified the film, the person’s identity was discovered.
It had to be Abdelmalek.
During the appeal, she entered the stand in her own defence and informed the judge that she, too, had been misled and had fallen for the false Lincoln Lewis.
After offering to pay Mr Lewis for his acting instruction, the would-be actress said she sent $200 into one of her purported victim’s bank accounts in late 2013.
She had previously stated to police that she had a desire to appear on Home and Away.
“He handed me a bank account and said he didn’t want the money but that there was someone he knew who was a single mother who was struggling and that I should put the money in that account,” Ms Abdelmalek testified.
When police in Victoria requested her to listen to Abdelmalek’s acting reel, the lady who got the money realised the person behind the stunning campaign wasn’t a guy.
“I’ll remember that moment until the day I die,” the woman added, “because that’s when the penny dropped and I realised it had all along been a female.”
The real actor and son of NRL icon Wally Lewis was also called to the stand to explain how he discovered the catfisher after receiving a “panicked” call from one of the women.
She inquired as to whether they had been dating for a few months.
His response was, “No – what are you talking about?”
The celebrity was asked to identify dozens of photos, one of which was allegedly of his driver’s licence.
“Of course, it’s my face, but it’s not one I’ve ever had on a driver’s licence.” “What appears to be a signature is actually my autograph,” he said to the judge.
Despite the abundance of evidence found on Abdelmalek’s devices, including images, text conversations, and screenshots, she claimed it was the work of someone else.
The court described the crime as “very odd.”
The stalking and threats his daughter was subjected to “had no let up,” according to the father of the woman who killed her.
“My kid would still be here if it weren’t for the stalking.” So, you know, we were robbed – the stalker robbed us of our lovely daughter,” the distraught father explained.
In June, the case will be brought back to court for sentencing arguments.