A British man is believed to be the first individual who has been held criminally responsible for the suicide of their stalking victim. 47-year-old Nicholas Allen pleaded guilty to manslaughter in Staffordshire, England last week in relation to the suicide of his former girlfriend 46-year-old Justene Reece in February of this year. This conviction comes on the back of the Michelle Carter case, a 20-year-old who was found guilty on 16 June in a Boston Juvenile Court of involuntary manslaughter after her boyfriend Conrad Roy III killed himself in 2014 while Carter, who was just 17-years-old at the time, texted him repeatedly encouraging him to take his own life.

Justene Reece and Nicholas Allen who are both from Staffordshire met at a scooter enthusiasts event in the West Midlands in September 2015 and began a romantic relationship. Justene Reece left her husband and her home to move into a rental house with Allen with plans to start a new life with him. The Daily Mail reports that the relationship began to breakdown after Justene told Allen that she had been raped by two men at the scooter event where they met, but she did not want to tell him who the men were. Nicholas Allen is said to have become obsessed with finding out the names of the two men to the extent that it caused ongoing problems in the relationship.

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In September 2016, just one year after their romance began, Justene Reece fled their home to a Women’s Aid refuge in the North East of England to try and escape Allen, something he was not prepared to accept. He constantly harassed her through phone calls and text messages which included making threats against her.  In November 2016, Justene Reece was successful in securing a non-molestation order against Allen in an attempt to keep him away from her and to stop the harassment.  It appears that Allen did not respond and he continued to try and make contact, following her when she moved to a different area trying to persuade her to give their relationship another chance.

In February 2017, Justene Reece took her own life by hanging herself, actions believed to be a direct result of the behaviour of Nicholas Allen. A personal diary found after her death detailed the abuse she had been suffering at his hands for months prior to her suicide and the deep psychological effects his harassment was having on her. Allen was charged with manslaughter after police felt it was clear his harassment had ’caused Justene significant psychiatric harm and directly contributed to her death.’

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Research has shown that stalkers can be extremely dangerous with ex-partners who go on to stalk their victims most likely to be violent. There have been many tragic cases of the victims of obsessed stalkers being murdered by their stalker including the well-known case of Andrew Bagby, who was murdered by his ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner in Pennsylvania in 2001 when he refused to rekindle a relationship with her.

The danger from stalkers, however, is not only physical risk of harm but the internal psychological effects continued stalking can have on their victims. The harassment, abuse, and fear they invoke often causes isolation, depression, anxiety and panic attacks with many victims having suicidal thoughts. The case of Nicholas Allen is one which may now set a precedent for future stalking cases where victims have harmed themselves as a result of the stalking behaviour.  The tragedy for Justene Reece is feeling that suicide was her only option. Women’s Aid Chief Executive Polly Neate has said: “Perpetrators of domestic abuse must always be held fully accountable for their crimes and the devastating harm that they cause.”