EXCLUSIVE: Tearful GB News star Ellie Costello opens up on her stalking hell - 'I'm on edge all the time'
Published: 26/11/2022- 10:59
GB NEWS presenter Ellie Costello has told of her terror at being stalked by a guest she interviewed on live TV.
The 29-year-old was put through "16 months of hell" by former Airline star Leo Jones, who has been handed a five-year restraining order by a court.
Ellie spoke out during an emotional interview with Stephen Dixon and Anne Diamond on GB News Breakfast, in which she fought back tears as she told of her "terrifying" ordeal.
She recalled how Jones - who rebranded himself as a 'travel expert' after his time on the reality show, inundated her with creepy messages after she interviewed him on air.
She said: "I think I had quite a brave face on when it first started. But it escalated quite quickly.
"Initially I ignored it. I thought as a female reporter it just comes with the territory.
"But after six or seven messages in a row I said 'look, this needs to stop'. It was making me really uncomfortable and was so inappropriate.
"After that I ended up blocking him on social media, because the messages were getting completely out of hand.
"Then he sent me flowers and showed up in the office. That was really difficult...that's the impact it can have - you don't know what that person wants with you.
"Do they want a photograph, do they want a hug...or is it something more sinister? I was really quite scared."
The harassment continued for more than a year - leaving Ellie in fear of walking alone in the street - until things finally came to a head during a sinister encounter with her stalker at the Queen's funeral at Windsor in September, which she was covering live for GB News.
Breakfast host Stephen Dixon, who had seen Ellie minutes afterwards at the state occasion, said: "I've never seen anyone so upset. So shaken. You were absolutely shaken to the core. That must have been so distressing for you."
Ellie responded: "Yes. At that point it had been going on for over a year, about 16 months. I'd been working hard all morning covering the funeral for GB News and I said on air exactly where I was.
"He must have seen that and followed me down to the Long Walk in Windsor. There were a quarter-of-a-million people there...but I looked up and there he was. Not even 10 feet away from my face.
"He was stood there, with his hands in his pockets, staring at me and smiling the most sinister smile. It was like he was enjoying me being so uncomfortable. I was a shell of myself.
Anne Diamond and Stephen Dixon both fought back tears as they heard Ellie's story
"I was alone, because stupidly I'd wandered off from my cameraman. I had a full panic attack.
"I don't know where the strength came from, but I managed to run to a police officer. I could still see him [Jones]. But I was having a panic attack, I couldn't get my words out....and he got away."
Jones, 42, a father-of-two, achieved fame after appearing in Airline, which ran for eight years and followed the lives of EasyJet workers at Luton Airport.
He pleaded guilty to causing serious alarm, distress and mental anguish and was given a 26-week custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and a five-year restraining order at St Albans Magistrate Court.
Ellie chose to speak out in court from behind a curtain this week, so Jones could hear the devastating impact he had on her life.
She added: "I should have said something, done something [at the Queen's funeral] then. I wanted him to hear what impact it had on me.
"I told the court about the paranoia and how I saw him everywhere. Once I was walking home from the station and went the wrong way and hid in a neighbour's driveway because I was convinced I was being followed. That's what happens. It plays tricks on you."
Ellie is comforted by Breakfast presenter Stephen Dixon as she fights back tears
Ellie said the stalking terror never left her, even for a moment. "It's living with an illness, she added.
"The symptoms are always there and you're used to it, being on edge, looking around, feeling on edge whenever anyone approaches you.
"It's terrifying. Nobody knew what was happening to me. I deliberately didn't tell my family.
"The reaction since the court case this week has been so positive and people have been so kind. I was worried how it would be perceived.
"But so many people I've spoken to have told me they've had issues with stalkers too. It's much more commonplace than you think. People are really worried that if they go the police they're not going to be taken seriously."
GB News presenter Ellie has bravely spoken up about her stalking hell
Breakfast co-host Anne Diamond then revealed that she also had a stalker in her 20s, but the police refused to do anything until "something happened".
Ellie responded: "I'm so sorry that it happened to you. I do feel lucky - and guilty - that I was treated so well when so many other people haven't been taken seriously."
Clearly shaken by her long ordeal and fighting back tears, she added: "It does change you. Even today I pulled up in the car and checked both sides to make sure he wasn't there before I got out. You're on edge constantly."
Only five per cent of stalking cases end in conviction and Ellie is now campaigning for justice for all women - and men - who suffer in silence.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, formed after the disappearance and murder of the London estate agent in 1986, warns victims are being put at risk because of repeated failures in the criminal justice system.
Ellie, left, was stalked by Jones, right, after interviewing him live on air
Ellie added: "There are really dangerous and dark elements of stalking. It can start with something as simple as a message, but it often escalates very quickly.
"It doesn't just impact people on telly. This type of harassment is impacting women and men all over the UK.
Jones pleaded guilty at St Albans Magistrates Court this week
"We shouldn't normalise it. We shouldn't allow it to escalate and continue. Don't suffer in silence. The sooner you take it to the police, the more likely you are to get a conviction."
She went on: "It was awful being in court, but I'm so proud that I did it. It was a really cathartic experience.
"I'm delighted with the outcome of the case. I can rest more easily knowing he can't come near me for five years."
It comes almost 10 years to the day since stalking was made a criminal offence in England and Wales. Two offences - stalking and stalking where there is a fear of violence - came into law under the Protection of Freedoms Act, which was passed on November 25 2012.
* If you've been impacted by stalking or harassment and need help or support call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 or visit the Suzy Lamplugh Trust