This is one of the oddest blogs I’ve ever had to write. It is such an odd story that I hesitated for a long time before writing it. I am only telling the story now because I suspect that what I experienced is a lot more common than we think, and happens to lots of people. And because it is at the point where loneliness and social media interact, a theme which I have thought about a lot.
Warning: Bits of it are quite disturbing.
Last year I was stalked on line for several months, and endured long periods of harassment and abusive messages.
I was contacted early last summer on WhatsApp by a woman called Stacey. I only have one UK phone which I use for work and so it is easy to find my number.
The message read:
My ex’s name is Namita, which made me wonder what was going on – clearly they knew me or my ex in some regard, but not enough to get her name right. She couldn’t spell honey right either.
It looked really dodgy, but for all I knew she was a customer, or worked for one of our stockists, so I was careful. I asked her some questions to see if she was genuine – where had we last met, what did she do for a living, etc.
She gave genuine and plausible answers to all of them – she was called Stacey W****, worked for the NHS, which is where she met my ex, and through her me. She claimed we last met in a pub called the Woodman’s – just up the road from where I was living at the time.
I didn’t remember her, but I worked with lots of people in the NHS, and there was a Facebook page with that name which matched the details she had given me. I checked with my ex, and she confirmed that she had indeed worked with Stacey W*****.
For the next few weeks she messaged me sporadically, asking how I was, and whether I would like to meet up for a drink next time she was in Durham. If I am honest I assumed she was newly single and messaging men who she knew to be also single in the hope of connecting with one of them. I politely turned her down.
Mostly the conversation faded out, I replied less and less often, happy for it to go away.
Over the weekend of the 25th June there was a shocking change in her communications. She became aggressively sexual, sending pornographic images (which she claimed were of herself), and messages full of explicit content. I stopped reading the messages, which continued becoming more and more extreme until finally on Sunday night I politely suggested that she sober up and go to bed.
On Monday morning the messages continued, but more and more aggressive. Stacey now waned to get revenge on some woman who she believed had wronged her. The revenge would be “old school”. She had “nothing left to lose”
I blocked and reported the WhatsApp account, only to be immediately contacted by another phone number. This went on, with me blocking and reporting accounts all morning.
The tone of the messages was aggressive and insistent, and showed a clear intent to get revenge on someone. At this point I rang the Police, and reported the incident – the Police recorded it as 2 offences; malicious communication and harassment.
The police made the suggestion that the sharp change in tone might be because Stacey had an ex partner who had gained control of her phone or WhatsApp account, and that he had been sending the obscene messages to men she had recently contacted in the belief that one of them was her new boyfriend.
The tone of the messages was disturbing, but just as worrying was the idea that the photos and messages might have been genuine and shared with her former partner, who was now using them to get revenge. Part of me wanted just to tell the Police to drop the case, and hope it went away, but the hatred and misogyny worried me too much.
I heard nothing for a few days and then the messages started again. This time they demanded to know whether I was having a relationship with a woman who lived in the UK and who had children. It wasn’t clear if this was Stacey or not.
I would receive several messages in quick succession, from accounts that I would block, all making the same demand, sometimes threatening to expose some wrong doing by myself and Stacey if I didn’t comply. Posters would be put up around Durham revealing the terrible things we had done together.
The police took their time investigating, which was frustrating, but I understood they had other things on.
They did manage to contact the Stacey W***** who worked with my ex, who definitely wasn’t the person I had been communicating with. Stacey had, however experienced stalking of her own, in this case someone hanging around her house.
While this was going on the texts became phone calls. The first time this happened I was in the pub on a Saturday afternoon. It was a man who knew some facts about my life – that I had been married for over 20 years, and had recently split up. He seemed to think that my divorce was somehow due to infidelity by my ex, which wasn’t true. He had been in a relationship for only a few years, but was convinced she was cheating on him, and needed to be sure it wasn’t me
I told him to fuck off.
Over the next few days he rang back another 3 or 4 times. He was called Jay, and was angry with his partner or ex-partner who he believed was cheating on him.
I reported this development to the Police. To my ears he had an accent somewhere around the Midlands. I also thought that he might be Asian or have grown up somewhere with a large Asian population.
The large number of phones he has used posed a problem for the Police because it made him hard to trace – at this point he had used dozens of different numbers. They were however able to track where the sim cards had been bought, and they had been able to link them to a debit card used to top them up.
They had a suspect, Asian, and who indeed lived in the Midlands. They had an address, and a pile of evidence. In September 2022 they passed all of the over to West Midlands Police to finished the investigation.
And then… nothing… for 3 months. The calls dried up, then stopped altogether. West Midlands Police were reluctant to investigate the case, and had to be pressured by Durham Constabulary to make progress. I was tempted to drop the case, and only kept on with it because I was convinced that someone with such obsessional hatred towards a woman, or women, needed to be dealt with
I was finally contacted by WMP in February 2023. They had Jay in custody. This wasn’t the first time he had been in the station for similar offences.
The Police Sergeant explained the case to me.
Jay had been married for 2 years to the love of his life, but the relationship broke down. He started drinking heavily and was spending huge amounts of time on line. He used the internet to tack his ex’s movements, obsessing about whether she was in a new relationship. He sent her huge numbers of aggressive messages, which led to an intervention by West Midlands Police.
He became obsessed with finding out who her new partner was, and started stalking anyone who she interacted with on-line.
Apparently Jay’s ex and myself both followed the same twitter account, and had interacted on one occasion. That interaction was enough to convince Jay that I was his partner’s new boyfriend. He started to stalk me, trying to find out everything he could about me, creating a profile of the man he believed was his ex’s new partner. He stalked me, my ex, any way he could. I am still not sure how he found out some of the information that he did.
Once he had my information he created a fake profile called Stacey W******. His idea was to try and create an on line relationship that he could then show them to his ex to convince her that I was no good, and was cheating on her. Even though I had never met her. Or him. Or Stacey.
The police thought that he may have created multiple profiles and harassed multiple men who he believed might be his ex-partners new boyfriend, but for some reason I was his main suspect. After he was arrested for harrassing his ex he went through a course that WMP offer to understand why his behaviour had to change. The Police believed he was no longer a risk.
I am still not sure how this makes sense.
Stacey W**** is a real person- albeit not quite as glamorous as the profile he had created for her – he must have stalked her too, and potentially other women, to create such detailed profiles. He knew Stacey had worked at Newcastle Hospitals with my ex, he knew that there was a pub called the Woodman’s near my flat. Some of this could have come from google, but it was just too rich in detail. The anger and the obsession were terrifying
And all of this because of one single interaction on line. A single like on Twitter.
I’m a big character, and I’m not easily scared, but there were times when I wondered if I was safe, if my kids were. Whether someone would turn up at my door, or at my exes. I don’t know if anyone else out there has had similar experiences, if so I hope they were caught and deal with, and the fear wasn’t too great.
At the end of this blog part of me feels stupid and embarrassed as if somehow it was my fault, that I did something stupid. I thought about not telling anyone.
But the worst feeling of the experience was powerlessness, that some unknown person was watching you with malicious intent. Telling the story turns down that sense of powerlessness.
One thought on “Lost on the Internet | How I was Stalked On-Line”
Blimey Jon. That’s horrific and a bit surreal. Hope it’s all finally sorted. Just shows how things can escalate from a seemingly innocent interaction.