Stalking is generally thought of as a male crime, a behaviour carried out by rejected obsessed men who focus in on an individual woman and pursue them relentlessly. Stalking behaviour can appear after a relationship breakdown with the male desperate for the woman to take him back or it can be a form of revenge, wanting to cause pain and suffering in retaliation for being rejected.
There are some men who engage in the stalking of complete strangers, women they have fixated on and believe want a relationship with them. For others, the woman is a target of twisted desires who they want to get in a vulnerable position so they can carry out their fantasies.
The reality is that while these are the kind of behaviours and motivations that make up the majority of harassment and stalking cases, 15-20 percent of stalkers are actually female and one in five of these will go on to physically attack their victim. In fact, the risk of being stalked in your lifetime has been rated as between eight-15% for a woman and two-five percent for a man.
Female stalking, especially when their victims are male, is not always taken very seriously. What harm can a petite female do to a 6ft strapping man? A great deal of harm it appears. There have been some famous cases of celebrity stalking by women who have become more than avid fans. Actors Brad Pitt, Alec Baldwin, and Jeff Goldblum have all experienced female stalking to the extent they have ended up in a courtroom trying to put a stop to it. Catherine Zeta-Jones was stalked by a crazed fan obsessed with her husband Michael Douglas with the threatening letters stalker Dawnette Knight had sent, getting her charged with stalking in 2004.
It is not just people in the public eye who find themselves with unwanted attention. UK man Pete Cashmore has spoken publicly about his ongoing stalking ordeal and the trouble he has had with getting people to take it seriously. In 2014, his stalker suddenly stopped their harassment but Pete Cashmore is still left looking over his shoulder.
“The police laughed when I said I had a woman stalker. But there’s nothing funny about the continuing campaign that is gradually erasing all that is good from my life”. – Pete Cashmore
The Murder of Andrew Bagby
Underestimating obsessive women who stalk in some tragic cases has seen the outcome end in murder. For 28-year-old Andrew Bagby, life was an exciting mix of achieving his medical degree and socializing with friends and family. He was a happy, relaxed guy who lived life with a sense of humour and a bright outlook. Born and raised in California, he accepted a place at medical school in Newfoundland, Canada to follow his dream of becoming a doctor. In his final year, he was to meet a woman who would take that dream from him as well as the promising successful life he had in front of him.
Shirley Turner was 12 years older than Andrew and a doctor working at the medical school. Behind her cheery exterior, however, was an obsessive personality with a string of failed relationships behind her. When Shirley announced that she wanted a family with Andrew and confessed she had been married twice before and had three children who live with their fathers, alarm bells began to ring.
Once he graduated in 2001, Andrew Bagby ended the relationship with Shirley Turner, telling her they clearly wanted different things. He accepted a job at a private medical practice in Pennsylvania, moving back to the United States thinking that would be the end of it. Shirley Turner had other ideas. She was infatuated and going to gain his attention and get him back no matter how long it took. Day and night she called Andrew and when he stopped answering she left message after message.
She moved from Canada to Iowa to shorten the distance between them. When he finally answered in the hope telling her to go away once more would work, she announced she was pregnant with his child. Feeling responsible, Andrew relented and agreed to give the relationship another chance for the sake of the child. After a month, however, Shirley’s pregnancy was not showing and when confronted she admitted there was no baby. She had invented the pregnancy story to get Andrew back and mild-mannered Andrew Bagby was furious. He put Shirley Turner straight onto a flight back to Iowa, telling her never to contact him again.
“I believe in evil. I believe she knew what she was doing.” – Kate Bagby
The very next morning, just 36 hours later, Andrew is startled to find Shirley on his doorstep as he tries to leave for work. She had got off her plane in Iowa and straight into her car, driving 1500 miles through the night to arrive back at Andrew’s house by morning. Refusing to leave until he agreed to talk, they arrange to meet later that day at Keystone State Park. A decision that would walk Andrew Bagby into a dangerous trap. When they met at the park on the evening of 5 November 2001, Andrew once again told Shirley Turner their relationship was over. Her reaction was to pull out a gun, shooting Andrew Bagby five times and leaving him on the path in a pool of his own blood to be found dead the next morning.
