Stalker terrifies teacher's widow

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The Independent Online
JASON BENNETTO

Crime Correspondent

The widow of Philip Lawrence, the headmaster stabbed to death outside his school, is being harassed by a stalker.

The man has been following Frances Lawrence, 47, for several months and on one occasion reportedly leapt out in front of her wearing a hood while she was in her garden.

Mrs Lawrence is the latest victim of stalking - a form of harassment which affects hundreds of women. The problem has become so acute that the Government has promised to introduce a new law which could result in stalkers being jailed for up to five years.

Mrs Lawrence and her four children won nationwide respect for the way they dealt with the murder of her husband in north west London last December.

Describing the effects of being stalked, she reportedly said: "This whole thing has made life more difficult for me. It seems ridiculous but, as you can imagine, it is pretty awful to know there is someone out there watching all the time.

"I have reported this to the police and they have been wonderful. But this man is very clever and shy."

Speaking about her encounter with the stalker, Mrs Lawrence said: "It was terrifying. I went into the back garden one day recently and he sprang out right in front of me. He was wearing a hood over his head which made it worse. He stared at me as we stood face to face."

Scotland Yard yesterday confirmed it was investigating the incident.

Mr Lawrence's death, as he tried to protect a pupil from a gang of youths outside St George's Roman Catholic School in Maida Vale, provoked nationwide revulsion and led to proposals to tighten up laws on knives, and a weapons amnesty.

Several days after his murder, Mrs Lawrence sent a message to her husband's pupils to help create a world where "goodness is never again destroyed by evil".

A 15-year-old youth is due to go on trial later this month charged with murdering Mr Lawrence.

The issue of stalking was highlighted earlier this week when it emerged that the first stalker jailed for inflicting psychological grievous bodily harm on a victim was still trying to harass her from his prison cell.

Anthony Burstow, 36, a former chief petty officer, was jailed after harassing Tracey Sant, 28, who had worked with him at a Gosport naval depot. Burstow, now in Bullingdon prison, near Oxford, was discovered trying to write to her. The letters were seized.

Under government plans, which will finish their consultation process next week, a civil measure will allow victims to seek an injunction against the person responsible. Breaching the injunction would be a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years in jail.

The Government is also proposing a new criminal offence of intentionally or unintentionally causing people to fear for their safety. It will be an offence whether or not the stalker intended to have this effect.

Anyone found guilty of committing such an offence will face a punishment of five years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both.

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