I was stalked and terrified for 16 months but I'm one of the LUCKY ones, writes GB News star Ellie Costello

Ellie Costello says she is lucky to have survived her long stalking ordeal
Ellie Costello says she is lucky to have survived her long stalking ordeal

My stalker isn’t behind bars, but now at least I can breathe again...

Published

AS a news correspondent, we’re in the unique position of - quite literally - reporting where we are.

The first question of an interview is always, ‘Ellie , where are you today?’, and then you answer, revealing your location to the nation.

During my 16-month stalking ordeal, I felt like a sitting duck. After doing my first ‘live’ of the day, I knew that I had exposed myself , and I would spend the rest of my shift looking over my shoulder, waiting for my perpetrator to show up.

Then the fear would kick in, and that fear is a strange one to try and explain. It comes from an uneasiness about what that person wants with you. Do they want to say hello, do they want a photo? A hug? Or do they want to do you some harm?

Ellie on set with fellow GB News star Eamonn Holmes
Ellie on set with fellow GB News star Eamonn Holmes

I spend a lot of time by myself as part of my job, I often start work at 4am, and I walk to location in the dark. I have never felt so quite so vulnerable and alone as I have in the past 16 months. I realised how exposed I was.

My ordeal started 16 months ago, when I interviewed a man via zoom on our Breakfast programme. We had spoken twice via zoom, and we later connected on Twitter. It started with polite exchange of messages thanking each other for our time, which is very normal, but the messages quickly escalated into ones that were hugely inappropriate, ‘I love you’, ‘I love seeing you in the mornings’, ‘you’re so precious’, ‘you’re so special’, ‘when am I seeing you this is driving me insane’.

Ellie was confronted by her stalker as she covered The Queen's funeral
Ellie was confronted by her stalker as she covered The Queen's funeral

I asked him to stop twice before finally blocking him on all platforms. It didn’t stop him. The harassment leaked into my emails, and then lead into flowers being sent to the office, and finally physical stalking, where my perpetuator would turn up at work, and finally, at my filming locations.

There are several types of stalkers. Predatory stalkers are the most dangerous, and these are the stalkers we hear and see on the news. We know about the murder of Gracie Spinks who was just 23, she was killed in Derbyshire by a former colleague who stalked her. She had complained to the police about her stalker, Michael Sellers, before her death and her family believe that if the police “had done their job properly, Gracie would still be alive today”.

In 2018, Elisabeta Lacatusu, 44, was killed in a 30-second frenzied attack outside her home in Ilford by a jealous ex boyfriend who was stalking her. Stalking, if not stopped, can have fatal consequences.

Thankfully, my stalker was not a predatory one. The police later told me that my perpetrator appeared to be a fantasist stalker.

Ellie broke down in tears on TV as she relived her 16-month stalking ordeal
Ellie broke down in tears on TV as she relived her 16-month stalking ordeal

A fantasist stalker believes that the two of you to be in a relationship, or in love. They might even think you’re soulmates, and all that’s needed is for the two of you to be alone together and then suddenly you might realise it too. I believe this is what my perpetuator thought, and that’s why, despite being told to stop several times, he kept trying to see me, and be in my space.

I have very sadly learnt that stalkers rarely go away on their own. They do sometimes, but generally speaking, a stalker’s behaviour tends to escalate. It only ever gets worse. In my case, it went from social media messages, to gifts, to physical stalking.

I am lucky I managed to get it stopped before he found out my home address. When working closely with a bodyguard, he told me that was likely to happen within a matter of days. I don’t know what I would have done if I had him outside my front door.

That’s the reality here. I’m one of the lucky ones.

My case never turned physically violent. I never came to any physical harm. It doesn’t bear thinking about the poor men and women who are victims in their own homes to obsessive ex partners who are stalking them relentlessly and preventing them from living their everyday life.

I didn’t plan for my story to come out on the front page of The Daily Mail. Somehow, they were made aware that my case was in court and I was photographed leaving. Their journalist asked if I would like to make a comment about the case as they would be running a story on it, and it was only then that I decided to tell my story.

In hindsight, I’m glad it was made public. As my story broke on Friday morning, a group of anti-stalking campaigners launched a super-complaint against police over what they say are failures in their approach to tackling the crime.

The National Stalking Consortium, a group of 21 expert individuals and organisations, say there are systemic issues in how stalking is dealt with. There seems to be a disparity with the way different police forces in the country deal with stalking.

Ellie is a familiar face on our TV screens
Ellie is a familiar face on our TV screens

The chief executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which set up the consortium, said a significant number of stalking victims are being let down by the police. Suky Baker says; ‘we support thousands of victims every year across our National Stalking Service and a significant number of them tell us that they are being let down by the police and the courts at every step of their journey to justice.

Failure to identify and investigate stalking at the earliest possible opportunity results in an increasing risk of physical and psychological harm to the victim. We hope that the outcome of this super-complaint will result in robust recommendations to improve the police response to stalking across the country which is so vitally needed.”

I welcome this super-complaint being brought by the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. Figures from the year up to March 2022 show that only five per cent of stalking reports end up in someone being charged by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Allowing stalking to continue causes victims further harm and causing them unnecessary distress. There needs to be a robust system in place to protect victims and punish perpetrators.

I am one of the lucky five per cent. My stalker isn’t behind bars, but he isn’t allowed to contact me for five years. I can breathe again, and I will now take time to heal.

Ellie was stalked by Leo Jones, right, after interviewing him live on air
Ellie was stalked by Leo Jones, right, after interviewing him live on air

The impact of stalking is immense; I constantly look over my shoulder, even now. And I am paranoid when I’m alone walking down the street. I hope these feelings pass with time.

On Thursday afternoon, I decided to deliver my own personal victim statement in court in front of my perpetrator. I felt as though I’d let myself down for not standing up for myself when he approached me in person. I had spent the next few days feeling as though he had won. That he had successfully got under my skin and stopped me from doing my job.

I hated the fact I had let him scare me, and I wanted my voice heard. I wanted him to hear me stand up for myself. I’m glad I took this to court, and I’m glad my story is now public. I hope it inspires more women and men to seek justice, to contact the police and report their stalker.

We need to stop normalising stalking, and we must not accept it as part of our existence. Everyone deserves to feel safe going about their lives.

* If you've been impacted by stalking or harassment and need help or support call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 or visit the Suzy Lamplugh Trust or the Alice Ruggles Trust.