You’ve only been dating her for two weeks, but she’s behaving very strangely. She’s sent you 15 text messages in the last hour. She turned up unannounced on your doorstep at 8am this morning with a bunch of flowers. She’s talking about name tattoos…
Or perhaps you’re not dating her at all. She lives round the corner from you, but she always seems to be outside the house when you pop to the shops. She puts rather more ‘neighbourly notes’ through the door than seems strictly healthy, and seems to have permanently run out of sugar. And, a little worryingly, you’re seeing more of her every day…
Although only 12% of stalkers are women, these nevertheless account for some truly terrifying cases.
Last year, 20-year-old Kylie McGrath was branded a “danger to women” after a court heard how she turned lawyer Emma Eardley's life into a nightmare. McGrath took a fancy to Eardley, and when Eardley turned down her request for a relationship, McGrath threatened suicide and began to harass her.
After claiming that she “couldn’t live without her”, McGrath broke into Eardley's house and hid behind the curtains with a rope and knife. Thankfully, when Eardley returned home with her boyfriend, they were able to pin McGrath to the floor until police arrived.
McGrath was detained under the Mental Health Act after admitting putting a person in fear of violence by harassment and making threats to kill. She was arrested in February last year.
Professor Mullen, Professor of Forensic Psychiatry at Monash University, suggests stalkers fall into five groups. They are:
• The rejected stalker: This stalker cannot accept that a relationship is over and swings between sorrow and rage. This is the most common stalker. They’re usually male, and account for about half of all cases.
• The intimacy stalker: These stalkers target celebrities or people they don’t know. They fix on someone and believe they’re in love with them, and think their feelings will be reciprocated. This group accounts for around 5% of cases and they are usually women.
• The incompetent stalker: These types are socially incompetent and believe they’re entitled to a relationship. The stalker pleads or makes aggressive demands.
• The resentful stalker: These stalkers behave to frighten their victim which is often motivated by revenge. The stalker targets the person who’s hurt them - or a representative of that group or person – e.g., a boss, a woman or a certain ethnic minority. This accounts for a minority of cases.
• The predatory stalker: This is the least common yet most dangerous. Sex offenders fall into this category. They follow their victims, observe them and plan an attack. They are usually men and stalk for power, control and sexual excitement.
Rosie Garland, a popular performer on the Manchester circuit, was stalked for three years by a woman who couldn’t accept that her affections were unrequited. Honor Donnelly met Garland at a writing class, and began phoning her daily.
Donnelly also found Garland’s email address and started sending her sexual messages, some up to six pages long.
"She followed me around the country," says Garland. "I became so frightened of her. Once, she called the stage manager to check where I was staying after a show. Another time, she applied to be backstage at a pantomime I was in."
The emails enabled the police to convict Donnelly. In 2004 she was found guilty of harassment and issued with a restraining order.
Many victims of stalking leave their jobs, move house or change their social lives, and more than 45% use alcohol or drugs to cope. Victims are often told they’re being paranoid: one third reported that they were not taken seriously by the police.
The cases that we hear about are often shocking and disturbing. The ones we don’t hear about sometimes never end.
Words by Marie Aldridge