Why I’m turn­ing the ta­bles on my stalker by dar­ing to speak out

Since they briefly dated 21 years ago, her tor­men­tor’s driven her out of three jobs and tar­geted ev­ery­one she loves. Now Philom­ena’s fight­ing back . . .

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - by Stephanie Gor­don

SIX months into her mar­riage, Philom­ena Wil­letts had a baby daugh­ter, a new home in an af­flu­ent sub­urb of Leeds and a hus­band she adored. She could not have felt hap­pier or more se­cure.

But then one day her hus­band came home from work, ashen-faced.

‘He said: “Oh Phil, you’re not go­ing to be­lieve this” — and showed me an email one of his col­leagues had been sent.

‘It was ghastly. It said that my hus­band, a re­spected busi­ness­man, was un­trust­wor­thy, a hard drug user, a pae­dophile and a thief.

‘It was signed David Brett. David had sent the same email to all my hus­band’s busi­ness con­tacts — around 3,000 of them.’

Philom­ena and her hus­band knew ex­actly who was re­spon­si­ble. How couldn’t they? They’d all been at uni­ver­sity to­gether and David Brett had been stalk­ing Philom­ena and any­one close to her for years.

In fact, the stalk­ing went on for a full 21 years af­ter she ended their brief un­der­grad­u­ate re­la­tion­ship.

And now it had started again. The hor­ror that was David Brett was back, with a fresh and venge­ful im­pe­tus.

‘We felt dev­as­tated, dis­traught; help­less ac­tu­ally. We phoned the po­lice but with lit­tle hope they’d do any­thing to stop it,’ she says.

Brett’s pur­suit of her was as ob­ses­sive as it was re­lent­less and wide-rang­ing. He threw paint thin­ner over her car, smashed win­dows at her mother’s home and told work col­leagues that she was a thief and sex of­fender.

The lies were mon­strous but Brett, 43, who ran his own data mar­ket­ing busi­ness, was well-spo­ken, in­tel­li­gent, ar­tic­u­late — and alarm­ingly plau­si­ble.

As a con­se­quence of the dis­rup­tion Brett caused, Philom­ena, a 41-year-old mar­ried mother who worked as a fi­nan­cial ad­viser, was forced out of three jobs and driven close to a ner­vous break­down.

In 2005, the law be­lat­edly caught up with David Brett and he was given a life­time’s re­strain­ing or­der at Leeds Mag­is­trates’ Court. But such was his ar­ro­gance that within five years he was flout­ing it.

Fi­nally, in April 2016, he was ar­rested and again ap­peared be­fore Leeds Mag­is­trates’ Court where he ad­mit­ted breach­ing the 2005 re­strain­ing or­der and stalk­ing. But he was found to have been men­tally un­fit when he en­tered the guilty pleas, doc­tors hav­ing di­ag­nosed him as suf­fer­ing from per­sis­tent delu­sional dis­or­der.

He was re­manded in a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal for 17 months, but last week — in an ex­tra­or­di­nary re­ver­sal of the orig­i­nal di­ag­no­sis — psy­chi­a­trists deemed him cured and ca­pa­ble of en­ter­ing a plea in court.

Last Mon­day, at Kingston Crown Court in south-west Lon­don, he ad­mit­ted three breaches of the re­strain­ing or­der, two charges of stalk­ing and one of as­sault af­ter he kicked an of­fi­cer dur­ing his ar­rest.

Sen­tenc­ing him to 41 months in prison, Judge Mar­tyn Barklem told him: ‘It is hard to think of a more se­ri­ous ex­am­ple of long-term stalk­ing be­hav­iour di­rected at mak­ing the lives of two peo­ple who meant you no harm as mis­er­able as pos­si­ble.’

Brett, who was told he will serve just half his sen­tence in prison and the re­main­der re­leased on li­cence, is likely to be re­leased in three months, how­ever, as he has spent 17 months on re­mand.

Philom­ena, who was in court for his sen­tenc­ing, is filled with rage.

‘I feel ab­so­lutely fu­ri­ous,’ she says. ‘David will be free in a mat­ter of months and I don’t be­lieve that he is re­formed or re­ha­bil­i­tated.

‘I saw him in court and he seemed to be heav­ily se­dated. You can tran­quil­lise a ra­bid dog but it doesn’t cure it. When he’s re­leased, I imag­ine he’ll be fu­ri­ous and want to ex­act re­venge on me. I don’t know what he’s ca­pa­ble of — and I’m afraid.

‘I’ve been on the brink of a men­tal break­down over this. The stalk­ing has turned me into a ner­vous wreck. For six years I’ve been pre­scribed high doses of an­tide­pres­sants be­cause I found it re­ally dif­fi­cult to get through each day.

‘We’ve moved house three times to try to stay one step ahead of David and I took my name off the elec­toral roll. I ceased to ex­ist.

‘My em­ploy­ers got so fed up with his per­sis­tent ha­rass­ment that they asked me to do the de­cent thing and leave work.

