Death threats made Catherine feel like marked woman, says Douglas
By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles
The actor Michael Douglas yesterday described how "very graphic" letters and telephone death threats received by his wife, the actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, left her "hysterical and feeling like a marked woman".
The Hollywood star faced the woman accused of making the threats as he gave evidence in a Los Angeles court.
Dawnette Knight, 32, is charged with 25 counts of stalking and threatening Zeta-Jones between January 2003 and May 2004.
Douglas told of his wife's terror after she received three death threats in one night made in calls to a hotel in Amsterdam in May.
"She called me on her way to the airport," Douglas said. "She was hysterical and concerned that she had to keep putting her head between her legs. She was fainting and could not get any air.
"She showed all the signs of having a nervous breakdown."
The calls were among a series of threats the Oscar-winning actress received. Douglas said he first became aware of the threats after the receptionist of a hotel he jointly owned in Bermuda took a call in which a death threat was made against his wife.
Though he was "shocked, scared and stunned" the actor decided to keep the threat to himself to avoid upsetting his wife and creating "a furore or gossip".
But he then discovered that 14 "disgusting and extremely violent letters" had been received by his father, Kirk Douglas. "I was deeply concerned for him," Douglas told the court. "He is 87 years old. He was trying to protect Catherine and myself and I was concerned about the stress that was being put upon him."
Miss Knight was arrested last month at her Beverly Hills home. If convicted, she faces a maximum jail sentence of 19 years. She was brought into court wearing a blue skirt and cream cardigan and then handcuffed to a chair. The hearing, set to continue today, will determine if there is enough evidence to order Miss Knight to stand trial. The letters she allegedly wrote were all handwritten, apart from one, which was formed by letters cut from a newspaper.
Asked if he knew the defendant, Douglas said he did not. However, he said that he did remember seeing her at a golf tournament in Las Vegas when he recalled her walking towards him, acting strangely, and "wiggling".
Miss Knight's fiancee, Ronald Calvin, 44, has said recently his girlfriend was scared about what she had done. "She is a fun-loving girl," he has said. "She just became infatuated."
Richard Herman, Miss Knight's lawyer, said outside the court that he had attempted to resolve the issue with the Douglases by apologising and promising that Miss Knight would cease all contact.
But Mr Herman said their response had been "inappropriate". Asked if Miss Knight had been stalking Douglas, he said: "There were never any threats, only friendly overtures."
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