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Celebrity Stalking Cases
“Great etiquette is as infectious as a child's smile”
Celebrity Stalking defined...
One way or another I'm gonna find ya
I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha
One way or another I'm gonna win ya
I'm gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha
One way or another I'm gonna see ya
I'm gonna meetcha meetcha meetcha meetcha
One day, maybe next week
I'm gonna meetcha, I'm gonna meetcha, I'll meetcha
I will drive past your house
And if the lights are all down
I'll see who's around
The above lyrics are from "One Way or Another", by Blondie and released in 1979, the song inspired by one of Debbie Harry's ex-boyfriends who stalked her after their relationship ended.
The stalking of celebrities is nothing new. What is new, is that the use of Social Media now plays a bigger role, on both sides of the fence: the actions of the victim and the action of the perpetrator, the stalker. It would also be fair to say that a lot of stalking, including of celebrities, first manifests itself on social media before becoming physical, as in the case of the singer Rihanna, as discussed further later in this article.
We are going to discuss five examples of well-documented, extreme celebrity stalking cases and review what could have been done. Some of these cases demonstrate clear defined paths from infatuation to physical contact, but some are totally out of the blue. We also try to identify key times where intervention could have taken place, where good practice security could benefit the situation.
For clarity, we will address historic cases of Celebrity Stalking, pre-Social Media, and more recent ones, where Social Media comes into play, looking at examples in both the UK and USA. We will not be talking in depth about motives or the psychology of stalking, as that is a subject that deserves its own article! If you want to know more about the different types of stalkers, there is a great article on that subject in 'Psychology Today', here: The 7 Types of Stalkers, and How to Spot Them.
Stalking is of course not exclusive of celebrities and affects many people, men and women; changing lives and in extreme cases, forcing the victim to move home and of course, sadly there are well-documented cases of stalking resulting in murder.
Recent UK figures show 11,889 stalking and harassment prosecutions were started in 2016-17, down by 1,097 offences (8.4%) on the previous year. Most (71%) were related to domestic abuse, the Crown Prosecution Service figures showed.
Official figures on stalking cases in the UK and USA are scant, mainly because many cases are not reported or are misclassified as harassment. In the UK, harassment became an offence in 1997 and stalking was added in 2012. A 2017 report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate 'Living in fear – the police and CPS response to harassment and stalking' goes a very long way at looking at the issue of stalking and discusses the introduction of Stalking Protection Orders.
UK Stalking and Harassment laws can be found here: Stalking and Harassment Laws UK. In the USA, stalking laws are very much on a state-by-state basis to complicate matters further.
A guide to US laws can be found here: Criminal Stalking Laws USA.
As discussed in previous blog articles (The Bodyguard Film – fact from fiction), many celebrities lack professional, joined-up security. Many are not addressing the need for change in security as they grow in popularity, until things go wrong. In our article ‘The Bodyguard – fact from fiction’, we took example of our starlet’s Bodyguard - ‘Tony’, who had been with his client Rachel Marron since the beginning and was ‘part of the family’ – he soon found himself out of his depth, he was putting his client at risk.
That example is played out frequently in the world of Celebrity Protection. Security is reactive rather than proactive and those providing the service lack the depth of knowledge in other disciplines of the Security Industry – or simply don’t know when to call in specialist assistance.
Celebrity Stalker Stories
The murder of John Lennon in New York on the evening of the 8th of December 1980, shocked the world, not just because of the sense of loss, but because of the close-range shots in the back. While the John Lennon murder is not so much a Stalking case, in that the stalking was not prolonged, it certainly was premeditated, and an early opportunity missed by the wife of Mark Chapman to report her fears to the police.
Chapman was obsessed, and it is said that he started planning to kill Lennon three months prior. He was determined to kill someone, if not Lennon. He had shown a gun to his wife and later said that he had an alternative ‘hit list’ that included David Bowie, Walter Cronkite, Elizabeth Taylor, and former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. He said he chose Lennon because he was the easiest to find.
Chapman travelled to New York, staying in a hotel, and the next morning went to the Dakota building, the home of Lennon and Ono. Chapman spent the whole day around the entrance, at some point that day, Chapman had identified Lennon’s son - Sean, who was out with his nanny, had spoken to the pair and had shaken young Sean’s hand.
That evening, as Lennon left the building with Yoko Ono, he stopped to sign autographs, including one for Chapman, the moment captured for all time in a single photograph: Lennon signing Chapman's copy of Lennon & Ono’s recent album: ‘Double Fantasy’.
