A MAN who threatened, bullied and harassed a woman he met online after claiming to be a plastic surgeon has been jailed.

David Lawson subjected his victim to months of torment, during which he threatened her with an imitation firearm, flushed her phone down the toilet, assaulted her and humiliated her on social media.

The 69-year-old, who has a history of harassing people, told her he “knew gangsters in Newcastle” and threatened to hurt her children, Teesside Crown Court heard yesterday.

David Morley, prosecuting, said after developing a platonic relationship the pair went on holiday to the Dominican Republic where things quickly turned sour.

He said: “A week in and his demeanour changed when she would not accompany him for an evening meal due to feeling unwell.

“The defendant came back to the room and found her on the phone, he grabbed her phone and started to throw it around the room, she tried to get it back and he grabbed her right arm and pushed her up against the wall.

“He told her ‘you are not going to get your f*****g phone back’ flushed it in the toilet, put it in the shower and then threw it over the balcony. She tried to travel home but it was not possible so she had to stay on the holiday.”

After returning to the UK the victim stayed at the defendant’s house on the couch as she was unable to travel home to the Northern Isles of Scotland.

Mr Morley added: “She woke up and spoke to the defendant and explained that that was going to be the end of the relationship.

“The defendant told her that he wouldn’t hurt her husband, he would hurt who would hurt her the most – her children.

“He then went out of the room and came back in with a solid metal black hand gun, which was recovered and examined and found to be an imitation firearm.

“He was holding the gun and talking about being in a gang and knowing gangsters in Newcastle.

“He placed the gun on her leg and she had to ask him to move it.”

The court heard that Lawson then went on to contact the victim’s children, her ex-husband and her friends through social media.

Ishmail Uddin, mitigating, said social media and the internet was partly to blame and pointed out that the victim took four months to report the incident.

He added: “I accept that this has crossed the custody threshold, but I plead on behalf of my client that whatever custodial sentence is imposed is not immediate.

“There is nobody to be served by an elderly man in poor health going to prison. Other than using up public monies.”

Lawson, of Kirkham Close, Newton Aycliffe, pleaded guilty to possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and putting people in fear of violence.

Judge Johnathan Carroll told Lawson: “You told her you would hurt her children, what a spectacularly hard-hearted and mean spirited thing to say.

“You don’t really accept you have done anything wrong and you completely lack empathy. You are a nasty, vicious, controlling bully.”

Lawson was sentenced to 43 months in prison.