A former newsreader who was subjected to a ‘campaign of vengeance’ by her obsessive neighbour has accused police and the court system of ‘gaslighting’ her by downplaying her stalker’s behaviour as a ‘neighbourhood dispute’.
Ex-ITV News and Channel 5 News presenter Isla Traquair, 42, said professional gardener Jonathan Barrett scared her more than her work as a crime journalist ‘confronting murderers’.
Barrett avoided jail but was convicted of stalking after a trial heard he stared through her windows, monitored what she ate before coming into her home with a sandwich, and even ‘chainsawed’ bamboo fencing she had put up to keep him out.
Speaking on BBC’s Woman’s Hour, Traquair accused police of treating it as a ‘neighbourhood dispute’ and the feeling of not being believed ‘didn’t stop there’ amid claims she was ‘galist’ by the court.
One officer spoke to Barrett and told Traquair he found him and his partner to be ‘nice and polite’ and said he wouldn’t be her ‘go-between’.
Ex-ITV News and Channel 5 News presenter Isla Traquair, 42, said professional gardener Jonathan Barrett scared her more than her work as a crime journalist ‘confronting murderers’
Jonathan Barrett avoided jail but was convicted of stalking after a trial at Salisbury Crown Court
Wiltshire Police later apologised to her and removed the officer from her case.
Tranquair also claimed she was mocked for being ‘articulate’ in giving a statement to the court as she was a journalist, and was ‘gaslit’ by those working in the legal system.
A barrister in court also apologised for how badly she was treated, she said.
Her staking ordeal took place between March and September 2021, beginning as soon as she moved into the house near the small Wiltshire town of Corsham.
She revealed spending thousands of pounds in a bid to fortify her home and was forced to call in favours to sleep at friends’ houses.
Following a trial earlier this year, Barrett, 54, was ordered to complete 300 hours of community service and pay £715 in costs after being convicted of stalking at Salisbury Magistrates’ Court.
He was also handed a restraining order to not contact Traquair or to enter or look into her property for one year.
But the ordeal has left its mark on the journalist, who said she has PTSD as a result of the ordeal and is scared to even go to the shops because of his ‘unnatural interest’.
Traquair said: ‘Whenever I came out, he was there. He climbed over my back wall, entered my home through the conservatory and said, “you haven’t eaten” so he had been watching me. He left and came back with a sandwich and watched me eat it.
‘It just built and built. It was really quite alarming.
‘After that, I put in bamboo screening which resulted in him hacking my hedge. It was then that I contacted the police. I’m a crime journalist. I didn’t want to call the police and be a victim.
‘Shortly after, he followed me in his van, and I tried to get away. I phoned the police again. Initially, with the female community officers, they were amazing. They heard me, they came up with a plan of action.
‘But that plan wasn’t carried out the way it was supposed to be. I moved out thinking that the police would go around and he wouldn’t react well because they would tell him I was putting up security cameras and a fence.
‘But it didn’t happen, and no one had spoken to him. Eventually, one officer went around but he said, ‘we sat down with him and his partner, and they were nice and polite. It’s a misunderstanding’.
‘I asked if he told them about the fence going up, and he said, ‘no, you can tell him yourself’. I said I’d been told not to contact him, but the officer said, ‘I will not be your go-between’.’
The journalist (right) became so terrified of her obsessive stalker that she spent thousands of pounds fortifying her home with fences and security cameras before eventually fleeing her home in the small Wiltshire town of Corsham
Traquair said that was when she had enough and took action, contacting the Chief Inspector.
She explained: ‘I was really scared at this point. I’d been shouted and sworn at by the stalker.
‘It felt horrendous. I felt helpless, I felt angry. I didn’t know what to do. It was madness, especially because of what my job is. I help victims of crime.
‘They looked at it as a neighbourhood dispute. But he was taken off my case, and the inspector actually apologised and said, ‘we should be your go-between, that is our job’, and someone else was put on.’
The presenter stayed with friends for a while but eventually ‘ran out of favours’, so she went to live with her brother in the US.
But then she heard the Crown Prosecution Service were dropping her case because it wasn’t a problem anymore.
She wrote to the Wiltshire Chief Inspector and when the case was back on track, she said they refused to grant her request to give a statement by video link.
After paying ‘thousands’ to fly back to the UK, Traquair then said she was mocked for being ‘articulate’.
She continued: ‘I was gaslit during the case, and half of the evidence wasn’t given to the barrister. She actually apologised after and said I had been badly let down.
‘I was gaslit for being articulate. The defence were saying “you’re a journalist, you’re good with words aren’t you?” He was criticising who I was as a person. I wasn’t a good victim.
‘I’m not okay. It has devastated me. I’ve confronted murderers, and that didn’t scare me anywhere near the level of terror I went through living in this idyllic countryside home.
‘I have nightmares, I have PTSD. I’ve been going to therapy. Even going to the shops…I just feel unsafe in the world. It has shaken me to my core.
‘What he stole from me…Stalking victims are serial victims. What a stalker takes from you, you cannot get back. And that’s your sense of safety. I’m a potential victim for the rest of my life because stalkers don’t just stop.’
Ms Traquair, originally from Aberdeen, recently worked on the Oprah Winfrey Network in the US and released a true crime podcast ‘The Storyteller: Violent Delights’.
Speaking to Woman’s Hour in response to Traquair’s interview, Wiltshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills said: ‘I am really sorry to hear that. What we are trying to do is improve the response, to try and improve standards.
‘Some of the challenges that have come out from the history of this is officers being able to understand the threats and risk in stalking cases.’