Stalking the Stalkers
He’d come back. Silent, threatening, watching her silhouette through the curtains a she picked up the phone.
“Are you there?” she said.
“Yes”, I replied. “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere”.
I refocused the camera on the ex-husband, capturing the evidence on DVR with my PTZ (pan tilt & zoom) camera system. Little does he know that the innocuous vehicle parked on the corner is a covert camera platform and I’m recording his every move while staying safely out of sight and completing a surveillance log from the comfort of the back seat.
He continues to stand on the corner staring up at her lit bedroom window. He thinks there is nothing that can be done to stop him. He thinks he’s the one with the power. He doesn’t know I am watching him watching her: stalking the stalker!
Our client is not actually in her bedroom and the woman he sees behind the blinds is “my decoy”, a female agent recruited especially for the job because of her uncanny likeness to Anna, The Operation was simply to lure him out of his car to obtain a good clear photograph. Anna meanwhile in another room at the back of the house away from his prying eyes.
Anna is a young thirty something professional mother who married Gregg in a grand church ceremony eight years previously. Soon after they were married he became obsessively jealous and controlling which spurned him to turn violent and now Gregg can’t accept it’s over. Anna is one of the 1.2 million women who are being stalked each year.
In March 2004, the Home office published a study called “Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: The “British Crime Survey” found that Eight per cent (8%) of women and six per cent (6%) of men were subject to stalking during 2003/2004. This means that over 1.2 million women and almost 900,000 men were affected. The majority of victims are ordinary men and women.
Mullen (American Psychiatric Association) defined stalking as “a constellation of behaviours involving repeated and persistent attempts to impose on another person unwanted communication and/or contact.”
Anna was referred to us from one of our client Solicitors that we work for on regular occasions. The Solicitors had handled her divorce and had asked us to serve the various documents that were produced as a result. The divorce had turned acrimonious. Gregg began by persistently calling and texting her on the pretence of wanting to discuss their children. Anna then noticed his car near the school one day. She started to fear that he might snatch the children or take them abroad. Anna’s new boyfriend had the tyres slashed on his car outside her house. Anna knew it was her ex but couldn’t prove it and the police could do nothing without evidence.
Anna’s solicitors immediately obtained a Non-Molestation Order which prevents the Stalker from doing all the things that he has been doing. The Order has a Power of Arrest attached. Simply put, Gregg can be arrested by the police without warrant and can be imprisoned, but hard evidence that he is breaching the Orders is needed.
Not all Stalkers are the same
Gregg is of a particular type of stalker, a Rejected Stalker. According to Mullen, there are five types;
Type A – Rejected stalkers pursue their victims in order to reverse, correct, or avenge a rejection (e.g. divorce, separation, termination).
Type B – Resentful stalkers pursue a vendetta because of a sense of grievance against the victims – motivated mainly by the desire to frighten and distress the victim.
Type C – Intimacy seekers seek to establish an intimate, loving relationship with their victim. To them, the victim is a long-sought-after soul mate, and they were ‘meant’ to be together.
Type D – Incompetent suitors, despite poor social or courting skills, have a fixation, or in some cases a sense of entitlement to an intimate relationship with those who have attracted their amorous interest. Their victims are most often already in a dating relationship with someone else.
Type E – Predatory stalkers spy on the victim in order to prepare and plan an attack – usually sexual – on the victim.
It is possible and often probable that a “Type A” can turn into a “Type E”. In this case it was decided to place a GPS Tracking device on Gregg’s car to monitor his movements near her home, children’s school and workplace using Geo-Fencing. If he enters a predefined area in the car, then the system alerts investigators and we swing our well oiled plan into action. Our objective is to gather evidence that he is breaching the terms of the Non-Molestation Order.
Methods of a Stalker
Stalkers use a variety of different methods to stalk their victims. They often use telephone calls, letters, e-mail, and graffiti, with contact by means of approaching the victim and following them to maintain surveillance. Associated behaviours include ordering goods on the victim’s behalf and initiating spurious legal actions. Threats, property damage, and assault may accompany stalking.
Anna’s stalker had done the calls, the texts and the following. All this could be proved but we couldn’t prove the criminal damage to her boyfriend’s car but neither did we need to.
Using the Internet to Stalk (Cyber-Stalking)
Since the creation of the Internet, it has become easier for a stalker to maintain surveillance on their victim. Access into our lives and personal information on the Internet provides rich pickings for the stalker because people have a tendency to disclose private details on social networking sites that are completely open to search engines and therefore the stalker. Photographs of what you are up to and where you are going to be, gives the stalker unparalleled access into your life. Using these and other databases, a determined person can obtain full names, dates of birth, addresses easily.
Using Private Investigators to Stalk
As private investigators, we are fully open to the possibility that we could be used by an incompetent stalker (Type F?) to provide him with the information that he is unable to procure for himself. It is for this reason that all ethical investigators carry out due diligence into their clients where this may be a consideration.
