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Isla Traquair: Stalking does not leave a physical bruise but I will never be the same

Aberdeen TV presenter Isla Traquair suffered at the hands of a stalker and is still traumatised by the experience
Aberdeen TV presenter Isla Traquair suffered at the hands of a stalker and is still traumatised by the experience

What you’re about to read is the victim impact statement I was prevented from reading in court.

Victims are encouraged to rewrite and revise their victim impact statement to reflect what happens up until the time of sentencing but the lawyer representing my stalker Jonathan Barrett objected.

It’s highly personal and not something I’d normally want to share in a court in front of the man who has caused me so much damage, nor publicly. But I share it now in the hope it creates a better understanding of what stalking does to victims and to highlight that more needs to be done in how stalking cases are handled from the beginning.

The victim statement

It’s almost impossible to put into words the impact being stalked by Jonathan Barrett has had on me.

Unless you have been a victim of stalking it is impossible to fully understand.

Any sense of safety is stolen from you, and in my case, it was even worse because I had no escape from Mr Barrett.

The home that I bought with my hard-earned money should have been my safe space and a haven for my disabled mother to come and stay with me, but instead, it became a prison.

Doors locked, blinds shut, alarm on and going outside was running a gauntlet every time.

It’s almost a year since I was forced to move out. I have stayed in nine different places since then in England and America. I can’t plan. I have no base.

I only have a suitcase of my belongings and my dog being dragged from place to place.

I couldn’t even go to my house to pick up clothes when I flew back from the US on my own expense to attend the trial last month. I have flown back again for today.

Every aspect of my life has been negatively impacted by Mr Barrett.

The insidious drip-drip effect of his erratic, malicious and deliberate behaviour was intimidating and frightening. This wasn’t a case of a few alarming incidents.

It was daily torment over many many months escalating in severity and frequency. He was told he was scaring me by his partner and by the police. It did not stop him.

His behaviour got worse. Evidence was shown to the court in a text message from his partner saying she told him it would be intimidating for a woman living alone for man to be looking into her windows and yet knowing he was causing me fear, he continued targeting me including periods of lockdown, on an isolated hillside community where there are no street lights.

‘The police admitted they can’t protect me’

Expensive fences and a security system were put in as a deterrent. Myself and the police hoped this would help but instead it seemed to antagonise him.

New locks and deadbolts were then installed as an extra measure. That was all I had to protect me.

The police admitted they can’t protect me, a stalking protection order couldn’t be pursued on the advice of the police solicitor, who said the defence would question me in court about evidence to scupper the chance of a criminal case. Police bail conditions and court bail conditions were breached and nothing was done.

I was living next door to the boogeyman man and the only advice I was given to keep me safe by three experts, including the police, was to move out.

As well as the upset and disruption of leaving my home, his actions have cost me financially, professionally, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I have been riddled with anxiety and in a constant state of hyper-vigilance, fight, flight or freeze.

It is exhausting. My hair keeps coming out, I have stress rashes on my face, scalp and body, insomnia, panic attacks and PTSD.

Jonathan Barrett

I still go into a panic every time I see a white van the same shape of Mr Barrett’s and there are many.

I immediately check for the last three letters on the number plates and even once I identify it is not his van, it takes a while to get my heart to stop racing, to accept I am not in danger.

I am not delicate, overly sensitive or hysterical. Words often attributed unfairly to members of my sex. I am strong, capable, independent and brave.

I have lived in four countries, I have visited many remote and dangerous places and been in scenarios and confrontations with dangerous people through my work as a journalist, but I have never felt as scared as I did while in my own home.

I grew up in the remote Scottish countryside. I’m familiar with places where you can leave your keys in the ignition and doors unlocked but here I didn’t feel safe to step outside my door.

I didn’t feel safe to leave my conservatory door to my garden open on a hot day, or to do gardening as he could enter my home while I was on the lower tiers unable to see up.

I didn’t feel safe to walk my dog in the forest on my doorstep, so I would drive her some distance and to a different location each day so I wouldn’t be looking over my shoulder.

I didn’t feel safe to wear certain clothes, I didn’t even feel safe inside my home after investing in the security system.

I couldn’t work or even write up statements for the police without being interrupted by his intrusive actions.

‘I have become a recluse, a shadow of myself’

I did not have a single day of feeling safe in my dream home. I can’t see myself ever being able to live there while this stalker is next door.

This is not a case of a nosey interfering neighbour. This is a man who targeted me and was calculated enough to choose his moments when his partner was out at work during the week, or neighbours away before he would do his worst.

Sometimes it would begin the minute his partner had driven off in her car.

