An American man, who flew to Manchester to stalked a woman he met online before barricading her cousin in a house in Tameside for three hours while armed with a hammer, has been jailed for seven years after our fugitive finders snared him trying to flee back across the Atlantic.
Edward Best (26), from Chicago, was caught at Holyhead ferry port by officers from our Force Critical Wanted Unit, after he was stopped by authorities at Dublin airport and ferried back to Britain less than 48 hours after he became the subject of an urgent manhunt.
Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court today (16 September) heard how Best’s online relationship with a woman from Hyde had deteriorated and prompted him to become increasingly aggressive and obsessive – sending her up to 100 messages a day and threatening to murder and rape her corpse – before he flew to Manchester Airport on 22 March to go to the house she was living at.
Best – then aged 25 – proceeded to visit the woman’s home and observe outside, as he spent the next 12 days moving between three different Air BnB accommodations and renting a car from a local dealership in Ashton-under-Lyne so he could stalk her address.
The court was told that on the evening of 3 April, Best jumped over the back wall and broke into the woman’s address while armed with a hammer, but once inside only found the woman’s cousin who was there to look after the family cat while the woman and her family were on a weekend break.
The cousin – aged in her 20s – was then subjected to a frightening ordeal for the next three hours as Best locked the back door and barricaded the front door with furniture, while holding a hammer to the victim’s face and getting black tape out of his rucksack while searching around the property.
The victim was able to text a friend to get to the address and to call 999 before her friend and their partner arrived and looked through the window to see the victim mouth the word ‘help’.
Thankfully, the victim was able to escape through a front window while Best fled from the back door and jumped over the wall before running off with the hammer still in his hand.
While Best was escaping, we were called to the incident and began an urgent manhunt to identify Best and track him down to where he had run off to.
Detectives from our Ashton CID worked with our fugitive finders from the Force Critical Wanted Unit while the American was making his way to Birmingham with a view to flying back to the United States.
He missed his flight by 40 minutes and instead travelled to Holyhead where he boarded a ferry to Ireland but was stopped by security while sat on a plane at Dublin airport before it set off to New York after he was alerted as wanted, thanks to the urgent actions by our officers.
Best was taken back to north Wales by Irish police to be met by our specialist officers who arrested him and took him back to a custody station in Greater Manchester for questioning.
He told investigators that he admitted to making online threats to his former partner but did not have any intent to do anything about it.
He also said to detectives that he did not make the woman aware he was coming to the UK and he acknowledged he had repeatedly harassed and stalked her online.
We charged Best with false imprisonment, aggravated burglary, possession of an offensive weapon and stalking.
He admitted stalking his ex-partner between January and April, false imprisonment, attempted false imprisonment, and possession of an offensive weapon before today being sentenced to seven years for those offences.
Detective Constable Emily Blair, of our Ashton CID, said: “The perverse actions of Edward Best were extremely sinister and frightening for both young women, and while this may be an unusual case it demonstrates our ongoing commitment to tackling violence against women and girls in all its forms.
“It was clear from Best’s online conversations with his former partner that he was obsessive and aggressive, meaning that when he went to her home address armed with a hammer it was reasonable to believe his intentions were malicious with the aim of inflicting physical as well as emotional harm.
“Fortunately for his ex-partner, she was not in that weekend; however, this by no means diminishes how much she has been affected by what could’ve happened, and how horrifying the ordeal was that her cousin was subjected to.
“Once Best was found by his victim’s friends, his intent was to run away from his crimes and go back to America to avoid the consequences, but our swift response from our specialist team of officers meant we were able to hunt him down and bring him back to Greater Manchester so he can now rightly face justice.”