Editor's Note: Names and some details have been changed. Hearing the latest news about Lily Allen’s experience with a stalker made me feel that perhaps it was high time I dared put pen to paper, to try and exorcise some of the torment I’d suffered at the hands of a predatory, deluded obsessive. Like many women, I’d always thought of my hairdresser as a confidante. Introduced to one another two decades ago, we got on incredibly well. We became close friends with shared tastes and cultural references (illusions of grandeur), regardless of our council estate upbringing. I valued her friendship and loved her dearly, the haircuts were purely incidental; she hadn’t charged me since the '90s. Nicola's long-term partner, Simon, had always been entirely insignificant, I’d seen his car parked outside the salon occasionally when she was trimming my fringe after closing time, and glimpsed him slumped in a tracksuit on their sofa watching the rugby every now and again. He was never part of our conversation because we were always far too busy talking about other things (that month’s World of Interiors), and their relationship seemed more akin to that of my grandparents, as opposed to my peers. She ruled the roost, he just paid the utility bills and waited for further orders. But from the outside, they had a perfectly functional, loving relationship, it wasn’t until some years later that I started to wonder whether the façade they were presenting was real. I secured a place at university and left my home town a few years after we met, but couldn’t bear for anyone else to tend to my pudding bowl haircut – apart from her. So I’d come back on the train each month so she could work her magic with the scissors. The appointments remained regular, even when I moved to London in the late '90s, and seeing her was always one of the highlights of my trips back home. Things between us really changed gear after the sudden, irrevocable breakdown of my long-term relationship. Her support was incredible, unwavering and sincere, and so when I made the decision to move back to the North to recover, she was over the moon. The decision to leave London after all those years was one of the hardest of my life, but knowing I was going to be around close friends and family made the process feel marginally less traumatic. When Simon offered to help fit my new washing machine, I accepted – thinking it was one less thing for my poor dad to do. Then, the week after, he called round again to ask if I needed help putting up some shelves. I immediately said yes. Nicola had been telling him the ins and outs of my flat refurbishment, and he said he was inclined to help, especially with me being ‘on my own’. I never gave any of this a second thought until the Sunday afternoon that my mum and I visited their house for a Sunday roast. I hadn’t been aware that anyone else had left the room behind me when I slipped away before pudding to the loo. Afterwards, as I descended down the stairs, he was walking up towards me. I stopped. He stopped. I laughed awkwardly and reversed. He continued his ascent and breathed “I want you." The worst three words he could ever have uttered; it was a declaration that destroyed the next few years of my life. I made my excuses (‘urgent query from a client’), insisted mum grab her coat, and left. Mum was understandably confused at my abrupt exit strategy, and when I blurted out what had just happened, she stopped dead in her tracks and insisted we walk straight back and tell Nicola what had happened. But I couldn’t. This was a decision I would then live to regret. Paralysed with the fear that Nicola wouldn’t believe me, I churned over the incident in my mind for days, desperate to figure out an easy way to explain that her lifelong partner had made a pass at me. Instead, I texted him. In no uncertain terms I made it clear that he must have ‘lost his fucking mind’ and that he was never to say anything of that nature again.
He started sending texts to warn me of his imminent arrival on my street 'be there in five, give us a wave gorgeous.'
A stocky 6footer with a substantial beer-gut, I noticed him jogging past my front window one evening a few weeks later in what looked like a brand new running kit. The same thing happened the next evening, and then again the evening after, and as I stood motionless and bemused at my kitchen window, I suddenly realised this was a ruse. A fitness regime that allowed him time alone outside the house every day, with the chance of a fleeting glimpse of me. Pretty soon, he started sending texts to warn me of his imminent arrival on my street “be there in five, give us a wave gorgeous.” I was confused and unsure of how to deal with his unwanted attention, so when I started coming home to find bunches of flowers, chocolates, and bottles of wine or perfume waiting for me, things started turning inexplicably darker. I was in turmoil. I texted him daily, threatening to tell Nicola about his antics, making clear that his affections were definitely not welcome; he’d shrug it off and tell me how we could run away to Italy together (where he went away on business occasionally) and start a new life. His campaign had really ramped up by the summer; there’d be text messages that commented on how nice my hair looked that day (when had he seen me? Where had I been?), or a grilling about the identity of a man he’d seen me walking down the street with earlier that day (‘don’t like the look of him.’) My parents couldn’t understand why I didn’t just tell Nicola the truth, but our friendship meant so much to me, that I couldn’t bear the thought of losing her. His deceit would have torn her world apart, broken her heart, wrecked her life, and all I could think of was that she would pin all the blame on me. So the weeks turned to months, and the months to over a year, and the