THE number of recorded cases of stalking in Essex have spiked over the last three years.

Figures revealed in June 2015 there were 2,948 and June 2018 there were 13,068.

In 2015 some of the most cases took place in London with 30,639 and Greater Manchester where there were 5,439.

The increase in Essex followed a trend nation-wide increase.

In 2018, the number of cases in London was 43,391 and for Greater Manchester it was 21,289.

As the figures have been revealed a married mum has spoken out of her six-year stalking ordeal.

Michelle Hawthorne, who works as a lawyer, said when she first received a Facebook friend request from a woman she didn’t know, she thought nothing of it.

Mum-of-one Michelle said: “It probably took me a couple of years to realise I was being stalked - first through Facebook. I didn’t realise I was interesting enough."

After mentioning the friend request to her family she learned it was from a former flame of a relative trying to contact her.

She said: “I kept getting friend requests from this woman, so I blocked her. She kept opening other profiles and messaging. In the end I messaged her and said 'stop it - I don’t befriend people I don’t know’.”

She said: “She found out where I worked, where my son went to school, where we moved house - within weeks. Police concluded she could only have followed us.

“She tried to find out where my horses were, she befriended my friends and messaged me again on Facebook. She would sit in the pub over the road in the window.

"It just went on and on and on."

Things got even more scary when Michelle received a drawing of her stalker “holding a knife with blood dripping from it”.

“It was crazy stuff,” she said.

She even had to have a password in place at her son’s school so only people who knew the genuine keyword were able to collect him.

Michelle, said: “It affected everything. I was absolutely terrified.”

She even changed jobs after receiving an email from her stalker and noticing the woman had been sitting outside her office waving at her.

“I just didn’t feel safe at work anymore as I had to get the train home and walk through a dark car park,” she said.

Things didn’t end there though.

“She was turning up at places we were at. We went to the speedway one night and she was two rows behind us,” she said.

Even when police took up the case, Michelle had the harrowing job of gathering evidence to prove her allegations without incriminating herself.

She said: “We took pictures of her fake Facebook profiles and when police went to Facebook over 30 different names came back to her IP address. A friend request even came through while an officer was standing there in my house."

She added: “When questioned she tried to turn it round and make out it was me that was harassing her. She was very clever, almost trying to make herself look like the victim.”

The case, however, eventually went to court and the woman, a married middle-aged mother-of-two, was issued with a restraining order.

She said she hopes speaking out about her experience will give hope to other victims of stalking that police will take action.

Detective Chief Inspector Jim Sandford said: “Reports of stalking, harassment, and malicious communications have increased here in Essex and across the country.

“This is in line with a change in the way officers record these offences across the country following changes from the Home Office and mean these types of offences are dealt with more effectively.

“Since these changes were brought in we have worked to better analyse incidents and identify the patterns of behaviour which are indicative of stalking.

“This increase also demonstrates people are more confident in reporting these offences to us.

“Stalking and harassment, sexual assault, even online abuse, have heavy links in to domestic abuse. These offences can have a long-lasting psychological impact on the victim and can often be the gateway to more violent physical offences.

“We are working every day to uncover this crime, get victims safe and bring offenders to justice. We need anyone who is suffering this or knows someone who is, to know we will help you.

“Experienced investigators will help you and we will do our very best to get you safe as soon as possible and keep your protected.”

To report an incident call Essex Police on 101 or report information by visiting

Alternatively residents report incidents by contacting Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.