AN obsessed woman spent 20 years stalking a former neighbour, spying on her home, following her to shops and even took pictures while she was visiting her mother’s grave.

Fiona Haselden became fixated with Lynne Bennett and, after her arrest, police found thousands of pictures 52-year-old Haselden had taken of her, some with long lens cameras.

But Haselden, of Montfort Close, Westhoughton, was less keen on having her own picture taken, fleeing Bolton Crown Court with her hood up and face covered after she was given a three-year community sentence.

Fiona Cowen, prosecuting, told how Haselden pleaded guilty to stalking Mrs Bennett from November 2012, the day the offence became law and June last year. But her behaviour dates back much further.

Miss Cowen told how Haselden and Mrs Bennett were neighbours for around 18 months.

“The victim and her husband moved into the house next door to where the defendant and her husband were living in 1992,” said Miss Cowen.

“The couples had little contact with one another but the victim knew the defendant’s husband, having grown up in the area together and when they were in their early 20s had, what she describes as, a minor fling.”

But shortly after Haselden and her family moved away Mrs Bennett began to notice her former neighbour whenever she went shopping, out walking and sometimes returning to walk past her house.

“People told the victim that they had seen the defendant loitering in the area,” said Miss Cowen.

Before Mrs Bennett retired she would see Haselden, parked up in a car at various locations along her route and sometimes would follow her.

“The victim changed her route to work to avoid being seen by the defendant,” said Miss Cowen.

Haselden would drive up and down the Mrs Bennett’s father’s street when she went to visit him and once, in 2013, Haselden rode past on a bike before stopping and taking a picture of them.

On another occasion the victim saw Haselden holding a camera over her back garden fence. The court heard that Haselden even stole bags from Mrs Bennett’s bin.

When shopping at Morrisons in Ince Mrs Bennett often saw Haselden there and would see her most weeks when she was shopping in Leigh on a Saturday.

“The victim would see the defendant walking past and loitering outside the shops she was in,” said Miss Cowen, who added that Haselden was even caught peeping through a clothes rail at her former neighbour.

And when Mrs Bennett went to get her weekend newspapers from the Premier store in Hindley Road, Westhoughton “nine times out of 10” Haselden was there, loitering in St James’ churchyard across the road.

“She would see the defendant hiding in trees and bushes and sometimes under an umbrella,” said Miss Cowen.

Mrs Bennett regularly found pieces of chewed up chewing gum on her drive which she felt was Haselden leaving her a “calling card”.

“She made a conscious effort to try and block the defendant out of her life hoping it would all go away,” said Miss Cowen.

But in June last year she decided to contact police when she was told Haselden had been seen taking photographs, with a long lens camera, of her walking her dog and Morrisons staff saw Haselden videoing her in the store.

Haselden was arrested and police found a number of phones, cameras and memory cards. One iPhone contained 1,060 pictures and 72 videos of Mrs Bennett, her home and mother’s grave.

A further 6,807 images relating to Mrs Bennett were found on a camera and 16 memory cards also contained pictures of her.

In a victim statement Mrs Bennett told the court: “This experience has been an emotional roller-coaster. There are days when I feel I am falling apart.

“I am constantly looking over my shoulder. I don’t go out much any more.

“I question my own sanity at times because it has messed with my head so much.

She described Haselden’s arrest as “a small light at the end of a very dark tunnel”.

“I hope that some day I will wake up free from the torment and heartache that this has brought me,” she stated.

Michael Lea, defending, said Haselden was of previous good character with no convictions and has sought counselling.

The Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Martin Walsh sentenced Haselden to a three-year community order with 60 days of rehabilitation activities as well as making a restraining order banning her from going anywhere near or contacting her victim.

He warned her that she faces “draconian” consequences if she does not comply, including a possible prison term.

He told Haselden: “It is clear to me that there has been entrenched, obsessive conduct on your part that has caused considerable and enduring distress to Lynne Bennett.”