Jailed office 'cougar' was 'living in a fantasy world'
A woman who dubbed herself the office “cougar” wreaking havoc on the lives of her male colleagues has been jailed for 26 weeks for sexual harassment.
Cambridge graduate Jeevani Thaxala Wickramaratna singled out married men at the electronics firms she worked for, including one in Shepton Mallet, and spun a web of deceit claiming they were having affairs with her and sexually harassing her.
She sent emails to the men’s wives, posted sexually explicit messages on Facebook and even claimed that one of them was HIV positive. District Judge David Parsons condemned her campaign of wicked lies which caused chaos and left one marriage at risk of destruction.
He said she lived in a “complete fantasy world” where she had damaged so many people that the only sentence appropriate was immediate custody.
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Wickramaratna, aged 44, worked as a software engineer for the Portsmouth electronics firm Raymarine when she became infatuated with fellow worker Paul Stokes.
He sent her an email offering her some cake to celebrate his birthday and from then on she began a campaign of harassment during which she bombarded him with emails and messages via Facebook.
“She claimed Mr Stokes was having an affair with the office ‘cougar’ and many of the messages were sexually explicit and caused great distress to both him and his family,” said prosecutor Christine Hart.
“Wickramaratna then began sending him a series of messages saying she was setting him free and said she had told his family about their affair and that he loved her.”
Further abusive messages were sent on Facebook, including a false allegation that Mr Stokes had been diagnosed with HIV.
The court heard that Mr Stokes claimed at no point did he ever have an affair with the defendant and when he reported the matter to the police in July 2010 an investigation began.
Miss Hart said: “The police contacted Wickramaratna telling her not to contact Mr Stokes but she wrote back revealing explicit details of their affair that she believed had taken place and referred to herself as ‘the cougar’.”
The term refers to a sexually predatory woman who targets much younger men.
The defendant then left the company and took up a position working for the communications firm Wimax in Shepton Mallet where she was employed by Kazeem Benzair and his wife Joanne. A few weeks later a colleague, Pir Khan, had a guest visiting who needed accommodation so Wickramaratna offered him her spare room and they exchanged telephone numbers.
Before the guest’s arrival bed and breakfast accommodation was found and she was told her assistance was no longer required.
“Soon after Mr Khan received a message from the defendant asking if he would stop making uncomfortable gestures towards her and he replied saying he did not understand what comments she was referring to,” said Miss Hart.
“A number of abusive messages were then sent but the defendant claimed they had been sent by her boyfriend Jeremy, a man whom the police were not able to ascertain even existed.
“She then reported Mr Khan to Mr Benzair for harassment and both parties were put on garden leave from the firm.”
During the subsequent investigation 107 emails were sent to Mr Benzair and his wife of an abusive nature and despite requests to stop by Mrs Benzair, who was suffering from a serious illness, Wickramaratna continued.
She failed to attend a work tribunal and was then dismissed by the company after the court hearing found in Mr Khan’s favour. When police went to her home address to arrest Wickramaratna she said she had had a relationship with Paul Stokes and when they started an affair she created the persona of the “cougar”.
She claimed she had been the one who was sexually harassed while working at Wimax and denied persistently contacting the Benzairs.
In a statement to the court Paul Stokes said Wickramaratna had put him and his wife “through hell” and her persistent communications had caused them considerable stress as a result. Wickramaratna, now of Hilltop Avenue, Buckingham, pleaded not guilty to three allegations of harassment against Paul Stokes, the Benzairs and Mr Khan between June 1, 2010 and October 17, 2010 when she appeared before Judge Parsons at Yeovil.
Mr Parsons said that all of Wickramaratna’s victims were tolerant, good natured and respectable, but where it came to the defendant they were all very naive.
“You persisted on sending people e-mails even after being warned by the police and have shown no remorse, empathy or regret.
“You live in a complete fantasy world.”