Sadistic stalking

I talked a little bit about this in my book but mainly from a mental health perspective. Below is the description of sadistic stalking according to Lorraine Sheridan and her co-workers (see article by Boon and Sheridan, 2001; also among other things available as part of the book “Stalking and Psychosexual Obsession: Psychological Perspectives for Prevention, Policing and Treatment”).

When combined with ICT activities, the stalker(s) can destroy the target’s life completely. Unfortunately, most people have no idea of what “hacking” is and even the knowledge of the average police officer is at the level of the addicts who beg on the streets.

The main reason for that is that it takes a very high level of specialization as well as a huge amount of resources to investigate hacking. Police officers don’t have any of that at their disposal. It’s not their fault (although they could educate themselves better).

The only party that seems to be doing a good job in this area are the Dutch intelligence services (as was recently revealed).

Dealing with stalking cases should not be the task of police but of specialized psychologists and psychiatrists.

The murders of Shana Grice and Molly McLaren illustrated this highly regretfully. It appears that the death of Molly McLaren was actually precipitated by an unwitting police officer (but I know no more about the case than what I read in the media, so I am hopefully wrong about that).


  • victim is an obsessive target of the offender, and who’s life is seen as quarry and prey (incremental orientation)

  • victim selection criteria is primarily rooted in the victim being:

(i) someone worthy of spoiling, i.e. someone who is perceived by the stalker at the commencement as being:

– happy

– ‘good’

– stable

– content

and (ii) lacking in the victim’s perception any just rationale as to why she was targeted

  • initial low level acquaintance

  • apparently benign initially but unlike infatuation harassment the means of intervention tend to have negative orientation designed to disconcert, unnerve, and ergo take power away from the victim

– notes left in victim’s locked car in order to unsettle target (cf. billet-doux of infatuated harassment)

– subtle evidence being left of having been in contact with the victim’s personal items e.g. rifled underwear drawer, re-ordering/removal of private papers, cigarette ends left in ash trays, toilet having been used etc.

– ‘helping’ mend victims car that stalker had previously disabled

  • thereafter progressive escalation of control over all aspects (i.e. social, historical, professional, financial, physical) of the victim’s life

  • offender gratification is rooted in the desire to extract evidence of the victim’s powerlessness with inverse implications for his power => sadism

  • additional implication => self-perpetuating in desire to hone down relentlessly on individual victim(s)

  • emotional coldness, deliberateness and psychopathy (cf. the heated nature of ex-partner harassment)

  • tended to have a history of stalking behaviour and the controlling of others

  • stalker tended to broaden out targets to family and friends in a bid to isolate the victim and further enhance his control

  • communications tended to be a blend of loving and threatening (not hate) designed to de-stabilise and confuse the victim

  • threats were either overt (“We’re going to die together”) or subtle (delivery of dead roses)

  • stalker could be highly dangerous – in particular with psychological violence geared to the controlling of the victim with fear, loss of privacy and the curtailment of her social world

  • physical violence was also entirely possible – especially by means which undermine the victim’s confidence in matters normally taken for granted e.g. disabling brake cables, disarming safety equipment, cutting power off

  • sexual content of communications was aimed primarily to intimidate through the victim’s humiliation, disgust and general undermining of self-esteem

  • the older the offender, the more likely he would have enacted sadistic stalking before and would not be likely to offend after 40 years of age if not engaged in such stalking before

  • victim was likely to be re-visited after a seeming hiatus

Case management implications

  • should be taken very seriously

  • acknowledge from outset that the stalker activity will be very difficult to eradicate

  • acknowledge that there is no point whatsoever in appealing to the offender – indeed will exacerbate the problem

  • never believe any assurances, alternative versions of events etc. which are given by the offender

  • however, record them for use in legal action later

  • the victim should be given as much understanding and support as can be made available

  • the victim should not be given false or unrealistic assurance or guarantees that s/he will be protected

  • the victim should carefully consider relocation. Geographical emphasis being less on distance per se, and more on where the offender is least able to find the victim

  • the police should have in mind that the sadistic stalker will be likely to:

(i) carefully construct and calculate their activity to simultaneously minimise the risk of intervention by authorities while retaining maximum impact on victim,

(ii) be almost impervious to intervention since the overcoming of obstacles provides new (iii) and potent means of demonstrating the victim’s powerlessness (ergo self-perpetuating) and,

(iii) if jailed will continue both personally and vicariously with the use of a network.

2 thoughts on “Sadistic stalking

    • In cases of sadistic stalking, expect zero help from police. Forget about preserving any evidence. It’s a complete waste of time, and frustrating as well. It merely augments the stalker’s control of the target’s life. Nothing more.


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