Surviving Stalking

It cost me my marriage, my home, my job and my sanity…………

To read her complete story and appreciate the full impact of her terrifying stalking experience on her health, family life, and sanity, please visit www.survivingstalking.com and follow the link to ‘Tracey’s Blog to then click on to ‘Tracey’s Stalking Experience’.

Aged 22, happily married and living in Hampshire, Tracey Morgan befriended Anthony Burstow, a colleague at a nearby Naval establishment. He was a loner, his wife was serving in Hong Kong and he often appeared depressed. Tracey took sympathy on him and tried to help, even inviting him out several times with her husband, Andy. Burstow did not appear to want to help himself, but Tracey kept trying.

Outside of work, Tracey was surprised by the number of times she bumped into him, at college, at aerobatics, and soon began worrying about these coincidences. One morning she noticed her car had a flat tyre and had to walk to work in the torrential rain. Burstow insisted that he would mend the puncture for her and she innocently gave him her bunch of keys, something she would much later regret.

Tracey became tired and a little frightened seeing him around and one day found him parked outside her home. She went out and in strong words told him to go away. She told her bosses who ordered him to stay away from her.

This was the start of a terrifying ordeal that would last for nearly ten years.

One Saturday, when Andy was playing rugby, the phone range twice but there was no one there. Then the doorbell rang repeatedly. Tracey could see Burstow standing on her doorstep. She fetched a kitchen knife and retired to her bedroom, telephoning friends to ask for help but without luck. Eventually, she left the house and set off in her car to meet Andy, only to see Burstow following her at a distance. She met with Andy at the rugby club to tell him what had been happening over recent weeks. Thinking that the problem would go away, she hadn’t wanted to want to worry her husband unduly. A friend then called Burstow’s boss who said they should ring the police should he come near her again.

As the stalking continued Tracey became withdrawn, often feeling terrified and she began taking sleeping pills thinking she was going mad. Tracey became very paranoid as personal items began disappearing from her home and re-appearing at work, including contraceptive pills found on her desk and in her coffee mug. An item of her under ware went missing and was found on the wing mirror of her car.

There was rarely any mail waiting for her at home and answer-phone messages appeared to have been played. Tracey thought she was going mad and began having weekly counseling sessions. How could she tell this to the Naval Authorities or the Police? Who would believe her?

The stalking continued. Silent phone calls occurred every day and unsigned cards came through the post. Everywhere she went, Burstow would be there. She began screaming at the walls telling him to go away, wondering how on earth he knew so much about her movements.

Andy and Tracey tried to carry on their lives as normal, but she kept the curtains shut and was always frightened to leave the house. Every single day something would happen. Burstow appeared to know everything about her life. The Navy said they would deal with it but then her bosses told her to ‘be mature about it’ and described her as an ‘emotional paranoid female’.

Eventually, the police were called in. Tracey made a 17-page statement at the police station but when she left that night Burstow was there, waiting for her, and tried to follow her home. The police cautioned him and he was later arrested for breach of the peace and bound over for two years. Later, Burstow would walk free from court in spite of breaching the bind over.

Burstow was present everywhere she went, silent phone calls continued and unsigned mail arrived. Twice oil was poured over her car, the second time caught on a surveillance camera, only 12 hours after another court order had been issued against him.

He even researched Tracey’s family tree and began pestering her family, her husband’s family and a number of friends. There was nothing in the law to stop what he was doing.

In September 1993 he was bailed not to enter Hampshire, yet every morning he was there watching her, as she collected her paper from a local shop. She called the police every time yet they could never find him. He was using a scanner to listen to police messages to avoid capture.

He was eventually imprisoned for 6 months for pouring the oil over her car. Andy and Tracey were very relieved as they had planned a months’ holiday to South Africa and he had previously threatened to burgle their house while they were away. They flew out and had a wonderful break knowing Burstow was now locked away.

When they arrived home they found the glass had been taken out of a lounge window, personal items were missing, family photographs and wedding videos were gone and there was damage to water pipes. They later learned Burstow had appealed against his conviction and was released from prison without the knowledge of the police.

Because of the hard work of the Hampshire police, overwhelming evidence revealed Burstow had committed the break-in and he was eventually sentenced to 18 months. But still, they continued to receive malicious mail and silent calls from prison.

Prison officers then recovered computer disks in his possession which were then decoded. They confirmed that all Tracey’s paranoia and suspicions at the start of his stalking campaign against her were true – he had logged every detail. He had placed listening devices in both the sofa and the bedroom of her home and at her office at work. When he had earlier fixed her puncture he had made a copy of her house key, giving him access to their home at any time of his choosing. He had even plotted to pay someone to kill Andy.

While Burstow was in prison Andy and Tracey decided to move house as discreetly as they could. After 10 days in their new home they began receiving unwanted mail. He had found out their address from prison.

Before his release a month later, the police installed surveillance cameras in case of further problems. Five hours after he was released from a prison on the Isle of Wight he was filmed outside their new home. He was there every day, driving or on foot. He was filmed disappearing into a neighbour’s garden at midnight and reappearing about 40 minutes later. Tracey called the police after checking the tape before she left for work and they drove by him as he lay in wait for her to leave . He was arrested outside her workplace later that day. She then had to prepare herself for yet another court case.

During this period her husband Andy realised he could not take any more. He had once beaten Burstow up when found him creeping towards their house at night when it first began. Andy did not know what else to do in order to protect her. He couldn’t cope with her changed personality and depression anymore.