‘I’ve had to leave three jobs be­cause of him: the last a fort­night ago be­cause my boss was wor­ried about what he might do if he was re­leased this week.

WHen­ever I could, I’ve left the coun­try with my daugh­ter and gone on hol­i­day be­cause it’s the only way that I feel safe. I’ve been away for ten weeks this year.

‘I’ve never told the other mums at school I have a stalker, and I’m sure they think I’m spoilt and very lucky to be go­ing away all the time. ‘If only they knew . . . ’ Her voice trails off briefly. But af­ter years of silently en­dur­ing the tor­ment Brett has in­flicted on her, Philom­ena is now de­ter­mined to make her voice heard.

What has she to lose now, she asks, from speak­ing out? Brett has taken so much from her — her ex­tro­vert, bub­bly per­son­al­ity, her trust in oth­ers — she has noth­ing to gain from fur­ther si­lence.

‘My hus­band says I’m a shadow of my old self,’ she says. ‘I’ve be­come reclu­sive, a loner.

‘I’m sure he thinks this isn’t what he bar­gained for when we mar­ried. I feel I’ve put him in harm’s way.’

It is an aw­ful irony that the onus has been on Philom­ena to change her life be­cause of David Brett’s be­hav­iour: she has be­come a fugi­tive, liv­ing in con­stant fear be­cause the law has failed to pro­tect her from him.

Last year, the max­i­mum sen­tence for stalk­ing was in­creased from five years to ten — though too late to give her tor­men­tor, who com­mit­ted his last of­fence against her in 2015, the high­est tar­iff.

PHILOM­enA was just 19 and newly ar­rived at Leeds Uni­ver­sity when she met Brett. He, like her, was tak­ing a busi­ness stud­ies de­gree.

‘As we were leav­ing the class, he held the door open for me. He was 6ft 4in tall, very cocky, very for­ward.

‘He asked if he could take me out for a drink and I sug­gested a cof­fee. He took me out in his clas­sic MG Mid­get sports car.

‘I’d ar­rived at uni­ver­sity on the bus and was still liv­ing at home with Mum, who was di­vorced from my dad. I’m an only child, I’d been to a Catholic school and went to church ev­ery Sun­day.

‘David was the elder of two broth­ers from a mid­dle-class Jewish fam­ily in north Lon­don. I’d never en­coun­tered any­one like him be­fore. The peo­ple in my life didn’t drive around in clas­sic sports cars.

‘He drove me home on that first day and just waltzed into Mum’s lounge and made him­self at home. I thought he was cheeky but quite amus­ing.

‘Af­ter he’d gone, Mum told me: “That boy is go­ing to be noth­ing but trou­ble. He’s too cocky and ar­ro­gant.” She didn’t like him — but I took no no­tice.’

Their re­la­tion­ship didn’t be­come phys­i­cal un­til al­most a year later, but when it did, Brett be­come ter­ri­bly pos­ses­sive.

‘If I wanted to go out with my group of girl friends, he in­sisted on know­ing if any boys were go­ing too. He could be lovely, but we’d have an ar­gu­ment ev­ery time I wanted to go out with­out him.’

His be­hav­iour be­came still more ag­gres­sive and strange. Once, in a vain ef­fort to stop her go­ing out, he grabbed her purse and, know­ing her bank card PIn, with­drew all the money from her ac­count.

When she protested, he re­paid it, stuff­ing wads of cash through her mother’s let­ter­box.

Un­sur­pris­ingly, within six months Philom­ena had ended the re­la­tion­ship.

‘And that is when the real weird­ness be­gan,’ she re­calls. ‘He started ring­ing and ring­ing me, and he’d lurk in my drive­way at night. A bou­quet would turn up at my home; then an­other; then love po­ems.’

The stalk­ing es­ca­lated when she got an­other boyfriend. ‘David lost the plot then. He’d sit out­side my house all night at the bot­tom of the drive. It gave me the creeps.’

A sub­se­quent long-term boyfriend and his fam­ily were also em­broiled in Brett’s ob­ses­sive stalk­ing. ‘I’d go to his par­ents’ home for Sun­day lunch and David would turn up, shout­ing abuse.’

Philom­ena com­plained to the po­lice — and in 1997 Brett agreed, in a court un­der­tak­ing, not to con­tact her or her fam­ily or friends for 12 months.

‘Then, af­ter a year, it all started again with even more force,’ she re­calls. ‘At night we’d hear bangs, then the crash­ing of bro­ken glass as he threw bricks at the win­dows. It was ter­ri­fy­ing.’ Though the po­lice

were called, neigh­bours who had wit­nessed the at­tacks were too scared of reprisals to tes­tify — so noth­ing was done.

By 2000, Philom­ena had se­cured her first job as a fi­nan­cial ad­viser but Brett’s ma­lign pres­ence per­sisted. One day, he blun­dered into a meet­ing at a ho­tel in Leeds and told her boss that she was a thief and child abuser.