Chapman stuck around after Lennon’s departure, and at around 22.50hrs Lennon & Ono returned to the Dakota building, and, as the couple approached the archway entrance of the building, Chapman shot John Lennon in the back four times with a .38 special revolver.
From a preventative perspective, Lennon presented himself as a soft target. There were no Close Protection Bodyguards and no security on his building, only a doorman, whom Chapman spent time talking to earlier that fateful day. The presence of a Close Protection team may have prevented Chapman, and may have been enough to make him think twice. But, as demonstrated in the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan a year later, a determined attacker will choose his moment.
Talking in the years following the attack, Chapman said of his wife:
“My God, I still have deep-seated resentment that she didn't go to somebody, even the police, and say 'Look, my husbands bought a gun and he says he's going to kill John Lennon”
“I couldn't have sex with Björk because I love her”
Ricardo López became obsessed with Icelandic musician Björk (Björk Guðmundsdóttir) over a very intense three-year period between 1993-96. López documented his obsession with Björk in a diary that he kept. López who was a Uruguayan by birth lived in Hollywood, Florida. Björk was not his first major obsession, López had earlier been obsessed with American actress named Geena Davis, and, like with Björk, he became angry when she entered into a relationship.
In the case of Björk, López has been writing fan letters to the musician, although she had never responded. In 1996, like with Geena Davis, López, became angered and felt betrayed at Björk’s new relationship with British musician Goldie. His diary had grown to 803 pages of muses and rants about not only Björk, but about his own life and feelings of insecurity.
Very soon, López stopped writing in his diary and instead, in his apartment, he started filming a video diary of what would be eleven video tapes, each containing approximately two hours of footage each. López decided that he would kill Björk and planned to send a bomb to her apartment in London.
“I'm just going to have to kill her. I'm going to send a package. I'm going to be sending her to hell.”
López first had the idea of a bomb containing HIV-tainted hypodermic needles, but he soon realised that this was going to be more difficult, so he instead settled on the idea of a bomb inside a hollowed-out book, designed to explode on opening.
He planned to kill himself after posting the bomb, hoping that Björk and himself would be “united in heaven”.
On September 12, 1996, López began filming his final video diary entry. The final tape, titled "Last Day – Ricardo López". The tape starts with López getting ready to go to the post office to mail the letter bomb to Björk.
López did post the bomb to Björk’s London address, only for it to be intercepted by police after the discovery of López’s body by Police on September 16.
Björk was affected by the discovery of López's plot and made changes to her security.
Whilst the above is only a potted history of events, the Ricardo López case demonstrates how an obsessive fan can have an impact on the security of an international Artist. Even with the best possible private security, it would not have been possible to have been aware of López’s plot to kill Björk.
It is fair to say that many artists, celebrities or Ultra-High-Net-Worth individuals do not open their own mail these days. Most have staff who filter fan mail from private correspondence and if this type of plot was to happen today, any such device should be identified at this stage.
Another good example is perhaps the attack on Beatle, George Harrison and his wife at their home in Oxfordshire in 1999. Harrison woke after hearing a crashing noise, after investigating the noise was soon set-upon, stabbed and battered with a lamp, while his wife fought off the attacker.
Harrison's wife, Olivia had managed to raise the alarm, calling a member of staff who lived on the estate. The prolonged attack only came to an end on the arrival of two Police Officers. Harrison and his wife both suffered knife wounds, Harrison more seriously with stab wounds to his chest, causing a collapsed lung. Michael Abram, a 33-year old native of Liverpool, the attacker, later said that he was sent on a mission by God to kill Harrison.
Harrison’s home did have some security in place, walls topped with barbed-wire, security light and an intruder alarm. Dog patrols were also once a feature that did not stop Michael Abram climbing the external wall, walking half a mile to the house and gaining entry after breaking a window.
It is clear that Michael Abram was not on anyone’s radar in relation to possible actions that he might carry out. He was undergoing treatment for mental illness and according to his own mother, had regular obsessions, before Harrison and the Beatles, it had been with the British pop band Oasis.
Obviously, this incident took place before Social Media and like the John Lennon murder, we have to ask if Social Media had been in existence, would the signs of infatuation and obsession have presented themselves earlier, been detected by others and could that have played a part in putting an early halt to these incidents?
Because there was no way to detect Abram as a threat, there was no intelligence, the final layer of defence was the grounds and house. There is no doubt that had the Harrisons had a Residential Security Team, functioning-zoned alarms and external security patrols, the attack could have been avoided.
