A MARRIED man accused of stalking a colleague had never even heard of her before police charged him, a court has heard.

Joseph Garratt denies stalking a fellow Oxford University Press employee between May and October 2017, and took to the witness box at Oxford Crown Court yesterday.

The 28-year-old explained to jurors that he was increasingly stressed at work from May onwards, and would walk loops of the office to calm down, listening to loud music through headphones to help him refocus.

Garrett, of King Walk in Didcot, said it was possible that he might have glazed over as he ‘zoned out’ but stressed that he never knowingly stared at a specific person, as the victim had alleged.

Asked if he ever stalked her, he said: “No. I didn’t even know who she was at the time, she was never pointed out to me and and her name was never told to me.

“I knew nothing about her or her name until I was charged.”

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The court heard how Garratt’s stress and anxiety became overwhelming in June, when he was signed off from his post in the maths department on medical leave.

His mental turmoil progressed to such an extent, due to work pressures, increased responsibilities at his church and moving house, that colleagues feared he might be ‘sectioned’ if he did not take time out.

After appointments medical professionals, he was diagnosed with high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome.

Garratt said he had known since school that he might have the condition, which can affect social awareness and empathy.

He explained that even after resigning, effective from mid July, he still made the occasional visit to work for orchestra rehearsals, and to have lunch with his wife, who also works at the Jericho publishing company.

He said: “It felt more comfortable for me to just follow the same routines - it was a familiar environment, whereas my new house was not.”

The alleged victim said Garratt had once tried to ‘run after’ her as she left OUP in Walton Street, but he denied this.

He explained that he would sometimes take cues from items around him, such as having a short run when he passed a ‘Run Jericho’ banner, or following the direction that cars or road signs were indicating.

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The woman also alleged that he had followed her home, but he said his regular walking route from work to Oxford train station happened to pass close to her property - which he said he only learnt about during court proceedings.

She had thought he was loitering nearby, but he explained that he was likely just waiting for the pedestrian crossing to go green at a nearby junction.

He said he ‘hardly deviated’ from this route unless he was popping into town to buy flowers for his wife, meet friends or to speak to a Big Issue seller he had befriended outside Marks and Spencer.

The woman also alleged that he ‘brushed up’ against her on one occasion in a work kitchen, but Garratt did not recall this, although he said he could lose awareness of other people’s proximity when he is lost in his thoughts.

She also said he had changed clothes before walking past her desk, but he said the only time he can remember having to change was on a day when he got ‘soaked’ due to rain.

The trial continues.