barrage of messages and attention was unwavering. I carried on as normal with Nicola, popping into her salon every few days for a cup of tea and a gas about the usual stuff (the new Céline collection we’d been coveting, whether so-and-so had been using Botox) and booking myself in for the monthly trim. We continued taking holidays together to beautiful European cities and my guts churned each time his name popped up on her phone (a few minutes later, his name would appear on mine, with a sleazy, inappropriate message, ‘for your eyes only’ – which I would ignore.) I’d blocked him from all my social media, until he mentioned that Nicola had passed comment on how I wasn’t commenting on any of his Instagram feed anymore – “she’s getting suspicious – can you unblock me so things look normal please?” When I failed to adhere to his demands I would be met with seemingly endless texts about how awful his life was, how unhappy he was with Nicola, how resentful he was of financially supporting her family, and how I was his escape clause. His hopes for a lifetime of happiness were apparently all pinned on me. He’d started following my ex-boyfriend on social media, scrutinising the way he dressed (until he also blocked him.) The tracksuits disappeared, the Vision Express glasses were jettisoned and soon he was swanning about in top-to-toe Acne and a pair of tortoise shell Oliver Peoples. It was both tragic, and nauseating. It’s hard to express the myriad of emotions you feel when you know that someone is watching you. Harder still, to feel petrified that the trauma you are going through could potentially ruin the life of a friend you love dearly. Keeping the whole thing a secret from all our mutual friends was really taking its toll on me. My periods had stopped by this point, and I was using Melatonin every night to try and get some sleep. Every time I saw a silver BMW my heart would stop. I’d always flinch with sheer panic (and still do). She was my only concern. I’ve no idea why I didn’t think to put myself first. I still look back on that time to try and fathom why my own sanity felt less important than her happiness. But then I am a loyal friend, and with every day that passed I guess I expected he would wake up and realise what he was doing was immoral, and that he’d stop of his own accord – but he didn’t. It was a text calling me a liar that finally flipped the switch in my brain. Away on business in London, he’d sent a message to say I obviously ‘couldn’t have been doing any real work’, because I’d posted a shot on Instagram of an art exhibition. I lost it. He had started to control the way I lived my life.
I watched the PC shaking his head as he scrolled through all the disgusting emails and text messages from him.
My tears and snot collided into a steady, inch thick stream of fluid trickling down my chin as I spelled out my name and address at the enquiry desk of my local Police station. A few hours later, I watched the PC shaking his head as he scrolled through all the disgusting emails and text messages from him. Exhausted from crying, I finally thought my ordeal was over, but the real shit-storm had only just begun. He arrived at my door the night he was exposed as a stalker to friends and family. Crying uncontrollably, begging for forgiveness, telling me he was going to kill himself because his life was over. Nicola wanted to see the evidence, but when I offered to print everything out, she changed her mind, and told me she needed time to come to terms with what had happened – but assured me she knew it wasn’t my fault. Within days she’d been back in touch to ask that I never contact her again. The weeks that followed were probably the worst of my life. I doubted myself, blamed myself, hated myself. I’d been the victim, and yet the perpetrator had pinned it all on me. His life carried on. They stayed together. I was ostracised. Isolated. Distraught. I will never know how he managed to convince her to stay with him. I can only think he falsified some tale about me being ‘in love’ with him. A member of his family sent me a text a few weeks afterwards saying ‘we hope you get Cancer, you tacky bitch.’ Maybe it was easier for them to demonise me than to face the reality. I will always struggle with my decision not to tell her what had happened that Sunday afternoon on her staircase, and even though I have lost one of my best friends, I still feel like I am protecting her by not divulging the true extent of his infatuation with me. I’m livid that she took his side of the story as the truth, and though it pains me to say it, I will always miss her. Whenever I see anything in the news passing comment on why women appear to be so slow in reporting this kind of harassment, I hit the roof. Speaking from bitter experience, I would say the delay in reporting these crimes could be down to a feeling of shame, a nagging sensation that nobody will believe your accusation. I sometimes wonder if it’s an institutional throwback to the kind of vile bullshit spouted by Judge James Pickles in the 1990s – with his controversial comments about how the women in sexual assault cases were probably “asking for it.” Simon was a wealthy, well-educated businessman, and a respected (and loved) member of my local community. Yes, I had enough evidence to drag it through the courts, but there was no way I could have dealt with any further emotional turbulence. The Police in my case were very helpful, they gave me options and solid advice – and left me to decide the best course of action. On reflection, I only wish I had gone to them sooner – but then hindsight is a wonderful thing. This was a very confusing chapter in my life; it's one that I don’t think will ever find a full stop. If you are a victim or have been affected by stalking, please contact www.stalkinghelpline.org or www.victimsupport.org.uk