The Law and Stalking
There is no offence in the UK which is described as “stalking”. An attempt to create such an offence by the Stalking Bill 1996 failed. It was felt that the proposed offence failed to distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable conduct.
In England and Wales, “harassment” was criminalised by the enactment of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, which came into force on June 16, 1997. It makes it a criminal offence, punishable by up to six months imprisonment, to pursue a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another on two or more occasions. The court can also issue a restraining order, which carries a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment if breached. The Act has both criminal and civil provisions to deal with stalkers and stalking behaviour.
Already before the enactment of the Act, the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and the Telecommunications Act 1984 (now the Communications Act 2003) criminalised indecent, offensive or threatening phone calls and the sending of an indecent, offensive or threatening letter, electronic communication or other article to another person.
In Scotland, provision is made under the Protection from Harassment Act against stalking but it is not a criminal offence. Victims of stalking may sue for interdict against an alleged stalker, or a non-harassment order, the breach of which is a criminal offence.
What to do about Stalking
Whilst everyone agrees that victims should never react to or communicate with the stalker; ignoring the harassment will not necessarily cause the stalker to stop. The sooner action is taken the better, be it a police warning, caution, or arrest, the more chance it has of stopping. Civil action can also be taken via a solicitor. Research has shown that those stalkers who are allowed to carry on are less likely to stop.
- Contact the police – Ask for the name of the officer in charge of the case and record the crime reference number.
- Do not respond – On no account should you agree to meet with your stalker or communicate with them in any way. It might put you in a dangerous situation and may weaken any prosecution case against your stalker simply because you have co-operated with them.
- Inform – Make friends, neighbours and colleagues aware of what is happening. They can also keep a record of sightings and suspicious incidents for you, as well as supporting and protecting you.
- Improve your personal safety – Carry a mobile phone with you as well as a personal attack alarm – it will help you feel more comfortable when you go out. Rely on your instinct. If you ever feel in imminent danger do not hesitate to call 999. Consider improvements to your home security.
- Record Incidents -Record any incident you feel is suspicious including:
- Telephone calls – Do not enter into conversation with your stalker. Remain calm and try not to show any emotion. Put the handset to one side then leave for a few minutes then return and replace the handset. Record the date and time of the call as well as the details even if they were unanswered or silent calls. Try dialling 1471 for the caller’s number. Write down and save any text messages and the time they were received.
- Sightings – Record the date, time, location, a description of clothing they are wearing and anything they may be carrying and what they are doing.
- Cars – If you are aware of a particular car, record the date, time, location, make and model of car, colour, registration number and any other distinguishing features.
- Mail – If you are wary of any mail that is delivered to you either give it straight to the police without opening it, or put gloves on so you do not put your fingerprints on it.
- Computers – Save information received onto disk and print out a hard copy of relevant data. Do not delete the original. Only open emails if you know the originator and ensure your computer is secure and virus protected.
- Camera – Record anything you can as this will be very useful evidence of what is happening, location and frequency of the incidents.
- Diary of events – Keep a diary of what happens, how you are feeling. This will not only help you, but assist the police in their investigation.
Taking action against your Stalker
There are really three ways to effectively manage a stalker;
- Let the police handle it
- Take your own action
- Combine the two
Option 3 is preferable. Always let the police know what is going on and get a crime reference number. In our experience, the police rarely act unless the crime can be investigated easily.
My colleague called me as soon as the stalker entered the 3 mile perimeter that we had placed on the Geo-Fence. Our surveillance vehicle was already in place to record the evidence.
My car drifted into place about 500 meters behind the stalker. “Tango 1 to Tango 2” I whispered in the radio, “on plot and have clear view of target.” I had arrived about ten minutes after the stalker. I knew that the surveillance vehicle also had a good view of him. My colleague was operating the PTZ camera via her laptop from inside Anna’s house. I was able to monitor the conversation inside the house between my colleague and Anna via covert radio communications.
This was now the second time that we have witnessed the stalker breach the Court Order and the decision was made to put the call the police.
“Tango 3 to Tango 1, police en-route to you, ETA 30 seconds – no silent approach “blues & twos”, it had been 15 minutes since Anne called the police. My 3rd colleague was approximately ½ a mile away; He was telling me that the police had just passed him at speed with blues and twos shattering the night silence. Hopefully they would switch them off before turning in to Anna street.
That’s an impressive response for them I thought. They might even arrest him on-site. I observed as the stalker turned his car ignition on but it was too late. The police were on site and had blocked his escape from the cul-de-sac and were questioning him. One of the Police Officers went to the house where my colleague handed them a copy of the Court Order complete with the Power of Arrest.
Tango 2 was tasked to remain until the police were no longer needed at the scene. I exited my car to stretch my legs and joined Tango 3 for a quick debrief before we both proceeded to the police station where we submitted our statements.
I went home while Tango 3 went to deploy a tracking device on the car of a man who was suspected of cheating on his wife.
Stalking the Stalker is a based on a true story from the Allied Detectives case files. The names have been changed to protect Anna and her children.