What it feels like to have a stalker

A few weeks ago, less than a mile from my house, a 21 year old student nurse disappeared from a nightclub. I watched the minute by minute coverage unfold on TV as police helicopters hovered overhead day and night.

The police told us that Karen had arrived at the nightclub with a group of friends. She disappeared after telling one of them that she was going to the toilet. She was picked up on CCTV shortly afterwards walking away from the club with an unidentified male having never returned to her friends, leaving her jacket behind in the club. Her bag and phone were later found in a park. Four days passed before her remains were found on farmland several miles away. A man (the man on the CCTV) was arrested and charged with her death. 

An utterly horrific, devastating situation.

We will probably never find out from the accused what truly happened that night, how Karen came to be lured away by him from the club – seemingly willingly and not showing any signs of duress. 

I think most of my peer group can relate to a situation in our younger years when we got chatting to someone after a few drinks when out on the town. Or ended up walking, perfectly innocently with someone along the street when going to an ATM, or even exchanging banter with that lone guy with the pizza to pass a little time in a long taxi queue. 

We don’t yet know if he was already known to her, but if not, Karen got so unlucky in getting talking to this guy – however that conversation came to start – whatever her motivations were for leaving the club. She should never be criticised for this. Sadly, there is often blame levied at victims in crimes of this nature and I have been disappointed to see this both inferred and openly debated in the media since.

When I was younger, I always used to think myself as pretty streetwise. I could go out and have a laugh and a drink with friends and walk the short distance home to my apartment alone late at night. I was invincible. I was always that girl who would return small talk and smiles at a bar just because I was brought up to be polite. 

I was innocent. I believed that being friendly costed me nothing and would always return swiftly to the girls with our drinks, never to see or think of that random guy at the bar again. It always used to annoy me when more cynical friends would point blank ignore this kind of innocent patter, stick their noses in the air and strutt off. 

To this day, I 100% stand by my theory that not every man who attempts to interact with a female in a bar is either trying to get in her pants or a murderer in the making. There are too many feminazis out there arguing that the opposite holds true. I find this depressing.

Yes, being capable of judgement is essential at all times but it’s not always as simple as that. It can just be a case of wrong place wrong time zero promiscuity. There are always going to be really bad guys, albeit few and far between.

As I discovered the night I got unlucky.

In Aberdeen, where I went to university, there was a huge nightclub down on the beach front called Amadeus. It had a crazy capacity of 2.5k for a city of 300k and was THE place to go for a night out. Alas – long gone!

Anyway, I was out with a group of friends and it was my turn to go and buy a round of drinks. As usual, the bar was about 20 wide and 5 deep with people waiting to be served. It always baffles me why busy clubs only ever have about 3 bartenders on duty.

At somepoint during the 20 minute wait to get served, I turned to my left and expressed this drunken frustration to the person closest to me with a smile. The moment was so meaningless and was reciprocated with little more than a nod and a shrug given the thud thud of house music in the air. 

The queue shuffled and mixed and I made it back to my friends with our watered down over-priced vodkas before finally calling it a night.

We were regular visitors to Amadeus in 1999 – often going there 2 to 3 times a week – and it was not long at all before I started to notice that same guy from the bar lurking close to my friends and I wherever we were in this huge club, always standing alone, pint in hand. 

He was very distinctive in the club on these student nights. We were around nineteen years old and he was around forty, short and totally bald with glasses. He never had any expression on his face, nor did he hide his obvious hovering. For the first few weeks, I didn’t mention him to my friends atall, just thinking it an odd co-incidence or worst case that he was a slightly sad character.

At the time, I lived in a city centre apartment with a girlfriend from my course and had a steady boyfriend. Over the course of the next few weeks, I began to see the guy from the club not only in the club, but also during the day on the streets. Firstly in main shopping areas every few days and fairly soon afterwards in quieter residential streets near my apartment every day, at least once.

The strange thing was that he was always walking towards me. And never seemed to make eye contact, not that I was wanting that. This meant that there was still some doubt in my mind that he was “following me” rather than it just being a co-incidence. 

This continued for a period of weeks and what I had joked about with friends initially was now not so funny. My boyfriend had independently noticed him hanging around us in the club, even if we were just there as a couple. Although he was never there when I saw him during the day, one night in the club he lost his temper and went over to have a “quiet word” about what the f*** baldy thought he was doing, to which all knowledge was denied of course.

One of the biggest issues was that baldy hadn’t actually “done anything.” Nor may he have ever intended to, of course. In the days before CCTV and smart phones, he was essentially just some guy wandering around Aberdeen city centre minding his own business. He could probably have said that I was stalking him.

There was nothing I could do. I bought a mobile phone and stuck to busy thouroughfares at all times.

The end of my stalking experience came one day about eight months in when I was supermarket shopping with my boyfriend. I had stopped suddenly in an aisle alone and my boyfriend spotted baldy hiding at the end of it. He whispered to me to continue shopping. As I did so, he ran round the corner and followed baldy stalking me around the supermarket for 15 minutes. Eventually, he went up and tapped him on the shoulder, much to my stalker’s horror. Baldy ran straight out the shop and that was the end.

Well, almost.

Two years later, I met my sister for lunch in a large shopping mall food court in Aberdeen, where I had worked since. As we were finishing, I happened to look up to the adjacent mezzanine tables. He was sitting there alone at an empty table. Less than six feet away.

