Trial begins for Leighton Buzzard preacher Johann Perera

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The trial began today for a well-known character from Leighton Buzzard accused of stalking a pair of teenage sweethearts.

Luton Crown Court was told of 43-year-old Johann Perera’s obsession with a 17-year-old girl.

It was an obsession that the prosecution claim turned menacing, with Mr Perera allegedly referring to the girl as his “wife” and threatening to “execute” her and her boyfriend as “adulterers”.

After a jury of eight women and four men were sworn in at Luton Crown Court, Alison Ginn, prosecuting, presented her opening arguments.

She said: “It seems Johann Perera is quite a well-known character. He would often be seen in the town centre with his guitar and maracas, with his handmade signs, preaching to anyone who cared to listen.

“On the surface, a harmless, eccentric character. But to the two victims, he became anything but that.”

Ms Ginn explained that the girl involved was now 19, but at the time the offences began she was just 17.

She went on: “It seems this defendant became obsessed with her, hoping marriage, calling her his wife and bombarding her with attention.

“And once she was in a relationship, calling her an adulteress, making her life a misery and a nightmare in which she was living in fear, certainly distressed on a daily basis.

“However much she told the defendant, and whether told told him nicely or strongly, the contact didn’t stop.”

Ms Ginn described how Mr Perera met the girl when she was 17 and working in a shop in Leighton Buzzard. He struck up a conversation with her.

She said: “She recognised him as the eccentric everyone knows from the town and when he spoke to her, he came across as a nice man.

“When he asked for her phone number, she gave it to him, and when he asked for her email address, she also gave it to him.”

Ms Ginn described how the texting began the following day, and at first the girl didn’t think too much of it.

After a while, she said, he would come into the shop on a daily basis and would stare at the girl intently and that his emails also began to cause concern, allegedly stating that it was “wonderful to see her” and “a sign from God they should be together”.

Ms Ginn described further emails as being like that of “a jilted lover”, with hopes of asking for the girl’s hand in marriage.

She went on: “His behaviour caused him to be banned from the shop. Instead of going in, he would wait for her outside and follow her to her car.

“She would see him around, speaking to her friends and others, she just wasn’t able to get away.”

Ms Ginn described how in the spring of 2014 the girl started going out with her boyfriend and told Mr Perera – apparently hoping he would stop contacting her.

She went on: “Instead, he began going to where her boyfriend worked, and over a period of five weeks would make a beeline for him, singing to him and bringing him chocolates and sweets which he would then eat himself.

“He [the boyfriend] started to receive more texts and calls. And these emails started to become more disturbing.”

In one Mr Perera was alleged to have said: “You are sleeping with the girl I love and who has promised to marry me and I can’t understand why you do not get another girl.

“If one of my friends who has offered to kill for me asks how I am, I would not be able to keep from him that you are tearing my heart apart by sleeping with my girl, and I can imagine he would say ‘I will kill him’ and I would be in tears but I would be grateful to him for executing an adulterer.

“The problem I have is I have friends who are addicts and have actual ASBOs and some say, ‘If anyone does you any harm Johann, we will sort them out for you’.

“They will come from behind when he is not looking and he will not have a chance. I’m so scared for my brother [name of the boyfriend].”

Ms Ginn went on: “He writes to them both, telling them God promises to execute adulterers. He tells [boyfriend] that he will not see his 19th birthday.”

A letter sent to the boyfriend allegedly repeated this threat, and was addressed to the boy and “next of kin”.

As the couple’s parents and friends became involved, Ms Ginn related how they too received letters, warning them to stay away from the couple, “if God executes her in a fire or a car crash, they may die too.”

“It’s the same with [the boyfriend] warning him he must stop seeing [the girl] or he would die in a fire or a car accident.

“He was arrested on February 9, he was interviewed. He claimed that as far as the letters and emails were concerned, he has completely stopped them before he was arrested.

“One of the last ones saying that [the girl] had to be executed, he said he never intended harm to either of them. He says he met her and knew she would make the perfect wife for him. She didn’t always communicate with him.

“He went on to explain the references to execution as part of his Christian religion.”

Mr Perera sat with a nurse throughout the hearing. Dressed in a cobalt blue suit and orange tie, he held multi-coloured signs stating “GOOD MORNING” and “HAVE AN AMAZING AFTERNOON”.

The case continues...