He’d still be in his dressing gown and slippers with no clothes on underneath while on my property outside my windows as shown in the video evidence.

I am not myself. I am forever changed. I was and have been most of life, a confident, motivated and sociable person.

As a result of the stalking I have become a recluse, a shadow of myself. It takes a huge effort to do anything or see people. I rarely find joy.

Carefree is a word I cannot relate to anymore. I can’t concentrate on my work.

It impacted my relationships with loved ones because most of my conversations with friends would be about what I was going through that day.

Isla Traquair used to present the news on Channel 5

It was relentless and tedious to explain and even more so to be living it. I’ve had nothing to offer as a human being.

My career has been focused on helping victims of crime and here I am unable to help myself.

I am undergoing therapy but this court process is an added layer of trauma.

At one point I was told the case might be dropped because I was in America.

Then in court, I discover that crucial evidence was not submitted by the CPS for which the prosecuting barrister apologised for and said I had been badly let down by the CPS.

I was gaslit for doing exactly what the police advise as standard to all stalking victims with regards to recording the evidence.

During my time in the witness stand Mr Barrett kept talking even after being told by his lawyer not to. He gesticulated to the point the magistrates had to tell him to stop which was alarming for me to hear and when they left the room after the video screen failed, Mr Barrett came out of the dock and walked round the table to where he could see me behind the screen.

‘He robbed me of my ability to relax’

The deluded claims he made while giving evidence were deeply upsetting to read about in the media.

Despite my career as a journalist I had little knowledge about stalking or the impact it could have.

I was not aware it is the crime most likely to result in rape, murder or serious harm.

We only hear about those cases after the final violent event and then we don’t identify it as stalking. It’s just murder or rape.

I was unaware before it is a crime that can take place over and over, literally hundreds or thousands of times and very little if anything is done. Why is this?

Replace stalking with stealing or assault. Would someone be allowed to steal items from me on a daily basis or hit me especially if caught on camera? No.

I’d have preferred if he had stolen a belonging each day. Items can be replaced but my sense of safety, my sense of self, who I was before, I don’t know how long I will take to rebuild.

Isla Traquair attends Salisbury Magistrates Court

Stalking does not leave a physical bruise, but it is psychological violence.

He robbed me of my ability to relax and function as myself, to be the friend, the daughter, the professional I should be. I will never be the same.

I have already reported two breaches of the restraining order, one the day after the conviction. This order is only for a year.

He’s not allowed to stalk me for one year and if successful, he can carry on as before.

Would you be allowed to steal from someone after a year or assault them?

It is not his human right to terrify me if he chooses. It is not his right to stare through my windows. Windows are for looking out of, and not into.

It is not normal to be outside naked putting a collapsed clothes horse which could be used as a ladder against my fence, or near naked with a robe barely tied around the waist while hiding in bushes, it is not normal to repeatedly wear menacing-looking protective gear with a petrol strimmer over and over when there is no growth left to cut.

Jonathan Barrett walked about his garden naked

It is not normal to stand in the darkness late at night and early in the morning staring into a woman’s home. It is not ok to throw stones at a bedroom window late at night.

There is no excuse to justify his campaign of vengeance, a campaign I believe was triggered when I tried to distance myself after I identified something was not right with his constant presence, entering my property unannounced and uninvited, increasingly alarming observational comments about my appearance, unhealthy interest and awareness of my movements.

Contacting the police was a last resort after my attempts to create healthier boundaries antagonised him. I always look for the best in people and give second chances.

I gave allowances after his partner explained he had undiagnosed mental health issues and too many times I was generous with my compassion for mental health.

I gave him the benefit of the doubt but then it became clear with explosive reactions to my privacy screening measures that he did not respect personal boundaries, property boundaries and eventually legal boundaries.

‘He has never shown remorse’

His partner at the time told me he was getting angry that I wasn’t including him in my life. He has no right to insert himself in my life.

He has made me suffer in ways I did not think anyone would have the power to do.

I am hopeful that he will be given a punishment that is appropriate for the damage he has caused to me, the days of my life ruined and consumed by fear that I can never get back.

The thousands of pounds it has cost me to relocate and move from place to place and fly back for court hearings.

He has never shown remorse. I read that he was defiant when convicted and told to stop shaking his head when informed of the restraining order.

I have already reported two suspected breaches of the restraining order. This does not make me feel confident about the future.

I hope that alongside the sentence given today, he is also given a psychological assessment and treatment to ensure he does not continue to torment me or anyone else in the future.

Stalking conviction a ‘miracle’ after authorities ‘completely messed up’ TV presenter’s case