Stalking victim Helen Pearson rejects police apology over stabbing

image captionHelen Pearson said the apology from Devon and Cornwall Police did not stop her suffering

A woman who was stabbed by her stalker has dismissed a police apology as "meaningless".

Helen Pearson, 34, suffered neck and face wounds when her neighbour Joseph Willis attacked her with scissors in an Exeter graveyard.

She had made 125 reports to Devon and Cornwall Police about Willis' stalking before the attack in 2013.

The force said its "investigation and victim care did not meet the high standards we expect".

Ms Pearson said the apology "didn't do anything" for her and said she was "still suffering every day because of what happened to me".

image captionShe had reported 125 stalking incidents to police, including offensive graffiti near her home

"All I can hope is that what happened to me means police officers get more training and deal with victims of stalking better - so that no-one else has to go through what I did," she said.

A court heard that Ms Pearson's flat and car had been targeted by Willis, abusive messages were daubed on the streets around her house and threatening letters were sent to her between 18 January 2009 and 21 October 2013, when she was attacked.

image captionThe incidents culminated in the graveyard attack in which she was stabbed with scissors
image copyrightExeter Express and Echo
image captionHer attacker Joseph Willis was eventually jailed for attempted murder

The force said its Professional Standards Department had found cases of misconduct against three officers, one of whom had retired.

There was no detail immediately available on what action was taken against the other two officers.

Two further officers did not have a case to answer, but were given "management guidance and advice".

Stalking statistics:

  • One in five women and one in ten men will be affected by stalking in their lifetime
  • According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales 4.6% of women and 2.7% of men aged 16-59 were victims in 2015/16 alone
  • In the year to June 2016, the police recorded 4,168 stalking offences, an increase of 32% since the previous year (3,166)
  • There were a record 12,986 CPS prosecutions for stalking and harassment in 2014-15, the highest volume ever recorded
  • Of these, 1,103 prosecutions commenced under the new stalking offences

Alexis Bowater, former chief executive of Network for Surviving Stalking, said she was "still, sadly, getting calls from victims saying that police are not taking their complaints seriously".

"They call it murder in slow motion," she said. "Taking stalking seriously is murder prevention."

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer had met the Pearson family and "offered a personal apology to them", the force said.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Netherton said "numerous changes" in the force's stalking investigations had been made since the attack.

Officers were given "appropriate and regular training" and the force would "continue to strive to ensure that this type of incident is not repeated".

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