. That lesson did not go well, however, as her anxiety levels were off the scale.
‘I told my instructor I just couldn’t do it. I’d have to leave lessons for a bit,’ says Maisie, 19. ‘She was really understanding.’
She? ‘Oh yes. I couldn’t have got in the car with a male instructor again.’
The anxiety Maisie feels during a lesson — or when she sees a red Ford Fiesta like the one in which she first learned to drive — is crippling. Nothing to do with driving. Everything to do with the instructor who became obsessed with her, stalked her, threatened to kill himself in front of her, and made her life a living hell.
This week Maisie, a second-year psychology student, was at York Crown Court to see her driving instructor-turned-stalker Graham Mansie, 53, jailed for 20 months for breaching a restraining order.
Everything to do with the instructor who became obsessed with her, stalked her, threatened to kill himself in front of her, and made Maisie’s life a living hell
It was not Mansie’s first time in court: he’d been given a suspended sentence and the restraining order at Bromley Magistrates’ Court in May after pleading guilty to stalking. Yet just nine days later, he drove over 200 miles to ‘get to her’ outside her university halls.
Today, in an interview that lays bare the emotional impact of what she endured, Maisie tells me her entire first year at university was spent living in terror of this man.
He’d tracked her down, even posing as a student to infiltrate her social media accounts.
It was not Mansie’s first time in court: he’d been given a suspended sentence and the restraining order at Bromley Magistrates’ Court in May after pleading guilty to stalking
Nine days after pleading guilty to stalking, Mansie drove over 200 miles to ‘get to her’ outside her university halls
On police advice, she changed her appearance, to make it more difficult for Mansie to recognise her. ‘They said to stop wearing the coat he’d have seen me in during lessons. And I cut my hair to change how I looked.’ She says she was too scared to sleep on her own, and would ‘drag my mattress into my flatmate’s room’.
‘My whole first year at university was ruined by him. Everything was affected. If my flatmates hadn’t rallied round I would definitely have quit university, but it affected them, too. Their parents were worried about them. No one wants their child to be sharing a flat with the girl who has the stalker.’
Maisie even developed an eating disorder and is having treatment for anorexia. ‘I think it was that there was so much in my life that I couldn’t control. I’m getting help for that now, but it has been a nightmare.’
The terrible saga began back in 2020. Maisie had turned 17 and wanted to learn to drive. Her parents insisted she ‘did it properly’ with a qualified instructor, and Mansie, with an unblemished, 17-year career, was the obvious choice. He had taught about 15 of her friends.
She started lessons in July of that year. She remembers being ‘quite shy and nervy’ but until November her lessons proceeded steadily and normally. ‘There were no red flags. He’d chat a bit, but just about the things you’d expect — what A-levels I was doing, what I was doing at the weekend. He knew I was going to university in York. It was the kind of chat you’d have in the hairdressers’.’
He shared details of his life, but nothing remotely intimate. ‘I knew he had an elderly mother, that he wasn’t married. He had two sisters, nephews. He would talk about visiting them in Essex, that he’d had a roast dinner, that sort of thing.’
This was pandemic year, and the second lockdown curtailed lessons. Mansie was in touch via text, ‘but only blanket texts, which he’d send all pupils regarding Covid rules’.
This week Maisie, a second-year psychology student, was at York Crown Court to see her driving instructor-turned-stalker Graham Mansie, 53, jailed for 20 months
In April 2021, things were back on track. Maisie signed up for another block of six lessons. It was at this point that things started to ‘feel strange’, she admits.
Later, she would discuss with the police whether something in Mansie had changed during lockdown.
‘At the time, I couldn’t pinpoint why it was different, but he started to call me his favourite. Then he asked me out for a drink.’
She was more embarrassed than horrified and managed to bat the request away.
‘I said something like “Oh, I dunno, maybe with all my friends, the ten of us who learn with you,” but in my head, I knew I wasn’t going to go.’
Then came a TikTok message, titled For Maisie. ‘He’d started an account. It had a red heart, but it was full of driving tips. I thought “weird”, but I still thought he was just trying to be nice because he cared about me passing my test.’
In May 2021, as she was sitting her A-levels, the student took her test — and failed. Mansie’s reaction was astonishing. ‘He cried. He was more upset than I was. I ended up saying, “Graham, it is only a driving test”.’
Almost immediately Mansie started talking about booking a new test, but Maisie had resolved to do that in York, once she started university. ‘I thought it was easier that way, avoiding any awkwardness with him.’
Mansie had other ideas, though.
‘About a month after I’d done the first test he sent a message saying he’d booked me in for another, locally. He’d done it under his name and his driving school, so I’d have to continue lessons.’
She was still mulling over what to do about this, when things became disturbing.
Maisie received an invite to view an Instagram account called MJR (her initials) Countdown. ‘I didn’t know what this was, or that it was from him. I kept deleting the invitation, then he messaged to say it was from him. I accepted it.
‘It was a countdown until the number of days he would see me again.
‘This was not OK. I was really curt with my reply. He could obviously tell, and deleted it immediately.
A couple of days later, a friend had her driving test and, afterwards, Mansie asked her to deliver a bag of gifts to Maisie. ‘There was a note saying I was “kind, funny and amazing”, a keyring he’d had made with charms on it, a University of York sign and £65 of restaurant vouchers. It was all so weird. I showed my mum. We were sort of baffled.’