When police spoke to the devastated friends and family of Andrew Bagby after his murder, one name repeatedly came up. Shirley Turner, however, fled back to Canada before she could be arrested knowing extradition proceedings would likely drag on for months buying her time. Charged with Andrew’s murder, until she could be brought back into the United States she could not stand trial and Andrew’s family could not see justice done.
Six months after the murder, Shirley announced she was pregnant with Andrew’s child, a claim that this time testing confirmed and she gave birth to a baby boy, Zachary, in July 2002. Despite being charged with murder and awaiting extradition for trial, she was granted full custody of Zachary, making Andrew’s parents have to go through supervised visits with their grandson while their son’s murderer sat smiling next to them.
The murder of Andrew Bagby gained worldwide attention when his friend, Kurt Kuenne, made a documentary called ‘Dear Zachary’, a film about Andrew and his life to introduce Zachary to the father he would never get to meet.
On 18 August 2003, just one month before her extradition hearing, Shirley Turner did the unthinkable. With one-year-old Zachary strapped to her chest, she jumped off the edge of Foxtrap Marina and into the ocean, killing both herself and her child. Little Zachary would never get to watch that film made for him and never grow up to learn about the father who would have loved him so much. This is a tragic case with the loss of three lives due to the deranged obsession carried by Shirley Turner and her need for control, no matter what the cost.
Female Stalkers and Their Victims
Professors from the University of California carried out a study in 2003 that looked at 82 female stalkers from across the US, Canada and Australia. Rage at abandonment, jealousy, dependency and perceived betrayal all topped the list of motivations for these women. Furthermore, when examining how their behaviour manifested, they found persistent phone calls and messages was the most common stalking behaviour and almost half of them also physically followed their victim.
Making verbal threats featured highly with 63 percent of these stalkers regularly threatening their victim and 19 out of the 82 making homicidal threats. When looking at resulting violence from stalking, 25 percent of the female stalkers studied were psychically violent to their victim. Out of this study sample, three stalking victims were murdered by their female stalker.
While many cases of stalking start due to the breakdown of a relationship, in some cases female stalkers target another woman who they have developed issues with from jealousy to obsessive rage and the outcome can be just as deadly. A haunting case in 1991 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, saw a teenage girl take extreme measures against a fellow teen who she thought was trying to steal her boyfriend.
The Murder of Laurie Show
Lisa Michelle Lambert developed venom for her classmate, 16-year-old Laurie Show, after she realised Laurie had once dated her current boyfriend, Lawrence Yunkin. A campaign of abuse and harassment ensued with Lambert calling Laurie at every opportunity, threatening her, following her and never leaving her alone. While Laurie and those around her recognized that Lisa’s behaviour was extreme and totally out of line, none could have predicted what she would do next.
On 20 December 1991, Laurie’s mother received a call at home asking her to attend the school for a meeting about her daughter. Having no reason to suspect the call was not genuine; Hazel Show left Laurie at home and headed to her school. When she arrived there was no meeting or no knowledge from the school of Hazel being contacted. Confused, she left and went back home.
When she entered her house she found a horrific scene with her daughter lying in a pool of blood after her throat had been slashed. As Laurie Show lay dying on the floor she was able to tell her mother it was Lisa Michelle Lambert who had attacked her. Lambert and an accomplice, Tabitha Buck, were arrested and charged with murder with Lawrence Yunkin also charged after it emerged he had driven the two girls to Laurie’s house and had sat outside in the car while they murdered her.
Both girls were given life sentences for the murder of their school-mate. Lisa Michelle Lambert has filed many appeals since her conviction and claims she is innocent of this crime despite the history of harassment against Laurie Show and Laurie’s dying words. After her daughter’s murder, Hazel Show has successfully campaigned for a change in anti-stalking laws to try and protect other victims.
When trying to understand the extreme behaviours of female stalkers, mental illness does appear to be a common feature, particularly borderline personality disorder, a condition suggested as a major contributor to their obsessive actions, overzealous attachment to their victims and their fear of abandonment.
Regardless of the causes, the effect of stalking on victims is immense. “The reality of being a stalked man is a mixture of grinding tedium, of disturbed sleep, violent nightmares and isolation,” says Pete Cashmore. While thankfully stalkers who murder their victims are rare, their actions and relentless attention can leave scars that may never heal.