On 14th November 2016, Justin Potter and Charlotte Gutridge were married after spending 7 years together, in a small catholic church just outside of Sydney’s lively CBD. The date was chosen to commemorate both of Charlotte’s grandparents, whom she was very close to, who were married on the same day fifty-six years earlier.
Having enjoyed a wonderful ceremony, after inviting only their closest friends and family, the Potters set to jet off to Bali where they’d spend two weeks under the tropical sun before returning to work and everyday Aussie life.
Justin works long hours out of his Sydney-based office, as a structural engineer. Charlotte, on the other hand, is a self-taught and self-employed muralist, spending the majority of her time at the couple’s home, developing her mural ideas and building on her portfolio to show to prospective clients.
After returning from their sun-soaked vacation, Justin and Charlotte were due to move from their two-bedroom apartment to a three-bedroom house they’d mortgaged in Rushcutter’s Bay before Christmas.
The move was successful, with both Charlotte and Justin being able to continue with their everyday lives relatively stress-free and undisturbed.
The new home in Rushcutter’s Bay has a wonderful view of the the Bay and the nearby park, with larger buildings straddling the couple’s new three-bedroom house.
Within their first week, Charlotte and Justin had managed to meet the majority of their neighbours, many of whom were kind enough to appear at the couple’s door with gift hampers, welcoming them to the neighbourhood – something that neither of them had ever expected, nor experienced in the past.
They had a good feeling about their new home.
On Christmas Eve, Charlotte arranged to meet up with a few of her friends to have a night on the town; Justin was stuck at the office having to finish up a tender he’d been working on for a few weeks and so wasn’t able to join in on the fun.
As the evening drew to a close Charlotte arranged herself an Über and set off for her new home and the loving embrace of her husband, only to arrive to a very large and ornate bunch of flowers left at the front door, with a note. A little upset at the idea that Justin may have sent them as to say he wouldn’t be home, Charlotte opened the note which read:
My name is Tom and I live a few doors down from you. I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to meet you in person tonight, but I’d have liked to invite you, personally, to the neighbourhood.
I’d like to become your pen pal. All you need to do is write me back, leave the message in an envelope, stuck to your front door and I’ll swing by in the morning to pick it up.
Thanks and I look forward to making a new friend soon.
Tom at Number 64.”
Confused and a little tipsy, Charlotte thought little of the note and proceeded to go inside. Justin was home, but wasn’t aware of the flowers that had been left outside for Charlotte – he’d only come home an hour earlier, which meant that the flowers had been left in the wee hours of the morning.
After discussing the slightly bizarre approach Tom was requesting that they make friends, Justin agreed that he would go with Charlotte to number 64 on Boxing Day, to go and formerly introduce themselves.
And so, at 9am on Boxing day, the couple walked hand-in-hand to their neighbour’s house, rang the bell and waited to meet their interesting new “friend,” Tom.
A few minutes later, an older woman answered the door, pleased to see the young couple before her. Charlotte introduced themselves, also revealing the letter that she’d received last night, and asked to speak to Tom. The lady, looking puzzled, simply responded that nobody by the name of Tom lived at her house; only her and her two dogs following her divorce three years ago.
Baffled, Justin enquired as to whether the lady knew of anyone in the area called Tom and, after racking her brain, she came out with nothing.
The Potters dismissed the misunderstanding, putting it to a mistake that Tom had made in his note. Maybe he meant 46? Maybe he didn’t live on that street?
As Christmas came and went, and the festivities with it, Justin continued as normal, going to work at 8 o’clock in the morning and coming home at the darkest hours, all the while Charlotte would go about her everyday business; preparing new canvases, doing the groceries and having the occasional coffee with a friend in town.
Just five days after Tom’s first note, Charlotte returned from a catch-up with one of her cousins to find yet another, very expensive-looking bunch of flowers at her doorstep with a note attached.
I am slightly disappointed that I didn’t hear back from you, but then again maybe you didn’t get my last message?
I hope your husband isn’t throwing away your flowers? They’re special, like you.
I want to be your pen pal. Please write back to me. Emails are emotionless. It’s the pen that defeats the sword. Stick your answer in a little envelope and pop it on your front door before bedtime. Don’t’ worry, I’ll get it!
Do you like chocolates?
Tom (Number 64).”
From the tone of this message, Charlotte could feel butterflies in her stomach, and not the “good” ones either. Paranoid now and starting to feel as though she had eyes on her as she moved through her home, Charlotte called Justin to tell him what had happened.
Concerned as well, Justin told Charlotte to ignore the note and hope that Tom “get’s the message.,” failing which, over the upcoming weekend, the couple would get in their car and drive around the neighbourhood to visit as many number 64s as they could. In the meantime, Tom called into the local police station to ask if they had had any reports of a potential sexual predator in the area. The administrator on the other end of the line came back saying that the last time a report was filed under any kind of harassment in the area was more than six years ago. Justin asked for the offending party’s name, which the voice on the other end of the phone confirmed was not Tom.
On arriving home later that evening, Justin and Charlotte tried to forget about the flowers and about Tom, relaxing to their favourite TV show and enjoying a spot of dinner before bed.
As they began watching their show, at approximately 10:30pm, there was a ring at the doorbell.
