Edmonton

During 18 months of criminal harassment, Edmonton man feared for his safety

An Edmonton woman admits she sent hundreds of harassing emails and vulgar voicemail messages accusing a friend of cheating on his wife.

Woman admits she sent hundreds of emails and voicemails to man from her cycling club

An Edmonton woman has pleaded guilty to criminal harassment for sending hundreds of emails and voicemails to a man she met through a cycling club. (Kacper Pempel/Reuters)

An Edmonton woman admits she sent hundreds of emails and vulgar voicemail messages in year-long campaign of harassment that left her victim afraid for his safety.

Amanda Mae Wowk, 22, pleaded guilty to criminal harassment and fraudulent impersonation Monday in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench.

She harassed Murray Buchanan, whom she met through a local cycling club, between December 2016 and May 2017. Wowk also impersonated an Edmonton police detective in three of the harassing emails she sent to Buchanan.

"Ms. Wowk claimed to have harassed Mr. Buchanan because she felt that the Buchanans were not in a happy marriage and she wanted to help them realize that they would be happier if they divorced," according to an agreed statement of facts filed with the court on May 29.

Buchanan, 59, became acquainted with Wowk in 2016 through the Edmonton fitness community.

His wife Kelly, a fitness instructor with the city, began training and exercising with Wowk, and the two women struck up a friendship.

Wowk lived with her mother and stepfather in northwest Edmonton. She, too, began working as a fitness instructor for the city and joined the United Cycle bicycle club, where Buchanan served as a board member.

'Offensive and vulgar comments'

That spring she also joined the board, and Buchanan began helping her train for a triathlon.

The harassment started in the spring of 2016, when the Buchanans began to receive phone calls from private or blocked numbers.

During each call, an automated voice would make "offensive and vulgar comments" accusing Buchanan of being unfaithful and urging his wife to divorce him.

The calls came three or four times a day, then stopped for a few weeks before starting again.

"During the harassment period, Mr. Buchanan reasonably feared for his safety and the safety of his family," the agreed statement of facts said.

The Buchanans changed their phone numbers. But the calls continued.

"Murray, you are a worthless piece of shit that deserves to live a sad, miserable and lonely life," one message said.

"Get a divorce," another message implored.

Buchanan, an insurance adviser, also received harassing emails, at least 169 of them from 15 different addresses with names such as cheaters.anonymous@hotmail.com and horriblemarriages@outlook.com.

Some messages were also sent to his contact list, which included friends, family and clients.

In late 2016, police were contacted and a file was opened.

Threatening emails

After five months of harassment, Buchanan got three threatening emails that appeared to be from an Edmonton police detective who was also a personal acquaintance.

The emails, sent on March 11, 2017, urged Buchanan to ask that the ongoing police investigation into the harassment be shut down.

The messages appeared to be from Det. Glen Mahura, a member of the United Cycle club, who knew both Wowk and Murray Buchanan.

"You and your petty issues are crazy for the police service to be working on," one email read. "Why don't you let them work on cases that matter and admit the person behind this is your mistress, or Kelly.

"If not, I will personally ensure that the finger points to someone you don't want it to."

The couple often spent time with Wowk and considered her a "close and trusted friend," the agreed statement of facts said. When the couple vacationed in Hawaii, Wowk cared for their home and their pet.

During that vacation in January 2017, Buchanan decided to create a new email address to try to avoid the harassment. He asked for Wowk's help setting up the account.

Wowk created the account but linked it to her own personal email address, giving her full access to all of Buchanan's emails, passwords and social media accounts.

The Buchanans often spoke to Wowk about the ongoing harassment.

She also contacted police about the case. She sent the detective investigating the case a series of screen shots from a fake Twitter account she had created in Buchanan's name, purporting to show messages between Buchanan and a mistress.

'Cancel this investigation'

In a call to the detective, Wowk suggested the officer himself was responsible for the harassment.

On May 16, 2017, the detective received an email from Buchanan's legitimate email address, asking him to abandon the investigation.

The detective thought it was odd, since he had just spoken with Buchanan that morning and there had been no indication that he wanted the investigation to stop.

"I'm sorry to bother you," read the fraudulent email. "It pains me to admit that Kelly had stepped forward as the one responsible for the calls, emails, etc. Please cancel this investigation ... my apologies for wasting your time."

Buchanan later checked his email and found the message in his sent folder, showing that someone had hacked into his account.

Investigators traced the blocked phone calls to a number registered to Wowk's stepfather. They traced the email hacking to the IP address of a computer that belonged to Wowk's stepfather, which was located at her home address.

Wowk was arrested on May 16, 2017. During a police interrogation, she admitted she was solely responsible for harassing Buchanan.

The following day, Wowk and her mother both called the case detective, claiming that Wowk's mother had in fact been responsible for all of the harassment.

Wowk was initially charged with 13 counts, including obstruction and defamatory libel.

"Until the day before her arrest, Mr. and Ms. Buchanan were unaware and did not suspect that Ms. Wowk was the person responsible for the offences," the agreed statement of facts said.

Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for Oct. 11.