Lily Allen has spoken out about her seven-year stalking ordeal, which culminated with her stalker breaking into her home and trying to attack her while she slept.
In an interview with the Observer, the 30-year-old singer says that she felt badly let down by police, who she claimed had failed to take the case seriously. She is now backing a campaign for convicted stalkers to be registered in the same way as sex offenders.
Allen first became aware of the man who became her stalker in 2009, when he started claiming on social media – from an account named @lilyallenRIP – that he had written her song The Fear.
Alex Gray then began delivering abusive letters and suicide threats to Allen's record company and management's offices, to her sister's work, and her own home, and approaching her colleagues on the street.
The police were unsupportive and failed to take her reports seriously, Allen claims, even when her stalker began banging on her front door and spending nights camped out in her back garden.
“I did all my own digging, got my own lawyer, put measures in place to protect my family,” she says.
Events came to a head in October 2015, when a man broke into Allen's London home while she was sleeping. Allen was staying at the house in west London with her children – Ethel, then aged three, and two-year-old Marnie – and a friend. She forgot to lock the back door when they went to bed, and was woken in the early hours of the morning by someone pounding on her bedroom wall.
“I sat up and looked and the door handle was twisting round,” she says. “This guy came steaming in and I didn’t know who he was. I recoiled and he ripped the duvet off, calling me a ‘fucking bitch’ and yelling about where his dad is.”
Allen said that the man was carrying an object which she believes was a knife. While she ran to check that her daughters were safe, her friend was able to force him out of the house.
The police did not initially believe that the intruder and Allen's stalker were the same person, despite Gray's sister reporting him missing and his mother forwarding an email to police in which he said that he had gone to London to murder a celebrity.
“For me, it was too much of a coincidence that the only night I had left the shutters up, this man came in,” Allen says. “I believe he had been spending a lot of time out there in my garden, watching.”
Gray was later caught and charged with burglary, for the theft of one of Allen's handbags. A charge of harassment was eventually added, and he was convicted this month of both crimes. He will be sentenced in May.
Allen is now backing a campaign by the Women's Equality Party for stalkers to be registered in much the same way as sex offenders, so that police can keep track of repeat offenders. The campaign also calls for ring-fenced funding for stalking support services, specialist-led training for criminal justice professionals, and treatment for perpetrators.
Some 700,000 women are victims of stalking in England and Wales every year, and one in five women will experience stalking in their lifetime. (For men, the figure is one in ten). But because the individual incidents that form a pattern of stalking are often not considered serious by police, the overall crime often goes undetected. Only 1 per cent of stalking cases currently end in prosecution.
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women's Equality Party and their London mayoral candidate, told the Observer that police were failing to adequately tackle stalking and support its victims. She said that stories of stalking were not "isolated incidents", but "part of structural violence against women because of their gender".
Allen says that she had spoken out about her experience to try and ensure that other victims of stalking were better supported by the police. “If they treat me like this, how the hell are they going to treat someone else without [my] resources, without clout?”
The Met said it was not able to respond to specific allegations, but stressed that it took stalking extremely seriously.