One night, out for drinks with friends in Soho, I felt a sudden wave of fear, a feeling I would come to know all too well. I went to the bathroom and returned to find him standing talking to my friend. I remember an instinctual need to warn her. Pulling her aside and saying something like you shouldn’t talk to him, something is wrong with him. I think I am seeing him all the time.
As soon as those words came out of my mouth I recognised in that moment, that they were true. Hood up. Dark clothes. All too familiar. This was the first time I saw him in an entirely different part of town.
I began to feel constantly afraid, but as the academic year came to a close I moved home for the summer and London melted behind me for a few months. By the time September rolled around I had moved to a new borough and assumed I had left it all behind me.
I began to relax, but part-time work meant my weekends were still based in the part of London where it started and I began to notice him once again. He would be standing on the other side of the street or walking in the opposite direction to me, often disappearing quickly.
I didn’t speak to the police - or anyone at all really. I still tried to pin it down to coincidence despite my gut instinct telling me otherwise. I tried to shrink my feelings by asking myself how different is this to seeing a regular in the shop I worked at every weekend?
Enjoying an afternoon to myself, I walked to Camden. My day was destroyed by the same sinking feeling, then concentrated panic. Across the street I spotted him staring, unblinking as people pushed past him. He maintained eye contact until I spun round and beelined for the overground station.
My hand reached for my phone but again I did not call. Maybe it was another coincidence, maybe he thinks I am following him. I googled and looked for information but felt I was hitting a brick wall, there was so little out there.
It fed into my worry that I was mistaken. Why did he never show up at my university or my place of work exactly? Then it dawnded on me these were places I would never be alone. Yet, instead of asking for help I just sat on the first train to arrive and ended up going the wrong direction home.
For a while I found a sense of safety at home - hearing the front door close behind me was a real relief, but even this didn’t last long.
One of the very, very few times our house was entirely empty, we were broken into.
I had visited my hometown and was tired from the journey, I remember dragging my suitcase into the kitchen and getting halfway through a cup of tea before realising the back door was wide open. I instinctively grabbed a knife from the countertop and began checking the house.
At the time, I was sharing a home with three course mates, three girls and one boy. The downstairs bedroom was completely untouched including money and valuables. Everything as it should be with the exception of an open window and a footprint on the ledge.
The three upstairs bedrooms had been rifled through again with no valuables taken but books leafed through with pages randomly folded, underwear draws emptied across the floor as well as letters, birthday cards, notes and passports all combed through. My room seemed to have been riffled through the most, and my pillows had been rearranged and my bed looked as if someone had been in it.
Again the thought of ringing the police felt wrong, I rang my mother who convinced me to call 111. The police became less and less helpful once they had ascertained I wasn’t in any imminent danger. I spent the rest of the evening outside in the garden waiting for one of my housemates to make it back to London.
That night I changed my sheets, slept with a knife under my pillow and tied my scarves together to stop the door from being able to open from the outside - this rountine carried on for a while afterwards.
A week later, a community support officer knocked on the door with a collection of leaflets about how to deal with invasions of privacy.