A Sussex woman who was stalked by her husband for two years is urging people to take stalking seriously and not delay reporting incidents to the police.
Amanda Playle, from Bexhill in East Sussex, has spoken out about her experiences as part of Sussex Police’s campaign in support of National Stalking Awareness Week, 8-12 April 2019.
Amanda, who believed she was being stalked by her ex-partner from 2015-2017, got in touch with Sussex Police after two years of being bombarded with text messages and emails which became abusive and relentless, police said.
She said: “It was constant, all day, every day – at the worst point I was being contacted up to 300 times a day on Facebook, Whatsapp and email.
"The messages had turned abusive and threatening, and got out of hand when the stalker started messaging my daughter, my parents, my boss and my friends.
“People need to go to the police the moment they get a message they’re not comfortable with, or that turns nasty.
"These people don’t go away, you just need to make the first step to get help.”
'A shocking truth'
In Amanda’s case, following investigation it transpired that she was in fact being stalked by her husband Paul Playle, who was impersonating her school boyfriend and subjected her and her family to a sustained period of stalking which drove his wife to the brink of suicide, confirmed police.
She said: “I became terrified to leave my house, go to work or go shopping.
"I knew I was being watched and followed from the messages he sent.
"It had such a huge impact on my life; I became depressed and started self-harming and even considered suicide.
"I no longer trust anyone anymore.”
Amanda described the support Sussex Police gave: “The police were hugely supportive and took it seriously.
"They referred me to local support agency Veritas Justice and worked hard to build up my trust throughout the court process.
"I don’t think I’d be here without them.”
The trial at Lewes Crown Court culminated in her husband being convicted of stalking and coercive and controlling behaviour, confirmed police.
He was sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
READ MORE: Bexhill man jailed for stalking his wife online
Reports of stalking rise by 540 per cent
Sussex Police is advising and supporting more victims than ever.
The second highest recorder of stalking offences after the Met, reports in Sussex are up by 540 per cent in three years, with more victims feeling confident to come forward to report offences, said police.
Statistics show that one in six women and one in 12 men will experience stalking, but this is believed to be grossly underestimated, according to police.
They also show that, when they become victims, they do not tend to report to the police until the 100th incident, said police.
Detective Chief Inspector David Springett, lead on stalking and harassment, said: “Stalking can have a lasting, debilitating effect on people’s lives, and any behaviour which causes alarm, distress or fear of violence is unacceptable.
“It can appear as a series of trivial incidents at first, but it can escalate.
"Stalkers are fixated and obsessive and are therefore dangerous individuals.
"Victims should always take these behaviours seriously and report to police as early as possible so we can take action to help keep victims safe.”
DCI Springett said: “With the tragic death of Shana Grice, who was murdered at her home in Portslade in 2016, we are committed to improving our understanding of stalking and harassment and our response to it.
"We work to continually assess our service to keep people safe and feeling safe.
"We have improved training for officers and staff and ensured specialists are on hand across the county to offer advice and support on a daily basis to keep people safe and feeling safe.
"We want victims to be confident and know we will take all reports seriously.”
Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne said: "As we begin National Stalking Awareness Week, it is perhaps worth reflecting why we need a week of action and information to highlight the life changing and sometime fatal consequences of stalking?
"Awareness of stalking has most definitely increased, but sadly not all police forces have made the same levels of commitment or investment into tackling stalking as Sussex has.
"Sussex Police has a stalking improvement plan in place and a dedicated lead senior investigator.
"The Force has welcomed training from specialists to understand stalking and the signs of stalking behaviour, and combines mandatory training with continuous professional development.
"Sussex Police is part of a multi-agency stalking working group; it has trained stalking ambassadors and has stalking point of contact officers available as well as ongoing internal information campaigns and guidance for contact centre staff.
"All of these efforts have increased the force’s knowledge and capacity which it will need to cope with the 540 per cent increase in reports of stalking over three years.
"I will continue to scrutinise the force’s response to stalking and I will be increasing the funding for specialist support services.
"I hope that the week-long national awareness campaign will encourage more people to report stalking to the police, or to ask our local services like Veritas Justice for help."
Reporting stalking offences
Sussex Police recorded 216 stalking offences in 2016, 874 in 2017 and 1383 in 2018.
Some of this increase is down to changes in how the force classifies stalking.
If you are being stalked or harassed it is important that you report it.
Stalkers are fixated and obsessive offenders who will not stop.
You can report stalking or harassment online at https://www.sussex.police.uk/stalking by calling 101 or in person at your local police station.
But always call 999 if you are in danger.
Our officers and staff will undertake a risk assessment and focus on keeping you safe.
If you would like further information about stalking or harassment, there are several organisations that specialise in providing advice and support to victims.
Veritas is a local organisation which provides advocacy and support for victims of stalking - http://veritas-justice.co.uk/stalking/
The National Stalking Helpline provides advice and guidance to current or previous victims of stalking or harassment - The helpline can be contacted on 0808 802 0300.
Paladin support high risk victims of stalking with their specialist Independent Stalking Advocacy Caseworkers (ISAC) and ensure that a coordinated community response is developed locally to protect victims. Contact them at 0207 840 8960 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust provides practical personal safety advice - http://www.suzylamplugh.org/ - 020 7091 0014.
If you are affected by any issues raised in this story, contact The Samaritans for confidential support on 116 123