A “fantast” who posed as an Australian soap star and assaulted several women, persuaded them to send her intimate photos and stalked them “relentlessly” has lost an appeal against her conviction.
Most important points:
- Lydia Abdelmalek Imitated Home and Away Actor Lincoln Lewis to Have Relationships With Women
- A court has confirmed her conviction
- Abdelmalek denies any wrongdoing and also claims to be the victim of a cheating celebrity
Lydia Abdelmalek, 32, appeared today in the County Court of Victoria, which dismissed the legal challenge against her conviction for crimes that a magistrate previously called “calculated and cruel”.
The win is a major one for prosecutors who told the appeals court that Abdelmalek, of Lalor in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, was a liar who “relentlessly hunted” her victims with a “soapy” cast of characters, including Home and Away. star Lincoln Lewis.
Today’s verdict comes more than three years after Abdelmalek was initially found guilty of six charges of stalking.
Judge Claire Quin said she rejected Abdelmalek’s evidence, which she found “unthinkable” and “farcical”.
“I am convinced that the prosecution was responsible for the stalking behavior,” she said.
“I therefore find each of the allegations proven.”
In another twist, Judge Quin told the court that a phone seized during the appeal at Abdelmalek’s home in connection with another case contained “incriminating” evidence.
The court heard there was a wealth of material on the phone that “supported victims’ statements,” including hundreds of texts and photos to the women she stalked, intimate photos and Lincoln Lewis’s real voicemail.
“Much of this material was not available at the time of the magistrates’ hearing,” Judge Quinn said.
“The enormity of this behavior cannot be exaggerated.”
Relatives and friends wept as the verdict was handed down in a packed courtroom.
Abdelmalek did not respond.
She has now appealed her sentence, but her bail has been revoked and will be held.
Abdelmalek denies the evidence against her
The verdict comes after a long and sometimes bizarre hearing that lasted almost a year, in which a kilo of chocolate was offered as evidence.
In the final days of her appeal, Abdelmalek took the unusual step of taking the stand and testifying in her own appeal, a move usually avoided as it exposes the accused to intense cross-examination.
Prosecutors also played the 32-year-old recordings, made by victims, of what appeared to be her own voice.
“That’s your vote, isn’t it,” Prosecutor Angela Moran said.
“No, it’s not my voice,” Abdelmalek said.
“But it sounds the same to you, doesn’t it?” said the prosecutor.
“Not in my opinion,” Abdelmalek said.
On appeal, Abdelmalek professed her innocence, claiming she was also the victim of a person posing as Lincoln Lewis, who had used her phone to stalk the women “extensively and relentlessly”.
But Ms. Moran said that was a “pack of lies.”
“I’m telling you I’ve been through it and that’s exactly what happened,” Abdelmalek said.
“Because you always tell the truth,” said Mrs. Moran.
“Oh, not always. I don’t think everyone is 100% telling the truth,” Abdelmalek said.
Emotionally vulnerable flight attendant target
Abdelmalek’s campaign of terror against Emma, an international flight attendant, began more than a decade ago.
In 2011, a few weeks after a bad breakup, Emma received a Facebook request from someone she believed to be Lincoln Lewis, an actor best known for his roles in Home and Away and Tomorrow When The War Began.
Emma and the person behind the profile clicked and it wasn’t long before things took a romantic turn and the couple started sending each other intimate photos and videos.
But the parameters of their alleged relationship soon began to gnaw at Emma – every time they made an appointment, there would be an excuse.
It eventually raised enough doubts in her mind to contact an old friend who introduced her to the actor.
Last September, the real Lincoln Lewis went to the witness stand and recalled the conversation.
“That really threw me, and I said, ‘What? No, what are you talking about?’ And then Emma started sounding really stressed and panicked… and then started saying, ‘No, tell me you’re lying, please tell me you’re lying, Linc,’” Lewis told the court.
“This person has pictures and videos of me… I thought I was dating you,” he recalls Emma telling him.
In reality, the person behind the fake profile was Abdelmalek, who was Photoshopping photos of Lewis and stealing his voicemail.
At one point during the appeal, Lewis pulled open the collar of his shirt to prove a photo was fake.
“I have two really visible moles, like here on my collarbone,” he said, gesturing.
“If it’s not prominent in that photo, then it seems manipulated to me.”
Prosecutors say accused built layers of false identities
Emma eventually confronted the fake Lincoln Lewis who claimed to be a man named Michael Jason Smith, who said he and his friends had set up a fake Facebook page for the actor and were jokingly talking to people.
“He said it was getting out of hand and he was getting interested in me,” Emma said.
The couple started talking and eventually formed another romantic relationship, also completely online.
It was then that Michael Jason Smith said that his real name was actually Danny Jason MacGreene, and that he had used a fake name to escape an ex.
But prosecutors say none of those characters were real and in reality it was all Abdelmalek, who went as far as setting up a fake abduction of Michael Jason Smith.
“When she realized you weren’t really Lincoln Lewis, you created another deception to convince her that you were Michael Smith, what do you say to that,” said the prosecutor, Ms. Moran.
“No,” Abdelmalek said during cross-examination.
“When she tried to pull you away, you mercilessly took advantage of having those intimate videos and images,” the prosecutor said.
“No,” she said.
Friends and Family Document a Relentless Barrage of Abuse
Witnesses told the County Court that the stalking campaign against Emma was relentless and brutal.
Her father told the court that Emma received up to 60 messages a day, even while she was abroad at work.
“There was no question,” he said.
“She was staying with us the day before she traveled and this morning I heard a little commotion in the bathroom and got up to investigate.
“I Found My Wife With” [her] and [she] cried and stared at her phone. She was all dressed up for work and she was just shaking like a leaf and sobbing.”
Emma committed suicide in 2018.
Abdelmalek also targeted another woman, Jess, while pretending to be Lincoln Lewis.
Like her other victim, Abdelmalek developed an intense romantic relationship with Jess, even helping her victim’s daughter with homework.
She also convinced Jess to send intimate photos, but, as with Emma, she withdrew every time they were meant to meet.
When Jess also became suspicious, she managed to contact the real Lincoln Lewis through a mutual friend and discovered that she had been scammed.
She later convinced Abdelmalek to transfer her money for a broken phone screen as part of a sting with detectives, who managed to divert the money back to the catfish.
Abdelmalek accused of ‘fantasy land’ thinking
Abdelmalek was arrested in 2017 at Victoria’s maximum security Baron Prison, where she was a youth worker.
During her appeal, she told a judge that she had also been duped by a fake Lincoln Lewis, whom she contacted on Facebook seeking to follow in his career tracks.
“I wanted to be an actor. I think it was just something I wanted to do and I started asking people on Facebook about any acting classes I could take,” she said.
During a cross-examination of her own lawyer, Abdelmalek said she was told to transfer money into Jess’s account by someone posing as Lewis.
“I had asked him at the time if I could pay him for his acting advice,” Abdelmalek said.
“He gave me a bank account and he said he didn’t want the money. But there was someone who he knew was a single mom who was having a hard time and wanted to put the money into this account and he will pay it.
“And then I went into Westpac and deposited the money and they gave me a receipt.”
When prosecutors told Abdelmalek that a phone had been discovered in her possession containing messages to Emma, intimate images of Emma and Lincoln Lewis’ voicemail, she shrugged.
She said the messages arrived on her phone when she topped up her credit.
“What you are saying is absolutely fantasy land, it cannot happen,” said the prosecutor, Ms Moran.
“You are the catfish who misled these people so much that they could no longer live their lives,” the prosecutor told her.
“No,” said Abdelmalek.
*Names and some details have been changed to protect victims.
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