A woman who tormented a psychiatrist in a four-year stalking campaign in which she warned she had hired a hitman to murder his fiancee, threatened to poison his wedding guests and falsely alleged he had raped her, was yesterday warned she may face a "very long" jail sentence.
Maria Del Carmen Marchese, 45, a cheese counter assistant in a department store, was found guilty of harassing Jan Falkowski, a 45-year-old consultant psychiatrist, at Southwark crown court in south London.
The court heard how Marchese, from Bow, east London, terrorised Dr Falkowski and his then fiancee, Deborah Pemberton, with hundreds of chilling phone and text message threats after she met the psychiatrist while he was treating her partner in an east London hospital in 2002.
In messages to Ms Pemberton, delivered as she was simultaneously declaring her undying love to the psychiatrist, Marchese said: "Dig your own grave," "Your life will end, gunman paid," and "Bang, bang, bang is all you deserve." She also warned Ms Pemberton she would be "burnt down in her wedding dress".
She also said she would poison the food at the couple's wedding reception. Under tremendous strain, the couple cancelled their engagement. Ms Pemberton, 35, told the jury that the menacing campaign had prompted her to contemplate suicide.
Marchese also falsely accused Dr Falkowski - a record-breaking powerboat racer - of raping her in his office, leading to his suspension.
The court heard how in order to substantiate her claims, which she made in a letter to the board of Dr Falkowski's hospital trust, Marchese had obtained one of his used condoms from a rubbish bin and had transferred a specimen of his semen on to a pair of her own knickers.
She handed the underwear to police and Falkowski was arrested, although the case against him was eventually dropped. "The professional consequences were devastating," Dr Falkowski told the jury: "I lost my private practice, my reputation was irreparably damaged."
As the judgment was read out an angry Marchese denied that she had "terrorised" the couple. Interrupting the judge, she shouted: "I did not commit this offence your honour, he's a rapist." But Judge John Price told her: "This jury has deliberated for 10 hours over a three-week case with evidence they have heard. They have found that between October 2002 and September 2003 you terrorised Ms Pemberton and Dr Falkowski.
"You got into their lives in the most extraordinary way and found out about their day-to-day existence. You even found out that Ms Pemberton was having her teeth whitened and sent a text saying 'mouth will burn'."
She was found guilty of three counts of harassment plus charges of threatening to kill and perverting the course of justice.
He added: "You have gone to the most extraordinary lengths of accusing him of rape and if it was not for DNA experts who established that the DNA found was from him and his girlfriend at the time, that could have left him with a prison sentence."
Adjourning sentencing until September, pending psychiatric reports, the judge said: "You have terrorised them. It is my humane hope that something can be done for you - if not, you are going to prison for a very long time."
After the verdict, Dr Falkowski said justice had been done and spoke of his relief that his "four-year nightmare" was finally over. But he said he had been the victim of previous failures of the legal system and called for anonymity in rape cases to be extended to the accused until trial.
"The victims of rape are rightly given anonymity but I strongly feel that this should also be extended to the accused until trial," he said. "In my case, this gave Marchese the freedom to make a false allegation and then systematically use this to destroy my reputation by approaching the press, my employers and organisations connected to me to do as much damage as possible."