The woman’s campaign of revenge included an email to a 10-year-old child intended to make the man look like a paedophile.
Nichola Watts, a 35-year-old caregiver, met A* on an online dating website in January 2019. They dated casually for a few months and he had no reason to be concerned about Watts’ behaviour.
But when he broke off the relationship in October 2019, everything changed.
Watts told him that he could not leave her as she was pregnant with his child, but A did not believe her. This was seemingly enough to turn her desperation into vengeance.
In November 2019, Watts went to the Christchurch South police station to make a formal complaint. In a sworn statement, she alleged A had assaulted her, that the bruises had been seen by her doctor and that she was sick due to her pregnancy.
Watts later told police she did not want to pursue the assault charge, but continued making dozens of complaints alleging that A was harassing her.
When she didn’t have any evidence of the harassment, she fabricated some.
Watts created various different email addresses and Snapchat accounts using variations of A’s name, and used this to send herself threatening and abusive messages.
She sent emails to her employer to make it seem like A was sabotaging her employment. She sent emails to Oranga Tamariki to paint a picture of A ruining her home life.
She sent emails to a 10-year-old child to portray A as a child sex offender. She even sent emails to police making it appear as if A was confessing to criminal harassment.
In total, Watts made 55 complaints to police.
All the while she continued with her pregnancy claims, even sending A a sonogram photo she said was their baby.
In April last year she claimed to have given birth at home to a baby boy named Riva, and said the baby was in the foster care of a Mr and Mrs Smith. She provided a letter signed by the alleged foster couple as evidence.
Three months later, Watts applied for a protection order against A. In support of her application, she provided a copy of a birth certificate for Riva that showed he was born in April 2020. Police later determined the birth certificate had been falsified.
A temporary protection order was granted and A spent about $4500 in legal fees to convince the court that he was in fact the victim.
Eventually Watts’ elaborate story collapsed like a house of cards.
When questioned by police, she initially tried to maintain that she had given birth to A’s baby. But when confronted by overwhelming evidence that she was medically not able to have children, she admitted the lies.
Watts was charged and later released on bail. In an effort to discourage any further false statements, a bail condition was imposed that she was not allowed to contact the police unless it was an emergency.
But Watts was not deterred. In January, she sent the investigating officer a text message pretending to be a third party who had knowledge of extensive offending by A, including sexual violations, stalking, computer hacking, intimidation, wilful damage, gang interference and cat theft.
This led to her being charged with breach of a protection order.
When Watts’ case was called in the Christchurch District Court on Tuesday, she refused to leave her holding cell to appear in the dock. Her lawyer, Colin Eason, told Judge Tom Gilbert she was having a panic attack.
Watts was allowed to appear in court via video-link to enter her pleas. She was convicted of six charges, including a representative charge of making a false statement, perverting the course of justice, and breach of a protection order.
Watts has been remanded in custody to a sentencing hearing in June.
Netsafe chief executive Martin Cocker said the case was a good example of the perils of online dating where it was difficult to know for sure who you were dealing with.
While this was a danger not only related to online dating, people had to be wary that it was easy to create a false identity or representation of yourself online.
“However, credible dating sites with safety teams and the appropriate mechanisms in place could actually make dating safer,” he said.
*Victim’s real name withheld.