He left and never came back. Tracey has never heard from him or his family to this day.

After Andy had gone, Tracey had no option but to move back to live with her parents in Berkshire. The silent calls and unwanted mail continued at her parents’ home all the while Burstow was on remand.

By February 1995 the charge against Burstow had been changed. He would be tried for Grievous Bodily Harm (Psychiatric Injury) – which was to be a test case. After much trauma and adjournments due to Burstow’s behaviour and his stalling tactics, and taking full advantage of his rights, the case finally went ahead. Unfortunately, because of the charge being so fragile, he literally walked out of court behind them, a free man.

Incidents resumed daily. Sightings, notes, phone calls, all from the village where she lived, over 100 miles from his home. Again, despite their efforts, the police could do nothing. They just had to let him get on with it until he committed a crime in the eyes of the law. Some of the offences included an anonymous mailing to Tracey’s mother containing personal insults and the sending of two parcels to Tracey, one containing a used sanitary towel, another photographs of her previous home and places she had visited.

Burstow eventually did ‘break the law’ and the police were able to prove it – he stole underwear off of the family’s washing line but when arrested he denied everything.

Thames Valley Police, in co-operation with Hampshire Police, began compiling evidence for another charge of GBH (Psychiatric Injury). This time, it paid off. On the 4 March 1996, after 6 days of legal argument, he pleaded guilty at the last minute and was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
Victory at last!

Two weeks later Tracey, with Diana Lamplugh from The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Maria Wallis, the Assistant Chief Constable of Sussex, and two Hampshire detectives who had worked on Tracey’s case from the start, met in London to launch a campaign for a specific Stalking Law, backed up by a powerful documentary of Tracey’s story produced by Yorkshire Television.

After much campaigning, the Government finally listened and brought in ‘The Protection from Harassment Act’ in June 1997, just 10 days before Burstow’s release from prison. Tracey had been told that he was coming out under licence and was not to enter Crowthorne or Bracknell, or to contact her in any way.

If he breached his licence, he would go straight back to prison and finish the rest of his term of about 18 months. However, in January 1998 the silent phone calls had resumed and Tracey received a blank birthday card. She knew she had to be on her guard for whatever game came next. Two weeks later, as Tracey’s boyfriend took her out to meet with friends, he discovered someone had wedged dog excrement under his car door handle.

Later, on her way home from work, Tracey saw a parked car – and warning bells rang out. After calling the police, who waited a few hours, Burstow came out of some woods and got into his car. He was once again arrested.

The police charged him with Harassment and GBH (Psychiatric Injury) again. At this point, Tracey’s faith in the Criminal Justice System was reduced to nothing. Burstow escaped prison with just a fine for £500 as a direct result of a catalogue of errors made by the Prison Service and the courts. The jury was not allowed to know the history of the case and what this man had inflicted on Tracey over the previous 5 years. The fact that he had over 20 convictions relating to his stalking of Tracey was irrelevant in the eyes of the law!

Tracey was advised on numerous occasions to take civil action when the law wasn’t there to help her. She fought a battle with the Legal Aid Board over a 4 year period, but her solicitor did not advise her of the consequences of refusing an offer of Legal Aid. As a result, Tracey could not afford the repayments. Every time Burstow contacted her solicitor, either by phone or letter, Tracey picked up the bill. Why should this be so?

At the trial in August 1998, the Prosecutor took Tracey into a room to tell her that the trial for GBH (Psychiatric Injury) would not be going ahead. She was told that she should take credit for the new Law being there as it had helped lots of people.

A trial for the Harassment charge took place in November 1998. Burstow was bailed not to enter Berkshire, despite pleas that he wanted to live in nearby Slough, even though he had no previous connection with the town. At the pre-trial hearing in September he applied to change his bail condition by saying that he was working for his father and had a pub refitting job in Slough, so in order to work, he will need to enter Berkshire. A change in his conditions was granted. Tracey tried desperately to find out if he was telling the truth but everyone she spoke to said that it was someone else’s job. Tracey and her mother then spent an entire day in Slough checking all the pubs but never found one in which he was working.

In November 1998 Burstow was eventually found guilty of Harassment. He was sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment! In addition, a restraining order was attached banning him from the county of Berkshire and from contacting Tracey, her family, and friends or holding paperwork relating to them. 4 days later Burstow applied for bail but was refused. However, he decided to appeal against sentence and conviction and had demanded a complete retrial. He was then released on bail. But why? Fortunately, the Judge and Magistrates dismissed the appeal and upheld the Restraining Order. Serving his sentence, in March 1999 he was once again a free man.

Tracey later learned that Burstow had changed his name by deed poll to that of one of her former boyfriends. He was not required to notify anyone of his changed his name or identity.

On the last Saturday in November 2000, Tracey’s mother received a call from the police saying that Burstow been arrested for attempted murder. On July 4th, 2001 he was jailed for life for the attempted murder of a woman called Lorraine who had befriended him.

Burstow is now deemed so dangerous it will only be the decision of the Home Secretary as to, if and when he is released.

God forbid this EVER happens.

Note: Tracey drew on her personal experiences of stalking to campaign for new legislation to protect victims of stalking and harassment, which resulted in the introduction of ‘The Protection from Harassment Act 1997’.

Reproduced with permission from RED Magazine, October 2009.

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