AN evil, twisted, former McDonald’s employee created a fake female persona to stalk his co-worker who he had grown infatuated by before impersonating a police officer in order to enter her home.

Rhys Hardman was working at the popular fast-food chain in Widnes when he first encountered his victim.

But what started as a friendship soon turned sinister when Hardman would not accept that his co-worker did not want a romantic relationship with him.

Prosecuting, Ben Jones said the pair had a ‘platonic’ friendship in 2020 but the victim described the defendant as soon becoming ‘overbearing’ and would rely on her to support him with his mental health issues.

“She gives examples of being called on nights out with other friends, when the defendant threatened suicide or claimed to have been attacked,” Mr Jones told Liverpool Crown Court.

“In turn her own mental health was affected by the pressure of responsibility. She made it clear to the defendant that she wanted to end the relationship.”

Hardman, of Weates Close, was then blocked by her on all social media and as a contact in October 2021.

Runcorn and Widnes World: The case was heard at Liverpool Crown CourtThe case was heard at Liverpool Crown Court (Image: Supplied)

The 23-year-old then created an ‘alter ego’ under the name of Jessica, who was supposedly to be Hardman’s ‘ex-girlfriend’.

He built a friendship with his former co-worker through this imaginary character online, but more importantly built trust with her, comparing and pointing out his own so-called toxic behaviour that he displayed while they were ‘in a relationship’.

The persona of Jessica soon became unbearable and threatening towards the victim and she reported them to the police.

Hardman used this as a tactic to re-connect with the complainant by contacting her and telling her he was being harassed by Jessica.

After the concerning behaviour ‘Jessica’ was reported, police officers began an investigation into the profile.

“Ultimately, time-consuming but diligent policing, through IP and telephone subscriber checks, was able to show that the defendant had direct links to 21 different social media accounts, largely Snapchat, to harass his victim,” Mr Jones said.

“Email addresses, mobile telephone numbers and the IP address being linked to the defendant’s home address all demonstrated that Rhys Hardman and Jessica were one and the same.”

During conversations, Hardman, acting as Jessica, would request private images from the victim in return for large amounts of money.

Initially the complainant turned this down but as the figure increased more and more, she eventually agreed.

On another occasion, Hardman contacted the victim acting as his own mother, informing her that he had taken his own life.

Runcorn and Widnes World: The defendant: Rhys HardmanThe defendant: Rhys Hardman (Image: Cheshire Police)

When the complainant started university, the defendant’s stalking continued, and he would contact her off unknown numbers between 30 to 40 times a day.

He even contacted her on another fake Jessica profile threatening to send the private pictures he had obtained from her originally to all her friends if she did not send more.

On December 24, 2021, the victim was due to work a shift at McDonalds and had arranged for her and the Hardman’s shifts to be separate ongoing.

“The defendant attended her workplace to leave gifts at her crew locker. The victim had to leave work through a back entrance and get a lift from a manager to avoid contact with the defendant.”

Another similar incident happened on December 31 which forced the individual to have to resign from her job at the restaurant.

Hardman threatened over Snapchat messages to get her jumped and that he would damage her mum’s house and car.

On January 9, private pictures of the victim were sent to her friends on Facebook and the defendant, posing under the disguise of Jessica, sought to blame himself for this.

He even went to the extent of setting up a Facebook profile under the victim’s own name and posted private images of her with captions ‘asking what people thought of them’ and alluding to the fact she wanted to set up an OnlyFans account.

In a turn of events, on that same day, Hardman contacted the police and gave a detailed statement of how he was being stalked by his online persona, Jessica.

Runcorn and Widnes World: Hardman worked at a McDonald's in Widnes and met his victim who was his co-worker at the fast food jointHardman worked at a McDonald's in Widnes and met his victim who was his co-worker at the fast food joint (Image: CANVA)

He even provided the police with fake screen shots of conversations between him and his online disguise.

On February 15, 2022, Hardman was initially arrested and interviewed but denied the charges of being behind the account of Jessica.

Just weeks later her contacted the police stating he wanted to plead guilty to all charges after voicing to his solicitor ‘I am f*cked either way’.

Four days prior to the scheduled Crown Court appearance of these offences, Hardman purchased a police uniform and turned up at the victim’s address.

The victim was not inside however her father answered the door and Hardman claimed to be ‘PC Hill’.

Runcorn and Widnes World: Hardman impersonated a police officer and attended the victims house in Widnes Hardman impersonated a police officer and attended the victims house in Widnes (Image: Newsquest)

“He was invited in and said that the case was going to be postponed,” Mr Jones added.

The defendant inquired with the victim’s father as to if she was in a relationship and asked for her most recent contact number.

“She was overheard by her parents screaming when she received a call from someone she immediately identified as the defendant although he was continuing to pretend that he was PC Hill.”

The victim described to police having a ‘panic attack’ at the thought that he had managed to enter her home and expressed fears of him harming her.

A final bend in the story came when Hardman had to be rescued by police from the Mersey after attempting to take his own life on July 21, 2022.

The defendant has no previous convictions and was previously of ‘good character’.

He appeared before the courts on Friday facing charges of black mail, disclosing private images, perverting the cause of justice and two counts of stalking.

Defending, Carmel Wild said: “This was clearly persistent contact when he was struggling to deal with rejection.

“He felt judged by people when he was working in McDonalds and felt low. His family sit at the back of the court and support him.”

Summarising the effects Hardman’s behaviour had on his victim, Honour Judge David Potter said: “The victim described that she was nothing more than a friend that had supported you.

“She described having been put through torture by you. She described that she would never be the same person again.

“She was angry that you tricked your way into her house, and she was disgusted that her close friend had photographs sent to her.”

In total for all six counts, Hardman was served a sentence of seven years and eight months for his horrifying actions.