Woman arrested as armed police guard physicist Stephen Hawking at Science Festival after chilling death threats is released


1 July 2016 by Gerard Couzens, Stephen Jones

The world famous professor allegedly received messages via email and on Twitter which said: ‘I’m going to kill you’ and ‘I’m next to you and can kill you’. The woman arrested over death threats to Professor Stephen Hawking has been given a four month suspended prison sentence after confessing to her crime at an expedited trial. His family raised the alarm at a science conference in Tenerife after he allegedly received messages via email and on Twitter which said: ‘I’m going to kill you’ and ‘I’m next to you and can kill you’.

The woman was released from custody after agreeing to a restraining order preventing her from going within 500 metres of the world famous scientist – or trying to communicate with him for the next eight months. She was tried after refusing to be seen by an expert called in to evaluate her state of mind. Police were earlier understood to have asked for a psychiatric evaluation. The woman – who was named in local press only by her first name and initials of Jenny Theresa C – was convicted of a crime of serious threats.

Stephen Hawking

Under Spanish law she could have been sentenced to up to two years in jail – but the sentence was suspended as she was a first-time offender in Spain. A court source confirmed: “The American citizen arrested for threatening Stephen Hawking has been released because the four month prison sentence she received was suspended as she didn’t have a criminal record in Spain. As part of her sentence she is prevented from going within 500 metres of Professor Hawking and communicating with him via any means during an eight-month period. She has agreed to the sentence and recognised that she committed a crime of serious threats.”

A press release issued by the court after sentencing said: “She had been pursuing Mr Hawking throughout the world and in the last few days had sent him grave threats through social media and to his personal email. In the various emails he received she outlined plans to end his life during the scientific conference being held in Tenerife. Because of the information contained in the emails, it appeared the person sending them could have been inside the conference venue. The crime she was convicted of covers threats to carry out crimes against someone including murder, wounding, rape and torture.”

It emerged earlier that police had arrested the woman after the physicist ‘received death threats’ during a visit to a science festival in Tenerife. Armed police have this week been guarding the world famous physicist, cosmologist and author after a tip-off by one of his children. A 37-year-old woman was held at a four-star hotel near the conference centre where the professor spoke on Wednesday. She is due to appear in court later today after being quizzed by detectives.

Professor Hawking was this morning excused from giving evidence to the judge “for health reasons”. The 74-year-old Oxford-born professor had been due to give evidence to a judge in a behind-closed-doors hearing in her office at the court in the southern resort of Arona this morning at 10am. It had been hoped that one of his carers would be able to represent him but the judge decided late last night that he would have to give evidence in person himself this morning. However Prof Hawking was excused from appearing “for health reasons” after a medical certificate was presented to Judge Judith Lorenzo. The judge had earlier ruled that the media would not be allowed in to hear the evidence being given – and a spokesman said the professor would not be interviewed “for the moment”. Prof Hawking’s no-show was not expected to have any bearing on the suspect’s court appearance, which took place behind closed doors.

An armed guard was put on Hawking on Tuesday. Conference delegates noticed an increased police presence but had assumed it was related to the need for heightened security following the Istanbul Airport ISIS terrorist attack. Delegates now understand it was due to the alleged threats to the professor.

Brian May at Starmus 2016
Queen guitarist Brian May, also an astrophysicist, also spoke at the festival – Rex

Earlier this week he had publicly said he believes pollution and human’s “stupidity” remain the biggest threats to mankind. He also expressed his concerns over the use of artificial intelligence in warfare. The theoretical physicist argued “we have certainly not become less greedy or less stupid” in our treatment of the environment. Speaking at the conference he said: “Six years ago, I was warning about pollution and overcrowding, they have gotten worse since then. The population has grown by half a billion since our last interview, with no end in sight. At this rate, it will be eleven billion by 2100. Air pollution has increased by 8 percent over the past five years. More than 80 percent of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution. The increase in air pollution and the emission of increasing levels of carbon dioxide. Will we be too late to avoid dangerous levels of global warming?”

Detectives are understood to have arrested the suspect after being tipped off by one of Hawking’s three children. The death threats were allegedly sent to one of Professor Hawking’s emails and his Twitter account. The convicted woman, who was born in the States but lives in Norway, was arrested on Wednesday at a hotel near the Piramide de Arona conference centre. The arrest took place the same day the scientist gave his keynote speech at the centre as part of the Starmus Festival. Professor Hawking, who arrived in Tenerife on a cruise liner just over two weeks ago, arrived at the venue escorted by armed police.

The ongoing science festival, which has brought together the world’s leading space travellers, stargazers and astrophysicists, was billed as a tribute to Stephen Hawking when it was announced in April it would take place in Tenerife for the third time. Legendary Queen guitarist Brian May, also an astrophysicist, is taking part too in the event alongside Martin Rees, professor of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge.

It was still not clear this evening when the suspect reached Tenerife and whether she had accreditation to attend the Starmus Festival, which was created to bring science to people and make it a real part of everyone’s daily lives. As well as being quizzed by an investigating judge, she was also expected to be seen by a forensic expert to determine if she is suffering from a mental illness. Police are understood to have asked for a psychiatric evaluation – which the woman is now known to have refused. They are also understood to be investigating if the woman was a delegate at the conference – which is invitation only. READ MORE