Woman who received hundreds of messages weekly from her Nottinghamshire stalker speaks out as part of National Stalking Awareness Week
A woman who received hundreds of messages every week from her stalker has said going to the police for help has made a huge difference to her life.
Sarah, a woman in her 30s, met her stalker at a work event several years ago and struck up an online friendship with him.
As time went on, however, the man began contacting her more and more — sending dozens of messages a day and threatening to harm himself if she did not reply.
Speaking during National Stalking Awareness Week, Sarah, who has asked for her identity to be protected, has urged other victims to contact the police at the earliest opportunity.
She said: “In my case it took me a very long time to understand that what was happening to me was in fact stalking.
“In my head I knew what a stalker was — or at least thought I did — but I had an image in my mind of a shadowy figure in a hoodie peering through windows. I suspect many people out there would have a very similar perception but the reality in my case was very different.
“When I first met my stalker he was very kind and very intelligent and at first I just wanted to be a good friend to him. I could see that he had some problems in his life and I wanted to help him to work through them. We started to exchange messages and things developed from there.
“For most of the time we were in contact I was actually more concerned about him, because he would regularly threatened to harm himself if I did not respond to his messages, but things escalated to such an extent that I was receiving 20 to 30 messages every day and two or three letters a week.
“And what he was doing was really quite advanced — sending emails purporting to be from ‘family members’ using fake email addresses to add further pressure to me.
“I felt helpless after a while and it really did start to take over my life. I wanted it to stop but I was worried that either things would get worse or he may end up harming himself as a result.”
Sarah, who lives in another part of the country, contacted her local police force in January 2020. Because her stalker lived in Nottinghamshire, her case was then transferred to Nottinghamshire Police.
Specialist officers supported her through the criminal process and were successful in bringing a prosecution against her stalker, who was eventually found guilty of stalking and fined £250. More significantly he was handed a restraining order forbidding him from making contact with his victim.
Sarah urged other victims to learn from her experience and to take action. She added: “I think most people are wary about going to the police — partly because they don’t want to waste officers’ time. They may also be worried whether their concerns will be taken seriously, but from my experiences with two police forces I spoke to I can say that there really is nothing to worry about.
"They listened to what I had to say and were understanding and professional at all times, and the officer I worked with at Nottinghamshire Police was really good with me. He kept me informed at all times about what was going and really helped to take a huge weight off my shoulders.
“Now the stalking has stopped it really has made a huge difference to my life. It was one of these things where I just didn’t realise quite how much it was affecting me until I was on the other side of it. I lost the feeling of worry and guilt and was finally able to live a normal life again.
“Looking back I really wish I had gone to the police earlier about this but I was just uncertain about what to expect. Now I know more about the process and what happens I would urge any other victims of stalking to contact the police — even if you are not 100% sure that what is happening to you is stalking.
"It is a big step to take but as soon as I did it things started to get better for me.”
Detective Inspector Jo Elbourn, tactical stalking lead for Nottinghamshire Police, said: “As police officers we look to take positive action to stop stalking offences and to safeguard victims. That may mean arresting people and interviewing them under caution. Even if that does not lead to a charge it is a recordable action that can be used alter and may also be enough to bring their behaviour to an end.
"As this case demonstrates, we will do our utmost to support victims through what we know can be a very difficult ordeal – but we can only do that once people reach out to us for help. We know that can be a difficult step to take but we really do want to hear from victims as early as possible.”
Anyone who is a victim of stalking or believes they might be, is urged to contact Nottinghamshire Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also report it online or contact the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.