TikTok organist’s stalker jailed after coming from US on one-way flight

Anna Lapwood became the youngest ever Director of Music at an Oxbridge college in 2016, aged just 21
Anna Lapwood became the youngest ever Director of Music at an Oxbridge college in 2016, aged just 21 - RII SCHROER FOR THE TELEGRAPH

An acclaimed TikTok organist was stalked by an obsessive fan who bought a one-way ticket from America to follow her, a court has heard.

Anna Lapwood, 28, was tracked for three months by Elliott Bennett, 36, a US national who followed her across the Atlantic and tried in vain to woo her.

She has become known as the “TikTok organist” with classical performances that regularly attract up to four million views on the social media app, and became the youngest ever director of music at an Oxbridge college in 2016, taking up the post at Cambridge aged 21.

But Ms Lapwood described how Bennett began following her “coast to coast” while she toured the US in March in a campaign of stalking that escalated in a “terrifying way” when he began appearing at all of the “meet and greet” events after her shows.

Bennett was given a six-month jail sentence and an indefinite restraining order after admitting stalking in an appearance at Peterborough Crown Court last Wednesday.

The court heard that at first, he asked for a picture with Ms Lapwood, but then his obsessive behaviour rapidly moved on to sending her letters declaring his love for her.

The court heard how he got down on one knee at one event and took Ms Lapwood’s hand, telling her that they should be together.

When she told him she had a boyfriend, he replied that he could not “accept” that, and he later chased Ms Lapwood and her boyfriend across a car park after they left a hotel, the court was told.

Ms Lapwood is known as the "TikTok organist" and attracts millions of views on the app - on which she has 550,000 followers
Ms Lapwood is known as the "TikTok organist" and attracts millions of views on the app - on which she has 550,000 followers - RII SCHROER FOR THE TELEGRAPH

Ms Lapwood, who has more than 550,000 followers on TikTok, performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London on her return, but was left shaken when she once again spotted Bennett at her meet and greet with fans after the show.

It later emerged that he had bought a one-way flight from the US so he could to continue stalking her.

In the following days, he was seen repeatedly busking outside Pembroke College in Cambridge where Ms Lapwood works.

When he was asked to leave, he told staff he had a spiritual connection with her, that they cared for one another, that she inspired him and that they were both geniuses.

‘I was worried that I might be overreacting’

Ms Lapwood said the ordeal forced her to be “escorted everywhere” and she “feared for my safety and for those around me” to such an extent that she felt unable to go for a coffee by herself.

Speaking after the sentencing, Ms Lapwood said she felt able “to breathe in peace again” and urged other victims of stalking and harassment to seek help.

The musician, who co-hosted BBC coverage of the first night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall on July 14 with Clive Myrie and Sandi Toksvig, said: “It’s been a tough few months, and I think the big thing that it’s taught me, is that when something like this starts, we shouldn’t hesitate to report it.”

She added: “The situation can escalate quickly and in a really terrifying way. When it began, I was worried that I might be overreacting, but when I got in touch with the police they dealt with it immediately and with kindness.

“Obsessive behaviour and harassment impacts so many people, sadly some scenarios are more disastrous than my own.”

Det Con Timothy Taylor, who investigated the case, said: “Stalking is a horrendous crime, which leaves victims feeling frightened, distressed and threatened.

“I would like to take this opportunity to praise Ms Lapwood for her courage and bravery in reporting this to the police and speaking out, giving other victims the courage to speak out.”

Ms Lapwood is now one of classical music’s most visible stars. She graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford, where she was the first woman in the college’s 560-year history to be awarded an organ scholarship.

The Oxford High School alumna founded the Pembroke College Girls’ Choir in 2018, which invites girls between the ages of 11 and 18 from local schools to perform at the college’s evensong services.

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