UK news presenter Ellie Costello has told of the terrifying moment she realised her stalker was just metres away from her at the Queen’s funeral.
The GB News journalist, 29, had been bombarded with creepy messages and followed by Airline star Leo Jones for more than a year before he showed up where she was presenting live.
Ms Costello had only ever interviewed Jones via Zoom when he started telling her he “loved her” and that she was his “sunshine”, before sending her flowers and turning up unannounced at her work, The Sun reports.
The final straw, that saw the woman report Jones’ behaviour to the police, was when she locked eyes with him while she was among hundreds of thousands of others at Her Majesty’s funeral.
The man’s “sinister smile” sent the 29-year-old into a panic attack as she scrambled to a police officer, but all she could say at the time was “stalker”.
Ms Costello has now opened up about her 16 months of hell after Jones was given a five-year restraining order and suspended jail sentence this week.
Speaking on GB News Breakfast this week, Ms Costello revealed what unfolded on September 19 at Windsor Castle.
She said: “And as you do in this job, the first question is always ‘Ellie, where are you this morning?’ And I said where I was.
“And it later transpired that he must have followed me from that position that I so publicly reported.
“I headed down to the Long Walk in Windsor – 250,000 people were there by the way, a quarter of a million people.
“And I looked up and there he was, like not even 10 feet (3.04m) away from my face, and he had his hands in his pocket – he’d obviously been there for a while – he had his hands in his pockets, staring at me and just smiling with the most sinister smile.
“It was like he was enjoying watching me being so uncomfortable. I was by myself.
“I walked away from my cameraman and that was my fault. And I just, I just went into a panic attack.”
She said because it was the Queen’s funeral, there were police everywhere, and she ran to the closest officer.
“I could still see where he was,” she continued.
“I could not get out my words. I was just having a panic attack.”
Jones took off, but was later arrested and spent a night in a cell.
The 42-year-old first made a name for himself on ITV reality show Airline, a show which ran from 1998 to 2006 and followed the lives of easyJet workers in airports.
He reinvented himself as a travel expert and started talking about the industry under Covid restrictions – which is how he met Ms Costello.
She interviewed him over Zoom once in August last year, and then two months later.
After the second interview, Jones suggested the pair present a travel show together, and messaged: “I love seeing you in the morning X”.
Over the next three days he messaged: “you take my breath away”, “you motivate me beyond words”, “I love seeing you”, and “you are my sunshine I love you”.
He then messaged and asked: “How long do I have to wait to see you it is driving me insane”.
That was when Ms Costello finally replied and said: “Please stop messaging me it is beyond inappropriate”.
But the messages only stopped for three months – and Jones then made a separate Instagram account.
He messaged Ms Costello saying “I know I’m not supposed to message you but thank you for everything you do for the travel industry” and “no one will ever come close to you”.
‘From Leo X’
Ms Costello then blocked all of his social media accounts.
But Jones didn’t stop there, and in June this year he showed up at the GB News studio asking for her before sending flowers with a note that read: “Something to say a good morning from Leo X”.
He also emailed the 29-year-old through her website that said: “Ellie I don’t want to be like a stalker I have feelings for you, you have been pivotal on my journey”.
Then, just months later, was the Queen’s funeral.
Jones’ year-long campaign left Ms Costello so scared for her safety that she suffered sleepless nights, constant stress and panic attacks.
She was also given a bodyguard, who taught her how to keep herself safe.
At Jones’ hearing on Thursday Ms Costello read her victim impact statement at St Albans Magistrates’ Court from behind a curtain.
Speaking this week, she said: “I think I feel like that was something he would have wanted, to see me or be close to me, or something like that.
“So I didn’t want him to have that but I did want him to hear what had done to me.”
This article originally appeared in The Sun and has been reproduced with permission