A woman who was stabbed by her stalker has rejected a police apology as “meaningless”.
Helen Pearson, 34, had reported her neighbour Joseph Willis a shocking 125 times but her complaints were only taken seriously when he stabbed her with scissors in an Exeter graveyard.
Pearson suffered wounds to her neck and face when her traumatic five-year ordeal reached its near-fatal peak on 21 October 2013.
Devon and Cornwall Police has admitted that its “investigation and victim care did not meet the high standards it expects”, but Pearson is “still suffering every day” as a result of what happened to her.
Stalking is unwanted, repeated, obsessive and controlling behaviours that make you distressed or scared.
Stalking is illegal.
Stalking can take many forms, including repeated phone calls, texts, or emails; impersonating you online; spying; following; repeatedly turning up at your home or office; sending unwanted letters or gifts; damaging your possessions; making threats; sending obscene messages and threatening to kill themselves.
One in five women and one in ten men will be a victim of stalking in their lifetimes.
Statistics show that the majority of victims (80.4%) are female and the majority of perpetrators (70.5%) are male.
Willis began targeting Pearson with threatening letters and offensive graffiti on 18 January 2009 but her repeated calls for help fell on deaf ears. He slashed her car tyres, left a dead cat on her doorstep and scrawled “Die Helen” on a wall near her house, among other distressing acts.
Willis was jailed for life for attempted murder in 2014, but Pearson is concerned that other women will suffer the same fate that she did, or worse.
“All I can hope is that what happened to me means police officers get more training and deal with victims of stalking better – so that no-one else has to go through what I did,” she told the BBC.
The police force’s Professional Standards Department found cases of misconduct against three officers and Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer met the Pearson family to offer a “personal apology”.
He insists that “numerous changes” have been made regarding stalking investigations since the incident, with officers given “appropriate and regular training”, but stalking charities still receive calls from women and men concerned that their reports are being dismissed.
The Network for Surviving Stalking describes the crime as “murder in slow motion” and emphasises the potentially life-saving importance of taking it seriously.
If you are worried about yourself or a friend or family member, head over to their website for more information and to seek professional support or call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.