Justin went to answer, only to find another bunch of flowers, this time all white with a small package wrapped and taped to the pot, and yet another note nestled into the petals. In a flash, he lept over the flowers and into his own front yard to peer down the street; left and right. He saw and heard nothing.
Picking up the flowers, Justin opened the envelope and read to Charlotte out loud:
I know you got my last message, I saw you.
Why are you ignoring me? Is your husband stopping you from talking to me?
I hate him and I know you do too. Why did you marry him?
Answer me Charlotte.
Tom at Number 64.”
That night, Charlotte and Justin called the police to inform them of what was happening.
Twenty minutes later, a detective appeared at their door to take a statement – she was very pleasant and told the couple that they needn’t worry; the officers would take the flowers to run the pot and the ribbons on the package for fingerprints, failing which they would have a patrol car stop by the house routinely for the next three days to check for any suspicious activity.
Three days went by and Tom had grown silent – yet the detective did call to inform Justin and Charlotte that unfortunately the pot and ribbons were clean of any fingerprints and that she was pleased to let them know that the Patrol cars hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary. She ended the call simply asking that Charlotte or Justin call in again if anything odd were to happen again.
Justin, being quick on his feet, decided to take the bull by the horns and make this a personal mission. He knew the police were often inundated with more serious crimes and would likely find little time in the future for any potential harassment cases, unless, of course, it became dangerous. Justin, however, didn’t want Charlotte worried and stressed everyday of her life in their new home, and so decided to hire a professional PI – Precise Investigation.
We arranged to meet both Justin and Charlotte at his offices as to not draw attention to what we were planning, for Tom’s sake.
Our brief was to capture video footage and still images of Tom delivering the flowers, in an attempt to identify him and, if possible, pursue Tom as a means of determining where he was residing at the time.
Taking into account that Tom was most likely visiting the Potters on foot, as neither Justin nor Charlotte had ever heard or seen a car driving around at the time of delivery, we would need to arrange for our operatives to be on foot as well; for the pursuit at least.
Added to this, we had three covert cameras set up at the Potter’s front door; one above the door’s frame, tucked away behind the large brass numbers above the entrance, and the other two hidden in shrubs either side of the small veranda where Tom usually left the flowers; the first would aim to catch him approaching and hopefully snap his face, while the other two were there to catch him turning around, as a close-up, before he fled.
The surveillance was set to take place with two operatives, for four hours a night, between 10pm and 2am, for one week, considering Tom hadn’t been following an obvious schedule.
On our fifth night, Friday 13th January, our operatives stationed in an undercover vehicle, on the opposite side of the street, were able to capture Tom on night vision camera. He was wearing a grey hooded coat, with his face indistinguishable to the camera or them, blue jeans and black converse trainers, and in his right arm, he was carrying a small bunch of flowers and another package.
As Tom approached the house, one of our operatives, disguised as a night-time jogger (equipped with an ear-piece), silently got out the car, slipped a few meters in Tom’s direction (still on the other side of the street) and then appeared, pretending to be unaware of Tom as he “continued” with his leg stretches. Tom, meanwhile, seemed not to care.
He stepped quickly into the Potter’s front yard, walked briskly up the short path to the door, where he then dropped the flowers and package before ringing the bell and running away, in the same direction he’d come from.
As soon as our “in-car” operative spotted that Tom was going to run, he radioed to his colleague, who was still pretending to stretch, telling him to start legging it so that he’d be able to stay with Tom discretely as he ran way.
Tom, however, didn’t run far at all. Instead, he’d simply run a few car lengths and then dove between two parked on the street… seemingly waiting and watching to see if either Justin or Charlotte received his delivery. Our agent, by this time, was far away and out of sight – with Tom now walking in the same direction he’d come from, we had our runner turn around and slowly make his way back until he saw Tom.
As to not raise suspicion, as our operatives continued to tail Tom, the runner would occasionally run ahead and hide behind a car, trying to spot the way ahead for our driver to continue the pursuit. As soon as Tom had walked by the car again, our operatives would hurry to swap places, with the driver now becoming a “tipsy” man on his way home from the pub, walking quickly and angrily to overtake Tom.
After several hundred meters of absolutely knackering undercover switch-swapping, our “drunken” agent was able to glimpse Tom turning sharply into another property’s front yard gate. It wasn’t number 64 though – it was, in fact, number 32.
After taking a few photographs of the property, a house which was noticeably larger than the Potter’s, the agents retired.
The following day, the footage from all mediums was analysed and, while Tom’s face was never visible, Charlotte and Justin had enough at hand to be able to contact the Police again and this time point them in Tom’s direction and press charges.
According to Charlotte, Tom is currently being processed for harassment – and it has since come to light that Tom is, in fact, a 19-year-old teenager, still living at home with his parents. He was able to discover who Charlotte and Justin were by hacking into their home Wifi… as he had also done to several other neighbours in the area.
Please be careful out there, regardless of how nice the area is that you live in. If you ever do find yourself in a sticky situation, wherever you are in Australia, please do give us a call. Precise Investigation is always ready and available to assist, no matter how serious the case or complex the issues.
Please note: all names, locations and identifying characteristics described in this article have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.