Stranger’s gifts started months of stalker hell
WHEN Ella* was handed a bag of gifts from a stranger at her bus stop last winter, the 23-year-old’s life took a dark turn.
It was 7:20am on a Tuesday in her small Highland town. Ella had just left her house for work and walked ten minutes to the bus stop as usual. No one else was around. Only one thing was different – a white BMW sat in the junction opposite the bus stop and the driver was watching her.
Ella then noticed a black Mercedes appear at the end of the street. As it passed the bus stop, the driver flashed his lights. On cue, the BMW pulled out of the junction and parked in front of Ella.
She said: “I thought I was about to get abducted.”
A hoodie-wearing stranger got out of the car and handed her a gift bag.
“He just said ‘this is for you’. Then he left.”
Ella didn’t look in the bag until she arrived at work in Inverness. Inside were woolly gloves, perfume, plastic flowers, chewing gum, chocolates, and a letter.
It said: ‘I love you even if you don’t love me back (love at first sight).’
She was initially resistant to calling police as she didn’t think they would take it seriously. Instead, she started getting her bus at a different stop where there were more people around. After a month, Ella returned to her usual bus stop.
Days later, a letter and flowers were left taped to the bus shelter.
The stalker wrote: ‘I know I said this before and I will say it again, you’re the only one for me.’
Ella said: “That was when I knew he was obviously still looking out for me. I called the police from work and they asked me to come in for an interview.”
Advised to change her routine, she worked from home, a virtual prisoner in her own house. She locked the doors, closed the windows and wouldn’t walk anywhere by herself.
She said: “I hated being unable to do things I would normally do.”
Ella’s house was put on the high alert list by the police, who took fingerprints from the letter and checked out CCTV in shops where it was believed the gifts has been bought, but the investigation hit a dead end.
One day while home alone, Ella’s phone was plagued with calls from a withheld number.
Ella said: “It was a man saying things like, ‘I know where to find you.’ Threatening messages.”
She said a police inspector failed to take the incident seriously and claimed he couldn’t do much. Feeling unsafe, Ella stayed at her gran’s house that night.
A few months have now passed since the phone calls, and though Ella has not heard from her stalker since, she lives in fearful anticipation of his next attempt to reach her.
Co-director of Zero Tolerance Laura Tomson said: “Stalking is a terrifying crime that is a form of violence against women.
“Four of five victims of stalking are women and they find it hard to report it because they are scared they won’t be believed, or they’ll be told it is not a big deal, or that they will be blamed for what happened to them.
“We have to take it seriously when women report it.”
*Name has been changed.
‘BOLSTER LAW TO TACKLE SCOURGE’
SNP MSP Rona Mackay argues current legislation does not do enough to protect victims of stalking.
A study by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust found just 12.7 per cent of recorded stalking cases reached conviction in 2015-2016.
Mackay wants Stalking Protection Orders to protect victims during criminal proceedings.
She said: “This would allow the police to apply for an order, rather than the victim having to apply for one through the civil court, which is expensive and stressful.”
However, her Bill has been paused while the new Domestic Abuse Act is assessed.
The government has increased funding for services to protect women and girls from gender-based violence with the launch of a £13 million fund to help supportive organisations.
If you are concerned you are being stalked, call The National Stalking Helpline on: 0808 802 0300
This article was originally published in the Daily Record and is a part of the Write to End Violence Against Women campaign and awards organised by Zero Tolerance, which celebrate high-quality writing around the subject of violence against women. Poppy Watson was awarded a bursary by Zero Tolerance to write a series of articles to raise awareness on violence against women and promote gender equality. For more information and Media Guidelines visit http://zerotolerance.org.uk Read more of Poppy’s bursary articles here: https://www.zerotolerance.org.uk/write-to-end-bursary-20192020/