It’s not just women who suffer at the hands of stalkers. During their lifetime, nine per cent of men, compared with 18 per cent of women, have been victims of stalking and last year alone in the UK three per cent of men were victims.
Top crime author Peter James is one of them. His latest novel Not Dead Yet depicts a crazed fan whose obsession with a rock superstar turns very sinister. Peter, 63, sought inspiration from his own life because for a decade a woman in her 30s has been stalking him.
“Until recently she was everywhere I turned,” says Peter, the UK’s best-selling crime writer with 11million books sold worldwide. “It started after she came to a book signing in Edinburgh in 2002. A week later she turned up at an event in Norwich, smiling as if she knew me. One week on she was at a book signing in Cardiff.”
Peter gave up a successful career as a film producer – hits included The Merchant Of Venice starring Al Pacino – to write his Roy Grace detective novels, of which Not Dead Yet is the eighth, and admits being stalked is chilling.
Within six weeks she sent an email telling me how much she liked my books. My biggest mistake was to reply – just a polite message thanking her for her interest. When I didn’t reply to her next email I got another one asking if I was OK. ‘I keep imagining you’re lying there unconscious,’ she wrote. Soon emails arrived several times a day, some of them 3,000 words long.”
Five years ago events took a frightening turn when Peter’s stalker emailed photographs of a shrine she’d made to him, plus pictures she’d taken of him leaving restaurants and getting out of taxis.
“It became a serious worry,” he says. “I found myself checking the street outside my house and my partner Helen felt increasingly vulnerable whenever I was away.”
Peter called the police who did background checks on the woman but in the absence of a stalking law they could only arrest her if she harmed him. So he hired a security guard and spent £20,000 on security cameras and an alarm system.
In 2009 Peter’s stalker stormed out of a book signing in Leicestershire furious that, tired after a long day, he hadn’t immediately recognised her. The next day she sent a 10,000 word email berating him.
Since this summer when Peter spoke publicly for the first time about being stalked, the sightings and emails have stopped. “But if the stalking starts again I shall call the police immediately, confident that this new law will mean action can finally be taken,” he says.