We got up and left without acknowledging his prescence.

I have *never seen him* since.

I consider myself lucky. Living life with baldy as a daily fixture for almost a year was a very odd, creepy experience but it has not curbed my enthusiasm for polite small talk whatsoever, in this case literally five seconds worth. Stay safe. Enjoy life. Beyond that there’s not much you can do.

Rest in peace Karen.
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16 thoughts on “What it feels like to have a stalker

  1. Very sad the story about Karen and how awful that must be for her family.
    Your stalker sounded really creepy although I’m surprised a bonnie lass like yourself didn’t attract a better looking one, instead of a hairless guy. 😉 Years ago when I was a bartender I was asked a lot of times to be the pretend boyfriend to keep someone from being hassled. These days it doesn’t have to be a bar as it can be just about anywhere. Keep your wits about you and stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha. It was just nuts, but it shows that even when totally innocent, there are personalities out there that will latch on to small niceties and read a whole lot more into it and then some. I would love to know what his end game was or what made him tick. Perhaps I should have spoken to him. I would love to know if anyone in Aberdeen has suffered the same from him. He’s pretty distinctive and so not difficult to recognise. Karen’s story dredged it all back up again in my mind. I’m just thankful it ended when it did. Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am “liking” this post for the quality of your writing in relating your experience. I certainly do not like that you had to go through this ordeal. As much as it came to a resolution of sorts without any conflict or physical contact, it must still have been an incredibly intimidating thing to deal with. I am sure it was very stressful and the source of much anxiety. I have certainly felt very threatened by some men during the course of my life so far (a tiny minority, of course – I am not one who tars and feathers all men because of the behaviour of a few terribly rotten apples) but never over a sustained period. How terrible for you and for all women and men who have to endure this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Laura. It was a strange time, but thankfully formed only a small part of an otherwise amazing student life. On the one hand, I was defiant in my determination (and possibly naivety) not to let him make me hide away from my day to day activities. But then there were the nights when I would worry he was outside lurking. Thankfully I lived in a top floor flat with security entry with a flatmate, however I assume he knew exactly where I lived and which room was mine. I’m thankful it ended when it did. I do wonder what his end game was. Perhaps just a voyeur. Who knows. Shudder! Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree that not every person we don’t know is a stalker. The problem is we don’t know which ones are. When I think of the things I did when I was younger, it is surprising that nothing really horrible happened to me, although I had a close call with a stranger. Someone saved me – literally. My daughter had a stalker once. Very frightening! I’m glad yours disappeared from your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s scary, but I guess that’s the point – not everyone has the predisposition to rape, murder, stalk etc. In fact many such crimes are actually committed by a person already known to the victim and, in my mind, the odds of encountering a serial killer etc at random must be tiny. I do think that beyond applying basic personal safety sense, there’s not much more we can do to reclaim the streets. Bad guys are always going to find a way if they really want to. I’m so glad you escaped unharmed (physically at least) and hope that your daughter’s situation ended without too much distress on her part. I would love to hear more. Thanks so much for sharing your insight! Have a great weekend.

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      • My daughter’s stalker was a co-worker, so it was someone she knew. At the time, she was head of the video department at her place of employment. She caught her stalker on video. The police advised her against a restraining order because that can escalate the danger. She did go to a lawyer, who composed a letter on her behalf requesting he cease all contact or charges could be brought against him based on the evidence. She also presented the evidence to her boss. The man was fired and my daughter was relocated to a different office location for six months. He knew where she lived, but once he was caught, he stopped stalking her.
        My would be rapist was a stranger. The person who stepped in and saved me was his neighbor. I was naive and didn’t think about the possible consequences of wandering off for a night walk on a dark lonely but lovely street. I was young (about 14 or 15) and afraid and I didn’t want anyone to know what happened. Once his neighbor intervened, I ran as fast as I could to a very crowded public place and got in touch with my parents right away. I felt lucky to have escaped. I didn’t tell anyone about it until I was older. Now, I carry pepper spray with me and I am more careful about my choices. My sister was robbed at gunpoint and date raped. She knew both people through work.
        Still, I don’t believe there is someone bad waiting around every corner. Have a great weekend!!!!

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      • Robin, so sorry for the delay in replying. I’ve been moving house! This sounds dreadful on all fronts. I don’t think I would be able to sleep at night. I often wonder what became of my stalker & if he ever went on do act on anyone else more seriously. Stay safe x

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I was really naive about how common stalking was until I managed a bookstore and had to confront different customers fixating on employees. Seeing that guy in the grocery store must have been terrifying for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nate, so sorry for my tardiness of response ^^ – that’s really interesting, I think stalky people are a lot more common than we realise, perhaps a lot of people don’t notice them. I’ve heard it said that if you live in a big city, seeing the same person more than twice (unless they live on your street) is never a co-incidence. I used to see another guy regularly around London in random different places and after this it used to freak me out but think it was just chance! I was remembering the other day that I myself once had a crush on a bar tender and was hanging out in the bar in his vicinity a little too much. Oh dear, hope that doesn’t make me a stalker too!! Don’t think (I hope) I was quite as creepy as these guys after 5 Margaritas – hehe! Thanks so much for reading!

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  5. Pingback: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 | Glasgowdragonfly's Blog

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