Alexis Green breaks down over stalking horror
One day, after parking at ASDA, ensuring her car was within view of the supermarket’s CCTV cameras, and checking her surroundings, Vicky Clarke clearly remembers looking at the other shoppers going about their day and thinking they were “lucky”, they were “free”.
The therapist, now in her fifties, feels as though the past decade of her life has been put on hold. Why? Because in that time, Vicky has been stalked “mercilessly” by a man she dated for just five months.
She would leave her house clasping an aerosol, firm in the belief that an attack from her pursuer was imminent. For several years, she believed she would be killed.
“For about three years, if a car slowed down beside me when I was driving on the dual carriageway, I always wondered if they were going to pull the gun on me,” she told Express.co.uk.
“I feel quite robbed of those ten years of my life. For him, it became a game.”
Her harrowing experience has driven her to campaign for change for a crime she believes are going under-reported and, in light of National Stalking Awareness Week, she has shared her story.
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Vicky Clarke was stalked for ten years by a man she dated
Vicky’s torment began way back in 2011. After five months of dating, she broke it off. His response was to begin stalking her.
In the little time they dated, her perpetrator had gathered her personal information and routines which he then used to hound her.
“At first he was motivated by rejection, then it became revenge because I had reported him to the police. Little did I know he was also reporting me to the police for stalking, telling people that he was one of my clients, and spreading rumours about me. He tried to play the victim,” she explained.
As time went on, his behaviour became more sinister. Once, when she was in a bar, he approached her from behind and threatened to have the mother of two shot.
He followed her to work, to friends’ houses, on dual carriageways. He bombarded her with long, rambling letters, cards, and texts. He painted a portrait of her. He tried to “destroy” her livelihood. Every time she moved, he would eventually find her new address.
Vicky explained: “He posed as a buyer and went into a house for sale behind my new house and took a photograph of where I lived, putting it on Facebook. My cousin saw it and told me: ‘Vicky I’m sorry, but he knows where you’ve moved’.”
Over the past decade, she has uprooted her life four times to escape him. On one occasion, he ominously sent a friend request to her landlady.
One in five women in the UK will experience stalking in their lifetime
Being stalked impacted every aspect of Vicky’s life as she felt as though a “heavy black cloud” followed her wherever she went.
When she went to the supermarket, she would always park under CCTV cameras in well-lit areas. Her children know the last four digits of the number plates of all his vehicles, her doors are always locked, and she can never buy a house. She is constantly looking over her shoulder.
Initially, Vicky didn’t realise what was happening to her until she saw a TV programme about Alison Hewitt, the doctor who was hounded by an ex-partner. He set fire to Ms Hewitt’s mother’s home and turned up at the hospital where she worked with weapons and a specially adapted cage in a van. In 2014, she received a £130,000 pay-out from the Home Office for its failings to protect her.
Vicky explained that unfortunately, stalking is a lot more common than people think. She also believes “a lot of people aren’t reporting it”.
One in five women and one in ten men in the UK will experience stalking in their lifetimes. From April 2021 to March 2022 alone, 1.8 million people in England and Wales were affected by it.
Dr Alison Hewitt’s stalker was jailed in 2012
Worryingly, a new study carried out by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, set up by Paul and Diana Lampugh OBE in 1986 after their daughter disappeared, has revealed that 77 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds have at some point experienced behaviours consistent with stalking.
Suky Bhaker, the Trust’s CEO, said the group is particularly concerned that young people are falling through the gaps, adding: “There is an urgent need to improve access to specialist support for young people experiencing potential stalking behaviours, particularly within schools and higher education institutions.”
As technology progresses, stalkers have new ways to hound their victims such as through the use of AirTags, an Apple product that was created to track pets and suitcases.
Stalking is an incredibly emotionally damaging experience. In Vicky’s words, it is like being a “prisoner in your own mind”. Many suffer from symptoms consistent with PTSD. A staggering 91 percent of victims experienced mental health issues as a result of being stalked, according to a study conducted by the Trust in 2019.
Vicky is sure that the mental anguish she has experienced over the years will have a long-lasting physical impact on her and says the experience is only truly understood by other victims. She vividly remembers looking at other shoppers on that day at ASDA and thinking, “You don’t know how lucky you are to have your freedom”.
She continued: “You’ll only know how it feels if you’ve been continuously stalked. You’re a prisoner in your own head…Your [personal] security is a thing we all take for granted.”
Constantly changing routine, moving home, and thinking before she — or her children — do anything takes its toll.
“The ‘free and easy’ way I used to be has gone, definitely,” she said. Now, her “trust” in people when dating has been completely decimated.
Vicky’s experience of struggling to get anything done about her being stalked convinced her that change needed to be made. She has campaigned for law reform, recently helping to change Northern Ireland’s anti-stalking laws. The specific legislation for the offence was only brought in last year.
“I had no choice,” she said of her campaigning. “It was like my head was in the jaws of a T-Rex. It was going to be bitten off at some stage because I couldn’t cope. It was far too much, I didn’t have my life.”
She urges victims to go to the police, and for those supporting them to “look out for their loved ones” and avoid all association with the stalker.
The Government urges anyone who believes they are being stalked to contact the police. Call 999 if you are in immediate danger. The National Stalking Helpline can be reached via 0808 802 0300.