'I saw him sitting there inside the wardrobe' - woman stalked by ex-boyfriend speaks out

  • Watch Ken Goodwin's report

A woman whose ex-boyfriend stalked her for months went home one day to see him peering out of her wardrobe.

Maddie, not her real name, said the moment she arrived home she could sense the man who had been stalking her was inside her house.

"I instantly knew he is definitely here, definitely in this house," she told ITV News West Country.

"So I ran up the stairs and I ran into my bedroom, then opened up my wardrobe doors and I saw him sitting there inside the wardrobe."

She described the experience as "terrifying", adding: "It still seems so unreal when I’m just telling the story.

"I don’t realise how shocking some of it is until I explain the story to someone, and they have a face of 'what? what happened? that’s unbelievable'."

Maddie says the experience has had a huge psychological effect on her.

She said: "I’m constantly feeling that everybody is upset with me. I’m always thinking I’m upsetting somebody or there’s something wrong."

After making Maddie suffer months of harassment, making silent phone calls and throwing pebbles at her window, her stalker was given a prison sentence and an anti-harassment order.

But, according to police figures, victims are unlikely to report stalking until they have suffered up to 100 instances of it happening.

Maddie says she hopes by speaking out, she will encourage other victims of the crime to come forward."My biggest thing now is not being quiet about it", she said.

"I think there’s been so much sort of against victims of these sorts of things to be quiet and to not speak about it.

"There’s a lot of shame,  there’s a lot of embarrassment, people very much sort of go 'oh' when you talk about it.

"There’s still a lot of stigma and they don’t talk and I just feel that staying quiet ultimately helps the people that do these things because they rely on us been quiet."

Gloucestershire Police has now launched a campaign to encourage more victims to seek help.

The campaign's aim is to raise awareness of "FOUR":

  • F - Fixated

  • O - obsessed

  • U - unwanted

  • R- repeated

All of the above behaviour patterns are associated with stalking.

Stalking hub manager for Gloucestershire Constabulary Alison Miles said stalking is "absolutely terrifying" for victims.

She added: "We find that they’re all hyper-vigilant. It’s something that people struggle to get over and it’s our job to help make that process so much better for them."

Detective Superintendent Ian Fletcher is in charge of the domestic abuse and stalking department of Gloucestershire Police.

He says that new measures to tackle stalking are already having an effect, with the force seeing an increase in the reporting of stalking crimes.

Detective Superintendent Ian Fletcher, who is in charge of the domestic abuse and stalking department of Gloucestershire Police.

DS Fletcher said: "I think the awareness that is within the police service itself, or understanding of the stalking and criminality and the offenders and the perpetrator behaviour, is starting to improve our own awareness and knowledge.

"And what we’re trying to do now is push that out to the public to increase the reporting."

Gloucestershire's Police and Crime Commissioner Chris Nelson told ITV News West Country: "I think we've got better over the past couple of years at recording stalking. But we now need to see more women report stalking, so we have a better understanding of how much stalking is going on in our community.

"I've made fighting violence and intimidation against women and girls one of my top priorities, and stalking is a key part of that, and this video is all about education."

There's a poster campaign to back up the video and the police say they hope that it will lead to more victims like Maddie having the courage to seek help.