“Kerry Daynes is a liar" 

"Kerry Daynes is a criminal"

"I have her address...it isn’t a difficult thing to get hold of.."

These are just some of the words written on kerrydaynes.com which was registered, along with other websites in my name in 2011. The sites were set up by a man I had never met before and knew nothing of, wanted nothing to do with, but who would nevertheless impact hugely on my life for the next six years.

In that time he would not only defame me professionally, he would try asking me to pay him thousands of pounds to buy back the domain names to save myself further ‘embarrassment’. He would make covert threats by inviting the readers of his website to ‘stay tuned...watch this space’, and would talk about me in a sexually crude and detailed way that made it very clear he had been watching me. He knew what clothes I was wearing, that I was single and lived alone. He even initiated court proceedings against me in a bizarre attempt to claim what he referred to as his ‘costs’ in researching and pursuing me.

By the time he was eventually arrested and given a Police Information Notice (or Harassment Warning) in 2016, my cat had died mysteriously- I found his body twisted up behind my garden gate.  On the other side of the gate - someone had written the words ‘Jill Dando’. Referring to a woman infamously shot dead on her own doorstep and who, like me, appeared on television in crime programmes.

For many years I lived in fear. I suffered panic attacks when out in public, and at one point moved out of my home, only moving back in when accompanied by my new, very large dog. I changed my behaviour – in the same way those who are in domestically abusive relationships do, to avoid the next abuse. I changed my work pattern and limited my public appearances, kept my head down, hoping not to attract negative attention. But of course it was hopeless, it wasn’t my behaviour that was the problem -  it was his.

This man made me feel under-seige and anxious, he chipped at my sense of safety with his vitriol and wrote things about me which felt like physical blows to read. Stalking has been described as an assault in slow-motion and that’s exactly how it feels.  I was in a state of continual high-alert ,waiting for a possible physical attack. After all as a forensic psychologist I know only too well that stalking tends to increase and escalate to violence if it’s not dealt with.

So why, after over six years of this behaviour has he still only received a Harassment Warning? And is this really the most appropriate response to behaviour defined by obsession and fixation? Another bit of paper with my name on it to add to his collection? Fuel to his unfounded sense of having some sort of relationship/connection to me?

I alerted police about my stalker almost as soon as I became aware of him. They visited him at his home, something I only found out about when he wrote about it on his website.  He proudly declared that the policeman had agreed with him that nothing criminal had taken place, it was merely a dispute about web domains, a ‘civil matter’. (I can’t help feeling that ‘a civil matter’ is such a fob-off and impact-minimising phrase - the stalking equivalent of  ‘just a domestic’ to partner abuse.)

I was let down by the police. They failed to join the dots and recognise my stalker’s repeated actions as the psychologically harmful, illegal offence they were.

I also discovered that at that time, there are very few legal protections in place in the UK if you are targeted by someone you haven’t had a previous intimate relationship with. Approximately half of stalkers are former partners of their victim, but others target neighbours, casual acquaintances or strangers. Taking out a civil action or injunction in these circumstances costs tens of thousands of pounds, meaning that protecting yourself is prohibitively expensive for most. I was able to take my stalker to court in order to have his websites removed.  The court appearance gave him an opportunity that he would never have otherwise had - to be in the same room as me (the first time that I had ever seen him). So, for him, a grand day out.  For me, a handsome bill for legal representation, that he does not have the means to pay me back.

Stranger-stalking is an ever-increasing problem, fuelled by social media and the access it gives to people that you would otherwise never meet in real life. The digital age provides stalkers with ever-new methods by which to intrude upon and intimidate someone. Police eventually seized my stalker’s computer - although strangely and frustratingly, they never even looked at it before giving it back to him. Despite his admitting that it holds extensive files relating to me.

As a mental health professional I’m acutely aware that this man needs help. You don’t decide to stalk a person you have seen on TV because you are in a healthy and fulfilled place in your own life. Clearly he struggles with his own mental distress and, like most stalkers is consumed with a sense of entitlement that is triggered when he feels rebuffed and/or wronged. Nearly seven years in, he continues to re-register his website domain names -  as recently as Christmas last year. And, as it turns out, he has also received a Harassment Warning in relation to his behaviour towards another woman. He needs psychological treatment - just not from me.

My stalker liked to invite me to ‘watch this space’, the unspecified promise of something unclear and yet entirely sinister.  Instead, I intend to fill this space, adding my voice to those campaigning for a more effective response to stalking. It is essential that police are trained to recognise the often insidious nature of this crime, consider the psychological damage it causes and place the onus squarely on perpetrators, not the victims, to change their behaviour. Stalkers need to be identified and treated with effective programmes in the way other dangerous people are. I know that progress is happening, but not consistently, or fast enough.  

Kerry Daynes is a Consultant Forensic Psychologist, Media Expert & Speaker