On police advice, Maisie changed her appearance, to make it more difficult for Mansie to recognise her
Then came a message that couldn’t be misread — a rambling text from Mansie professing his love for Maisie. ‘He said, “I know you will never care for me like I care for you”.’ Her mother intervened, furious, and texted him back, ordering Mansie never to contact her daughter again.
The following Sunday, though, they were driving out of their street and noticed his red Ford Fiesta, complete with driving school logo, parked around the corner. ‘He sped off when he saw us. My mum went into the police station then.’
Maisie’s family were reassured that the situation would be ‘monitored’, although it is unclear whether Mansie was spoken to by officers at this point. Maisie does not think so.
In September she went off to university, thinking no more of it.
Within two weeks, however, she’d had a message from her former driving instructor on WhatsApp, asking to join a group chat with some of her new university friends. Maisie called her father (her parents are divorced). He immediately called Mansie.
‘Graham put the phone down, but then within half an hour showed up at my dad’s house. There was some sort of verbal altercation and he said: “Your daughter is 18. I love her, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
‘My dad said “You are a psycho”, and called the police.’ This was when things ‘started to get really scary’, Maisie says. ‘I was miles away from home, and was giving evidence to the police by phone. They had interviewed Graham and I was told that they were going to arrest him on suspicion of stalking.’
On November 3, Mansie was indeed arrested, and subsequently charged, but released on bail as police gathered evidence.
Maisie and her parents were horrified to learn that Mansie had been up to York without her knowing.
‘He told the police that he’d been in York, walking round my accommodation block on campus, hoping to see me. He’d discovered where I lived because he’d posed as a student to get into the WhatsApp groups.’
Ordering Mansie never to contact her daughter again, Maisie and her mother were driving out of their street and noticed his red Ford Fiesta, complete with driving school logo
A whole new layer of Mansie’s predatory behaviour was emerging. In the whirl of new friendships forming at university, Maisie had failed to notice the name Ben Williams pop up as one of her Instagram friends. There is no Ben Williams. This, police found, was Mansie, posing as a student.
He had set up a fake Instagram account, then paid hackers (‘on the dark web’) to break into Maisie’s account and accept a follower request from him. Once in there, he could follow other friends, and work out not only where she lived, but who was who in her social circle. Her friends — all new friends, remember — were now caught up in this nightmare.
As far as the courts were concerned, of course, Maisie was not at risk at this point. Mansie’s bail conditions forbade him to come near her, but at the end of March he made contact via Instagram, so was rearrested.
‘It was as if he didn’t take it seriously,’ says Maisie. She took it seriously, though, and it sounds as if the police took it seriously, too.
They were advising her on what clothes to wear in York. She also claims she was told to consider doing lectures virtually, if possible, rather than in person.
‘All of this just added to the feelings of paranoia. I kept looking over my shoulder, expecting to see him or his car. Even now, every time I see a red Ford Fiesta I can feel the anxiety build. Is it him?’
In April this year, at Bromley Magistrates’ Court, Mansie admitted stalking Maisie. In the period between the appearance and sentencing, though, he contacted Maisie, again breaching the restraining order. ‘He sent me a WhatsApp saying: “You Have Killed Me.” Maisie is unsure of the ‘ins and outs’ of what happened next, but it sounds particularly troubling.
‘He went missing for 48 hours. I had travelled down from York for the case and was supposed to be going back, but I couldn’t. I was effectively under house arrest while they found him. My flatmates were worried, too. As far as we were concerned, everyone was in danger.’
Mansie was found, however, and returned to court for sentencing. He received a two-month jail term, suspended for a year, plus a restraining order, a fine and was ordered to wear an electronic tag.
Maisie was overjoyed. ‘I was so happy. It meant even if he did try to get to me, the police would be alerted. I was over the moon really. I had a whole nine days celebrating my freedom. In that day my friends — who had only seen the anxious looking-over-my-shoulder me — saw a huge difference. Then it came crashing down.’
And how. On May 27, after 11pm, one of Maisie’s flatmates was coming into the building and noticed a man sitting on the ground. We turned off the lights and I looked out, and yes it was him,’ she says. ‘I just couldn’t believe it. After everything, he had still driven 225 miles to get to me.’
As campus security officers and police arrived, Mansie began ‘slashing at his wrists. He had blades. He told police later that he had wanted to kill himself in front of me, although the wounds were superficial’.
All ten of Maisie’s flatmates accompanied her to court this week. She becomes emotional even talking about their support.
What now for Maisie? Astonishingly, given everything that was going on, she passed her first-year exams and is starting her second year. She seems very determined to rebuild her life, even saying she will do her driving test again, ‘when I can face more lessons’.
She is only too aware, though, that her stalker is behind bars temporarily. With good behaviour, he could be out in around six months. Yes, it keeps her awake.
‘When he was sentenced the first time, I was glad it was a suspended sentence as I thought he needed help rather than to go to prison.
‘Now, while I’m glad he’s behind bars, he won’t be for long. What if he has been stewing for all that time? My biggest concern is if he doesn’t accept that he’s done anything wrong, except love me? That is the most terrifying thing of all.’