A case not dissimilar to the two cases above. On the morning of June 8 2014, Sandra Bullock had no idea that Joshua Corbett had been outside the gates of her Hollywood Hill home for several days, before he jumped the fence and gained entry to her home via the sunroom door that he forced open.
As with the two above examples, Bullock had had no contact or communications with Corbett prior to that incident.
Lucky for Sandra Bullock, she spotted Corbett as he passed her bedroom door, and unnoticed, she hid in a closet and called 911, raising the alarm.
When arrested, Corbett was in possession of a notebook with a love letter that said:
“You are my wife by law, the law of God and belong to me”
Corbett said during his interview with the Police, that "I don't think people protect her well enough" and in an affidavit, that he "wanted to show … security that her residence was not impervious, and she was in danger". It later emerged that written in the notebook that was in Corbett possession, were plans to sexually assault the actress.
Since the initial court case in 2014, and sentencing of five years of probation, Bullock’s legal team have obtained a further restraining order against Corbett.
Reviewing this incident, it is quite clear that Sandra Bullock had very little in the way of any security, technical or physical and was very lucky not to have been sexually assaulted. Residential Security and a panic button system would have been ideal in this situation and would have reduced the 15-minute response time it took the Police to enter the home.
For a number of years, Miley Cyrus has had issues with stalkers. There are three documented cases where the Hannah Montana star has taken court action in order to protect herself.
In June 2009, 53-year old Mark McLeod tried to breach a security perimeter around the movie set of “The Last Song”. In Police statements, McLeod had said to Officers that he had come to the beach “to be with Miley” and that “were supposed to be together and we couldn't stop it”.
McLeod was further arrested in August of 2009, again trying to obtain access to the movie set, where Cyrus was filming. The on-site Security team from Walt Disney Pictures recognised McLeod, when he was found to be asking questions about Miley Cyrus. Their professional actions resulted in McLeod’s re-arrest. He has now been ordered to stay away from the star.
One piece of missed intelligence, was that in March of that year, the New York Daily news featured a clip of McLeod queuing up at book-signing appearance by Miley Cyrus in New York’s Manhattan. “Hold me up. I'm a little bit nervous,” said McLeod, shivering in a heavy coat and wool hat. “It's the first time I've ever, uh, actually been face to face with her,” “I talk to her a lot but it's kind of like I talk and she responds with pictures. It's just the way we communicate. I'm going to get her some flowers and I'm going to ask her to marry me.”
Also, McLeod told police during his interview that he had sent Cyrus hundreds of letters and received her responses in the form of “secret messages” on her television show and website directed only to him. Had a Miley Cyrus’s Security Team noted either McLeod’s statements to the New York Daily or acted on the letters sent to Cyrus (if indeed they were sent), then, they could have had McLeod on their radar at lot earlier.
Another notable case in regard to Miley Cyrus being stalked is that of Jason Rivera, 40, from Texas.
Rivera was arrested in the early hours of the 30th of October 2012, being discovered in bushes in the grounds of her property, after trying to gain access to the home of Cyrus, who was not in residence at the time. When he was arrested, Rivera told Police that “I am friends with Miley Cyrus…. She’s my wife. Me and Miley have been friends for five years”. Police also discovered a pair of scissors in his possession at the time of his arrest.
Rivera was convicted by the court of trespassing and was sentenced to 18-month jail, Cyrus obtained a temporary restraining order, later applying to the court to make this permanent.
Cyrus also has a restraining order against at least another crazed fan, Devon Meek, after he was arrested outside the star's home. In a Police interview, Meek told the Police that he believes the singer is communicating with him via the radio. It is understood that he was ordered to receive psychiatric treatment and has said he plans to continue to pursue Miley Cyrus if/when he is released from hospital care.
The singer Rihanna (Robyn Rihanna Fenty) has been subject to both online and physical stalking by at least two separate stalkers.
Twitter accounts, under the names of Alex Mercer and Ralph Alexander were used by the same individual in 2015 to send direct threats to the singer. The Twitter user posted a picture of him outside Rihanna’s home and made direct threats to the singer via Twitter, stating: “Should of killed @rihanna a minute back I would be good right now”, and “Sorcery is a weapon I use guns”.
From the same accounts, in another Tweet, was posted a threat aimed directly at Rihanna's ex boyfriend Chris Brown; “@chrisbrown don’t run” accompanied by a photograph of a pump-action shotgun and shells. This individual, it has been reported, has also sent at least one ‘masturbation video’ to the star.
