Personal Column: Someone was watching me

When a man she barely knew began stalking her, Jane Brooks, 36, was pushed to the point of suicide. Here she talks about the terror she and her family suffered
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The Independent Online

Being stalked destroyed me. It started from nothing. You don't know why; you don't know when it's going to stop, or what the person is capable of doing to you. It would have been better to know that someone just wanted to kill me because at least I would have known what was coming. The stalking, the mental abuse and the cruelty of not knowing is far worse.

It started six years ago. My stalker worked with me at the railway company in Birmingham, where I'd been employed for 17 years. I knew him well enough to say hello. I first realised he knew who I was when I started hearing gossip around the station. He had been telling people that we had been seeing each other, but I didn't even know him and I was engaged. My fiancé - now my husbnd - was as puzzled as I was, so it didn't create any suspicion.

One night I was in the house on my own and the telephone rang. I recognised his voice immediately. He told me that he knew I was on my own. I put the phone down and ran to the living room feeling sick, with my legs like jelly, so I could see the number on caller display. Just then a pile of letters and cards came through the letterbox. They were love letters, piles of photographs that he had taken of me - at the school gates, outside the hairdresser, on my way to work. Then he called again and told me how much he loved me, that he couldn't understand why I was doing this and that he thought we were going to get married.

The police managed to trace his calls to a phone box. They went looking for him but he had gone. After that there were phone calls every day, death threats, letters, photographs. There was a trace on the phone and there were times when the police were able to catch him at these phone boxes. He was arrested about 22 times, locked up, interviewed, but the magistrate kept letting him go. I felt so let down.

The harassment got worse. He was watching the house every day to see which lights were going on, who was in, what time I was going to bed. He would call and threaten to kill me, say that if he couldn't be with me nobody could. Whenever he made a death threat female police officers would sit with me while they went looking for him - this happened about 15 times. I was also scared for my daughter. I would see him hanging around in the distance when I picked her up from school and I was afraid he might try to kidnap her.

I stopped going to work. I couldn't leave the house unless I swapped cars with friends or wore a wig. I was sick to the stomach that whatever I did, wherever I went and whoever I saw, he would be there. The next day I would get a letter detailing what time I had left the house, what I was wearing, where I had been. In the end, I sent my seven-year-old daughter to live with my mother. I started taking Valium, I couldn't eat and I didn't feel safe enough to take a bath if I was on my own. I wanted to kill myself.

One night I sat in the dining room with the Valium tablets and a glass of water. I was convinced suicide was my only way out. I cried intensely. I felt like a tiny child, on the floor on my knees with my arms open in the air. I was crying uncontrollably, "help me please stop this, just please help me stop this". The tablets were half way to my mouth but I looked at the photos of my daughter and my husband and something stopped me.

One night shortly after that, I got a call and he kept saying, "I know you're on your own. I can see you in the kitchen", so I just said, "come down to the house then, the door's open", and slammed the phone down. The call was being recorded so I knew the police would be on their way. I ran into the kitchen and waited. He came into the house and trapped me in that room with a knife underneath my chin. He kept saying that he couldn't understand how I could hurt him that way and how could I let another man into our bed.

As he was talking, the police burst in through the front of the house. I thought I would cry with relief but I just went numb. I couldn't speak or cry for three days. He was arrested for assault and stalking and was sent to prison for four years. I've also got a lifelong injunction that prevents him from contacting me, or anyone I know. He's out now and I haven't heard from him, but I live with what he did every day.

Piecing my life back together has been very difficult. For months I was frightened of the postman, frightened of the phone. If I'm in a crowded shop I'll panic and have to leave, I'm constantly looking around - left, right, then behind me. I wouldn't wish that feeling upon my worst enemy.

Victim Support, 0845 3030900; www.victimsupport.org.uk

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