A SOUTHAMPTON man has been slapped with a five-year restraining order and an 18-month suspended sentence following a stalking campaign.

Matthew Stokes made his victim feel "helpless and afraid" after calling her 68 times in just one day.

The 41-year-old appeared at Southampton Crown Court via video link faced with two charges of stalking and one of common assault.

On an almost daily basis Stokes called his victim in the early hours of the morning from withheld numbers and numbers she did not recognise

The former taxi driver pleaded guilty to the charges with six incidents taking place between February and April this year.

They include repeatedly loitering outside his victim's home, calling her mobile phone and contacting her via social media.

He made abusive status posts on his social media accounts directed towards her.

On February 18 the victim spotted the defendant near her home.

The same day she received 68 calls on her mobile phone - some she answered to hear him mumbling in the background.

He was arrested on February 19 and released on police bail but continued to make abusive social media posts.

On March 3 he found the victim in the street and threatened to commit suicide.

Then on April 5, she received a series of abusive and threatening messages on Instagram which Stokes denied.

He claimed, "some unnamed other must have intervened on his behalf".

Just two days later the victim found flowers on her car windscreen and on April 9 she received a further series of missed calls from withheld numbers.

A victim statement read in court said: "I no longer feel safe around anyone. It's because of you.

"You made me feel worthless and powerless. I never felt so helpless in my life.

"The world is not a safe place. You made me afraid to go out. You managed to break me down."

Southampton Crown Court heard how the victim went to the extent of putting up a CCTV camera at her home.

Stokes, of Linford Crescent, had one caution for "like matters" in 2010 however has no previous convictions.

According to defence barrister Richard Tutt, Stokes accepted that he behaved badly.

Mitigating, Stokes claims he suffers from anxiety and depression, his head was not in a good place and he was drinking to excess.

Judge Rowland slapped him with a five-year restraining order and an 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

He will have to complete 100 hours of community work, 15 days of rehabilitation and attend a behavioural course.

Stokes has been on remand at HMP Winchester since April 9.