'They said we can't do anything until something happens': Derbyshire stalking victims say cases not taken 'seriously' by police
Victims of stalking and harassment have said they didn’t feel listened to by police when they came forward to report the crime – and were told ‘we can’t do anything until something happens’.
Questions are being asked about how effectively Derbyshire Constabulary investigate and deal with reports of stalking and harassment after a number of women across Derbyshire shared their experiences.
The criticism comes in the wake of Gracie Spinks tragic death after the 23-year-old is believed to have been killed by Michael Sellers – a man she knew.
Derbyshire police confirmed that Gracie made contact with the force at the start of this year and has referred itself to be independently investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
Gracie’s loved ones have set up a petition calling for a new law to be passed in her name which would give harsher punishment for stalkers and Derbyshire Women’s Equality Party has again rallied for the Government to introduce a national stalker register.
Zowie, 37, from Whittington Moor, had been friends with Gracie for seven years after they bonded over their shared love of horses.
She was a victim of domestic violence and stalking and even offered the 23-year-old advice after she learnt that Sellers had been harassing her friend in the months leading up to her death.
Zowie said: "She was bubbly, she was lovely, she was very funny and very open to talk to.
"I feel absolutely devastated, especially as a victim of stalking, harassment and domestic violence myself, it is a pretty horrible thing.
Zowie said she had encouraged Gracie to go to the police.
She added: "It's heartbreaking that Gracie didn't get the chance to get support."
She is calling for the police to ‘step up’ to do more to help those who are being abused and stalked after she started being harassed by her ex partner two years ago, following their break-up.
She added: "I didn’t get any help until I got further into the system and that was only because I got put with an officer that had actually been through harassment.
"It's totally changed my life, I'm not the same person I used to be at all.”
Zowie’s former partner was moved out of Chesterfield to Derby for her safety.
Over a year after the stalking and harassment first started, she was assigned a female non-uniformed police officer to support her through her case but previously she said she felt ‘buried in the system’ and not listened to.
Zowie said: "Each time I reported it, all I got from the police was – and the words which I will always remember – 'we cannot actually do anything until something happens'.
"The police are saying something has to happen before they will act on it.”
She added: "I was very intimidated when I first reported it to the police because I had uniformed police officers come out and it was two males.
“I felt shrugged off totally, they told me they couldn't do anything until something actually happened which is a disgrace.”
Zowie, who now suffers from PTSD, rarely leaves her home, experiences panic attacks when she’s out in public and also carries a rape alarm.
She added: "I don't feel safe, I feel safe at home and with people who I know and friends around me but no, I'm not very good at being out and it is quite scary.
"It's scary in the day-time but at night time it gets worse, it won't be long before women will not want to go out anywhere.”
Derbyshire police issued further guidance about what can be classed as stalking or harassment and clarified that ‘unwanted attention’ is included.
A spokesperson said: “If you are receiving attention that is unwanted this can be classed as stalking or harassment.
“Stalking and harassment includes behaviour which happens two or more times directed at or towards someone by another person, that causes the victim to feel alarmed or distressed or to fear that violence might be used against them.
“This attention can be received by current/ex partners, family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours or even strangers."
A Clay Cross woman in her mid 30s, who wishes to remain anonymous, has told how she was ‘left in the dark’ by police about the outcome of the reports she made of domestic abuse, stalking, harassment and coercive control against her former partner.
She got a restraining order against him which means her ex cannot be within 100 metres of her home after he broke into her house twice last year and got into bed with her and her children.
The mum of three said she was domestically abused for five years and the stalking and harassment started after she ended their relationship in September 2020.
She said: "I called the police every time he came round, they took photos of the damage of when he had broken in, I left everything exactly as it was and one of the police women was amazing she was like 'I'm going to get him done for this'.
"No one has ever told me that the case is closed, nobody has ever told me that he is not facing charges for it.
"I've had to find that out for myself.”
The mum shared how she feels ‘disgusted’ and ‘vulnerable’ despite the restraining order against her ‘terrifying’ partner who held a nail gun against her head and gave her a black eye during their relationship.
After he broke into her home for the second time in 2020, her children spent two and a half hours issuing statements to the police – which the mum now ‘regrets’ putting them through after the charges against him were dropped.
She added: "I was basically told that if my children didn't sit through these two and a half hours making statements then I wouldn't be believed.
"I would never, ever have put my children through that.”
The mum of three also said he slashed her tyres multiple times and broke his restraining order twice by standing in her next door neighbour’s garden and harassing her over text message but there have been no consequences.
She added: "They've given him a tag and I think it may well be due to come off soon.
"He's got no links to this particular area so why don't they say ‘you are not allowed to enter here’, he's got no work or family here, he shouldn't be allowed to come here.”
The Clay Cross resident criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for not pursuing the case but also said Derbyshire police ‘should have done more’ to help her.
She added: "I made statements twice, once when I had a really bad black eye and another when my daughter called them because he held me by the throat over the stairs.
"The police said to me 'we can't do anything about it now because you recounted your statement'.
"But even my 13-year-old daughter said 'mum, when you recounted them statements he was sat outside the police station’.
"Why didn't the police take the matter out of my hands?
"They could see that domestic violence was going on – they just didn't put in the effort.”
The mum of three said life is ‘100%’ better now, as she is receiving counselling for the domestic abuse she suffered but still maintains that police do not listen to victims.
A 34-year-old woman from Matlock, who has also asked to not be named, started being harassed by her ex husband in the middle of lockdown last year.
She ended up installing CCTV outside her home as cars would continuously drive up and down her road and sit outside her house.
Despite making a note of registration plates and handing footage to police, her former husband was not charged even after her house was spray painted.
The mum said he ‘got away with absolutely everything’ despite the stalking, harassment and hacking into her social media.
"It started off by the marriage breaking down, he had assaulted my 13-year-old son and I asked him to leave.”
She reported the assault on her son and also sexual assault against herself but the charges were dropped.
Despite her and her child both issuing statements, she was told by police there wasn’t sufficient evidence.
She added: "It infuriated me when it was dropped, it made me so angry.
"I think I was mad at myself because I had put my son through that. To make him relive it and talk about it, that was a hard thing for him to do.”
She split up with her husband in 2015 and had a two-year restraining order against him until 2017 but said the harassment got ‘100 times worse’ after she got a new partner.
The mum shared that it became ‘pointless even phoning’ the force to reporting the stalking.
"I had managed to get it on the CCTV with the registration plate, pin-point it to my husband and I produced all of this to the police,” she added.
"They said because the CCTV wasn't bright enough to see who was driving it, they said it could be anybody visiting so that wasn't taken seriously.
"It got to the point in the end, where something would happen and I wouldn't even phone the police because I knew it wasn't going to get me anywhere, it wasn't going to make it stop.”
She is now on tablets for anxiety and panic attacks and has a support worker but still has to see her ex partner because they have shared custody of their children.
"I just don't trust anybody. I pushed all my friends away,” she added.
In a statement, Derbyshire police said: “We are disappointed to hear that these victims have concerns about their experiences and we can confirm that we are in the process of reviewing these cases and contacting the women directly to discuss any issues they wish to raise.
"We are committed to ensuring victims receive the appropriate support when they report domestic abuse or harassment, that safeguarding measures are put in place and that offenders are brought to justice wherever that is possible.
“If victims are not satisfied with the service they have received from the force, we would urge them to get in contact with us.
"Where appropriate, the victim’s right to review process can be used to ensure their concerns are addressed.”