Rihanna does have a professional security team, who quickly liaised with the Police who were investigating the matter. However, nothing further has been reported on this case.
In a far more serious case of celebrity stalking, Kevin McGlynn was arrested in July 2013, after hand-delivering letters to Rihanna’s Manhattan apartment.
Delusional and obsessive, McGlynn wrote that he was going to rape Rihanna. He also believed that he was in a relationship with her.
On the third occasion that McGlynn visited Rihanna’s Manhattan apartment, he made the mistake of dropping his benefits card; this, along with CCTV footage enabled the Police to easily identify and trace McGlynn.
The Judge in the case was in no doubt that McGlynn posed an immediate threat to the safety of the star and made reference to the 1980 murder of John Lennon by Mark Chapman.
“It is entirely foreseeable that if he were free to continue to act upon his psychotic delusions without this court's intervention, it may result in the death of (Rihanna) or other innocent persons” - Judge Orlando Marrazzo
Dealing with stalkers
The first rule when it comes to dealing with stalkers, is to have no contact with them at all. If contacted online or via web chat, such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, screenshot the message and save the screenshot image to a folder, name it by time and date and take a note of this.
It might not be evident that any person is going to turn into a stalker of course, and that is why it is important to be warry of online communications and to ensure that you lockdown the privacy on Social Media profiles. Be careful what information you put into the public domain!
If you have already been communicating with someone who has turned stalker, again, screenshot and record and then block their profile.
Blocking on Social Media is very important. What you don’t want to do is fuel the fire…
“Don’t feed the troll!”
Gathering evidence and documenting stalking events is vital. It is this documented evidence that you will later rely on to take court action. Diligent recording of stalking events will demonstrate to the court a pattern of obsessive behaviour.
If you are being stalked, it is vital that you inform your workplace and close friends – as long as it is safe to do so. Most people spend a good percentage of their time at work; it might be that a stalker will contact or turn up in person at your workplace. If they do, again it is important that this is recorded, and evidence gained.
Events such as being watched, being sent items or telephone calls should all be written down.
A good evidence gathering tool is also a dictaphone that can be easily plugged into your cell phone or home phone to record nuisance and aggressive telephone calls. This type of evidence is very powerful in court. Taking general personal security precautions is also advisable, as is a security review of your home. Think about locks and security lighting - explore CCTV cameras, these can be cheaply purchased and easy to set up yourself.
Proactive Monitoring and intelligence
Part of any modern-day Executive Protection service for Royals, UHNWI and celebrities should be intelligence gathering. This intelligence should include the monitoring of Social Media and forums for any threats; enabling ‘interested parties’ to be identified early on.
With Stalking cases, it is of vital importance to record all instances of stalking, any communications and any interactions. This is so that, should it get to the stage when an Injunction or Restraining Order is applied for, a legal team can demonstrate to the Court a timeline of evidence and an escalation in obsessive or aggressive behaviour.
Another important area is that those who are managing the PR of celebrities, need to have an awareness of security issues and of course policy and guidance on dealing with direct threats and internet trolls, feeding intelligence back to the Head of Security on suspicious interactions.
Why avoid security measures?
It is fair to say by looking at the examples above that it is not like the celebrities concerned were lacking the funds to ensure a professional and adequate level of security. What it really comes down to, is the balance of private life and privacy vs. the need for personal security.
This ‘balance’ may for whatever reason be tainted by past experiences of security being provided that crossed these lines. Again, harking back to past blog articles, many celebrities fall four of surrounding themselves by the wrong people, who might have once been the right people. But as a celebrity grows and develops, those individuals are no longer an asset, adding value.
Providing professional security must be dynamic and subjective, proactive and of course reactive. A personal service that is carried out with a great deal of sensitivity, mindful of the celebrity and his or her life, including of course children and their protection.
It is possible to have unobtrusive personal security. If we take for example the cases surrounding the star Rihanna, we can see that she does indeed have a good security detail that has a handle on her personal security, with an understanding of wider security disciplines. Sadly, many of other above examples could have been either avoided or mitigated with better security measures.
Six tips on dealing with stalkers:
- Gather all evidence
- Record all instances/contact
- Avoid any online or physical contact
- If safe to do so, inform close friends and your employer
- Report to the Police early on, once it is recorded, you have it on record
- Review your personal and home security
If you are facing issues with being stalked and wish to discuss this matter with us, please contact us.