‘He then rang the of­fice from 9am un­til 5pm, with­out let­ting up, ev­ery day for a fort­night,’ she re­calls. ‘He wanted to de­stroy my life and my liveli­hood and make me suf­fer.

‘I felt so bad about the dis­rup­tion he was caus­ing, within two weeks I left my job vol­un­tar­ily.’

His be­hav­iour was de­ranged but it was al­lied to sharp in­tel­li­gence, mak­ing him dou­bly dan­ger­ous.

‘He wasn’t a loser who lived alone in a bed­sit,’ says Philom­ena. ‘He spoke with a cul­tured ac­cent. He sounded posh, which made him seem all the more be­liev­able.’

Brett’s mar­ket­ing busi­ness, selling per­sonal data, was also very suc­cess­ful. At one time he owned a yacht and drove a Porsche.

In 2005, a re­strain­ing or­der banned him from con­tact­ing Philom­ena, her friends or fam­ily for life. He went to Thai­land and for five years did not ha­rass her.

Then in 2010, news of her wed­ding — and the fact she’d mar­ried an old friend from uni­ver­sity — some­how reached him and ig­nited a new wave of fury.

‘Be­cause he sold per­sonal data for a job — his busi­ness was find­ing peo­ple’s emails — it was easy for him to seek out all my hus­band’s busi­ness con­tacts and spread vi­cious lies. ‘He made our lives a liv­ing hell.’ He traced their new ad­dress in a pleas­ant, tree-lined road in Leeds and sent all the neigh­bours a let­ter claim­ing Philom­ena’s hus­band was a pae­dophile and mur­derer.

‘One of our neigh­bours was re­ally dis­tressed and called the po­lice,’ she re­calls. ‘Although the po­lice then ex­plained to all of them that we’d been tar­geted by a stalker who had a vendetta against us, it was still hor­rific.

‘I was find­ing it hard to get through each day and my doc­tor pre­scribed an­tide­pres­sants. We’d only lived in the house for 18 months but we felt we had no choice but to move.’

Mean­while, Brett con­tin­ued to spread venom: Philom­ena says he even tar­geted her brother-in-law, telling his em­ploy­ers in the City that he was a thief.

It seemed, too, that Brett was un­touch­able. Liv­ing first on his yacht off the Span­ish coast, then in Hol­land, he was, ap­par­ently, too ‘low risk’ to war­rant ex­tra­di­tion un­der a Eu­ro­pean Ar­rest War­rant.

Yet even from a dis­tance, he con­tin­ued to wreak havoc on his vic­tims’ lives.

Philom­ena was asked to leave a sec­ond job as a fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sor af­ter he emailed her clients claim­ing she was a sex of­fender.

‘My boss said: “Please can you do the de­cent thing and leave? The po­lice are wast­ing my time tak­ing state­ments. I’m ter­ri­fied that I’ll lose my busi­ness.”’

She duly quit her job and in 2013 set up a re­tail busi­ness of her own, selling chil­dren’s bed­room fur­ni­ture from a high street shop. Once again, Brett tracked her down.

‘He emailed all the other shop own­ers in the street say­ing I was a pae­dophile and sex at­tacker. I closed the busi­ness.

‘At this point, we were se­ri­ously con­sid­er­ing em­i­grat­ing be­cause I didn’t think that he’d ever stop look­ing for me.

‘The po­lice told me never to phone him or in­ter­act with him as it would en­cour­age him to ha­rass me more. So I never re­sponded.’

Twice more, in search of the peace of mind that had eluded them for so long, the fam­ily moved to dif­fer­ent homes.

No one in Philom­ena’s or­bit, it seemed, was safe from her stalker. He even vil­i­fied the best man at her wed­ding, jeop­ar­dis­ing his busi­ness by send­ing clients ma­li­cious and false emails about him. Brett was only ap­pre­hended when he flew into Bri­tain from Hol­land to have an op­er­a­tion on the NHS in April 2016.

Although he has been in cus­tody since then, Philom­ena has still not felt safe: she fears he may even find ways to ha­rass her from prison.

Cam­paign­ers at Pal­adin Na­tional Stalk­ing Ad­vo­cacy Ser­vice, which was es­tab­lished to as­sist high-risk vic­tims of stalk­ing in Eng­land and Wales, be­lieve vic­tims are be­ing let down by the ju­di­cial sys­tem.

They want to see the names of se­rial of­fend­ers put on a reg­is­ter — much like the one for sex of­fend­ers. It is an ini­tia­tive that Philom­ena sup­ports.

Mean­while, the man who has pur­sued her with such malev­o­lence for so long con­tin­ues to dis­rupt her life.

‘I can’t stop talk­ing and think­ing about what David’s done to us,’ she says. ‘My hus­band and I have con­ver­sa­tions about him all the time, and it’s hor­ri­ble.

‘We should be a happy fam­ily but we’re still liv­ing in fear. I don’t think we’ll ever be free.’

Liv­ing in fear: Philom­ena Wil­letts. Inset, David Brett

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