'He kept me in a virtual prison'

'He kept me in a virtual prison'

SINGAPORE - American opera singer Leandra Ramm endured a six-year ordeal, during which Colin Mak Yew Loong not only cyber-stalked her, but also threatened her life.

Her story, documented in her book entitled Stalking A Diva, and in an episode of the television show My Life Is A Lifetime Movie broadcast in November last year, was retold in court by District Judge Mathew Joseph when he read out a statement from her.

Ms Ramm, 29, said she now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and had considered suicide as a result of what the 38-year-old Singaporean inflicted on her.

"For six years, Mak kept me in a virtual prison, causing me to lose my freedom, self-worth, self-respect, ability to work, and ruining my personal relationships," she said. "Mak stole not only the best years of my youth, but my innocence and hopes."

Ms Ramm even worked on a cruise ship from 2009 to 2011 to prevent Mak from contacting her but to no avail. "Even in the middle of the ocean, I could not escape the living nightmare," she said. "His daily stalking and harassment consisted of not only threats to the life, health and safety of myself, colleagues, friends and family, but (were) also of an extremely damaging and explicit sexual nature."

Mak's harassment also caused her financial ruin. Her earnings dwindled as she was afraid to perform in public. She also spent an "exorbitant" sum to engage lawyers, private investigators and crime experts. Her ordeal led her to set up her own non-profit organisation, The Alliance Against Cybercrime, to reform laws on international cyber harassment.

She also told The Straits Times that she had a tough time bringing her harasser to justice. She hired the Mainguard private investigation agency here in 2009 to locate Mak, a process that took two years. Mainguard managing director Ponno Kalastree said: "Police can easily access the national database or find out who owns an IP address."

However, it is impossible for individuals or private companies to have access to this database because of confidentiality concerns, he explained.

When Mak was finally identified in April 2011, the police advised Mr Kalastree that it was an intentional harassment case, which was a "non-arrestable offence", and suggested that Ms Ramm file a magistrate's complaint instead.

She was too afraid to come here to file the complaint and approached Mr A.J. Fardella, a certified data forensic examiner in the US, for help, and he got the Federal Bureau of Investigation to seek the assistance of the police here. Singapore police arrested and charged Mak later that year.

In an e-mail yesterday, a spokesman for the Attorney-General's Chambers said that a thorough investigation by the police revealed "there was sufficient evidence to prove that Mak had committed various offences that are triable in Singapore".

Three senior lawyers in Britain told Ms Ramm that this case was the world's first successful prosecution of a transnational cyber harasser.

khush@sph.com.sg


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