A 41-year-old American woman has been arrested in Tenerife, Spain, after making hundreds of death threats against the renowned astrophysicist, Stephen Hawking.
Hawking has been visiting the Spanish island while participating in the Starmus Festival which started on Monday in Arona and concludes on Saturday night. Among the messages sent by the woman to Hawking, were: “I am going to kill you” and “I’m next to you and can kill you”.
According to a report by La Opinion de Tenerife (Spanish language), the same woman has been threatening Hawking for several years, but the situation came to a head on Tuesday after it was discovered that not only had the woman sent him dozens of death threat messages within just a few hours, but she had also expressly traveled to Tenerife to be close to Hawking during the science festival. One of those messages from the alleged stalker read: “I’m very close to you. I’ll kill you.”
“Estoy al lado de ti y puedo matarte”, detenida en Tenerife una mujer que envió hasta 100 amenazas a Stephen Hawking https://t.co/JEZFT0kxCr
— EL PAÍS (@el_pais) July 1, 2016
Officers from Spain’s National Police, based in Playa de Las Americas, caught up with the woman on Wednesday and arrested her on charges of harassment and threats against Stephen Hawking. While the woman has not been named, she is reportedly an American citizen, resident in Norway.
Police arrested the woman at the Conquistador Hotel, located very close to the congress centers where the Starmus Festival has been underway, bringing together top scientists from all over the world, including Hawking.
Reportedly it was just one day after the start of the Starmus Festival, and two weeks after Hawking arrived in Tenerife on board a cruise ship from England, that the messages flooded in.
It was one of Hawking’s three sons – who has access to his father’s social media accounts and emails – that detected the massive influx of messages and death threats from the woman. There were reportedly more than a hundred of the messages sent to Hawking’s Twitter account and email.
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Reportedly throughout the messages, the death threats were insistent, and the general tone of the messages showed them to be from a person with serious psychological problems.
As the family had heard from the woman before, Hawking’s daughter immediately brought her father’s attention to the situation, and the family contacted the National Police in Playa de Las Americas. It was especially critical, after they realized the woman was in Tenerife and intended to visit the Starmus Festival.
While police launched investigations to locate the stalker, they mounted a guard around Hawking. He was escorted everywhere by two agents, and outside the venue there were six police vehicles.
As reported by the Spanish language news service El Mundo, police finally caught up with the woman, and she was taken into custody on charges of harassment and threats against Hawking.
The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. —Stephen Hawking pic.twitter.com/r11SPrEfuX
— Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) July 1, 2016
At the time, Starmus Science Festival participants believed the sudden security measures to be related to a terrorist threat, but it later became known the agents were there to protect Hawking from his female stalker.
Stephen Hawking was able to give his dissertation on Wednesday, where he was surrounded by internationally renowned researchers in physics, chemistry, medicine, and economics.
— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) July 1, 2016
The astrophysicist went on to say that humans will not survive another thousand years on Earth, given the fragility of the planet. Hawking urged governments and public institutions to invest in space research to give mankind options to live elsewhere in the universe should the Earth finally come to an end.
[Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize Foundation]