A stalker who fled to Bulgaria while awaiting trial has refused to return to Britain because he says he is in the process of gender reassignment.

Rosen Sabev has now been given two months to answer his bail and told that an arrest warrant will be issued if he fails to appear at his sentencing hearing in January.

He sent a medical report from a Russian-speaking psychologist which said Sabev started a course to prepare him for gender reassignment and completed five or six online sessions with a psychologist or sexologist.

He also claimed not to be able to afford to return to Britain, although the Judge pointed out that one way tickets with budget airlines are very cheap. The lowest price online is currently £17.

Sabev appeared by video link from Bulgaria under his male identity on what was supposed to be the first day of his trial at Exeter Crown Court and pleaded guilty to stalking his ex-partner after they split up in October 2021.

Judge David Evans rejected a suggestion that Sabev should be given a suspended prison sentence with no conditions so that he can remain in Bulgaria and instead ordered him to return to Britain to appear in court in person on January 12 next year.

He told him that a warrant would be issued and extradition sought if he did not turn up. He asked the probation service to contact Sabev in Bulgaria to ascertain whether he may be suitable for a community based penalty such as a suspended sentence.

Sabev, aged 58, denied controlling and coercive behaviour but admitted stalking which caused serious alarm and distress. Another charge of controlling and coercive behaviour during the two and a half year relationship was dropped.

The offence he admitted involved him fitting a tracker on his ex-partner’s car, following her and her friends, filmed her secretly, went to a hotel where she was staying, sent her messages, and watched her home in Cranbrook, East Devon, from his car.

Miss Bathsheba Cassel, prosecuting, said the stalking offence has a starting point of two and a half years custody with a range of one to four years.

Mr Lee Bremridge, defending, asked the Judge to sentence Sabev straight away over the link and said he would have nowhere to live if he returned to Britain and that before he went back to Bulgaria he had been living in his car.

He said: “He is a Bulgarian national to says he did not have the funds to travel. There is also a medical complication which does not affect his fitness to plead. Two months ago, he engaged in a long term medical procedure to undergo gender reassignment.

“The process means him remaining in Bulgaria where he has attended a psychologist and a sexologist over the internet. There have been five or six sessions and there is a report from a psychologist on the case file.

“This issue impacts on the question of whether his absence is voluntary or involuntary and is willing to engage in a sentencing exercise which would involve him remaining in Bulgaria.”

Judge Evans said there was a possibility of immediate custody and pointed out that the psychologist’s report, which said Sabev would have difficulty travelling, was apparently translated from Russian.

He said: “His absence from a sentencing hearing would artificially restrain that exercise. It is self-evidently inappropriate to conduce it in that way.

“The proposed restraining order would not bite if he remains in Bulgaria. It seems to me to subvert the process to allow the defendant, who can legitimately plead guilty from abroad, to be sentenced while still abroad.”

The judge told Sabev that any sentence may be suspended but it would depend on the probation pre-sentence report, mitigation, and credit for his guilty plea. He said he was giving him an opportunity to appear voluntarily rather than issuing an immediate warrant.