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Lincoln Lewis catfish Lydia Abdelmalek granted bail after being sentenced to jail

ABC News logo ABC News 6/06/2019 James Oaten
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A Melbourne woman who used the identities of celebrities, including Australian actor Lincoln Lewis, to stalk women she met online has been sentenced to two years and eight months' jail.

But Lydia Abdelmalek, 29, indicated she would appeal against her conviction and was granted bail, despite the prosecution's warning that her release would further harm her victims.

The jail term, with a non-parole period of one year and nine months, was handed down at the Heidelberg Magistrates' Court on Thursday after Abdelmalek was found guilty of six stalking charges in April.

Her victims said their lives had been ruined by the woman, who posed as the Home and Away star to trick them into fake relationships before taunting them with threats.

Lydia Abdelmalek was found guilty of stalking six people over a period of at least four years. © ABC News/James Oaten, file photo Lydia Abdelmalek was found guilty of stalking six people over a period of at least four years. During sentencing, Magistrate Stephen Ballek said the stalking "over a lengthy period of time" was "calculated and cruel".

He noted she used anonymity to harass victims online, a behaviour he said was increasingly prevalent.

In one case, Abdelmalek used the profile of Lewis, the son of rugby league legend Wally Lewis, to contact his childhood friend, Emma*.

The abuse left Emma suffering from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

She died by suicide last year.

Abdelmalek used several online aliases in order to stalk and harass her victims. © Facebook: Lydia Abdelmalek Abdelmalek used several online aliases in order to stalk and harass her victims. Emma's sister fought through tears as she read a victim impact statement her sister wrote in 2016.

"Anger and distrust followed me wherever I ventured," Emma's statement said.

"I was angry that a faceless coward could be so inhumane to stoop so low to do this to an innocent person.

"Words alone do not describe how this traumatic episode has affected me."

Magistrate Ballek said he could not sentence Abdelmalek for Emma's suicide.

But he said: "You called her a slut, even mocking her for having suicidal thoughts."

"Your behaviour sticks out in stark contrast with the bravery of your victims in reading out their statements in court today," he said.

The court heard Abdelmalek started an online romance with Emma in 2011, and had used an array of fake personalities to confuse and manipulate her.

She also sent threatening text messages, including one that said "wen r u goin 2 kill urself".

Emma's statement outlined her battle with depression and "dark thoughts".

"I was lucky but I did contemplate [suicide] and came very close to being just another statistic," the statement concluded.

Catfish brings Lewis photo to court

Catching a catfish © ABC News Catching a catfish Abdelmalek showed no emotion as the victims read out their statements.

As she listened, she was holding a photo of Lewis.

She arrived at court covering her face to slip past waiting media.

In addition to reading the statement from her late sibling, Emma's sister also delivered her own victim impact statement to the court.

She looked directly at Abdelmalek when she described the damage the stalking caused.

"I still suffer sleepless nights and find myself crying myself to sleep, wishing Emma was still with us," she said.

"I now find myself without a sister to grow old with, my children without their beloved aunty, and my parents now operate in a new-world reality of having to bury a beautiful daughter of theirs."

She recalled once finding her sister crying in the foetal position, saying: "I can't do this anymore, Lydia has ruined my life".

"These words are on constant playback in my mind as it was one of the last conversations we shared together," Emma's sister said.

'You've ruined my life', victim says

Abdelmalek abused her victims for years. © Facebook/ Lydia Abdelmalek Abdelmalek abused her victims for years. In a separate case also detailed in court on Thursday, Abdelmalek befriended another woman, Jess*, who had met Lewis aboard a flight.

After she started the relationship, Jess also received a barrage of threatening and abusive messages.

"I feel violated, repulsed, embarrassed, ashamed and humiliated," she told the court, looking directly at Abdelmalek.

"I suffer debilitating panic attacks, depression and anxiety.

"I'm now forever entangled in your sick story of abuse and manipulation.

"You've ruined my life."

Jess changed her number multiple times, but her stalker manipulated Optus into handing over contact details.

She also relocated homes and moved her daughter to a new school.

She told the court she hated the phrase "catfish", a common term used to describe the use of online aliases to lure people into relationships.

"This was years of psychological abuse at the hands of a complete stranger," she said.

"Lives have been lost because of it."

The sentencing magistrate said Abdelmalek was 'calculated and cruel'. © Facebook/ Lydia Abdelmalek The sentencing magistrate said Abdelmalek was 'calculated and cruel'. Another of Abdelmalek's victims was a high school friend, Catherine*, who Abdelmalek stalked anonymously while she was preparing to be one of her bridesmaids.

Catherine told the court in previous hearings the manipulation had caused her great anxiety.

"I couldn't sleep," she said.

"I cried every day. It was the worst year of my life."

*Names and some details have been changed to protect victims.

If you or anyone you know needs help: Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36, Headspace on 1800 650 890, QLife on 1800 184 527

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