That time I got stalked by the real life TV stalker woman and what it taught me about data protection

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Author’s note: I do not grant permission or consent for any media outlet to make a story of this blog post. Why? When you read a post about someone being exploited and think “jackpot! I’ll exploit them some more”, you are on the side of the problem and not the solution. This post, and the previous one which expanded on it, are accounts of systemic failures I experienced including data protection violations, racism, discrimination, and occupational coercion. This story is about me. This story is not a bit of hot goss about a TV celebrity. This story is not about her. Shame on you for not only trying to make my story about her, but also for only validating my lived experiences because you spotted an opportunity for a TV celebrity tie-in.

At some point in my life, which is now approaching the half-century mark, I realised that I am Leo sodding Bloom. I just want to do my job. I just want to hang out with my awesome teenager. I just want my quiet life with my books and my fresh air and my garden vegetables. But do I get it? Oh no. No no no.

Drama finds me, and so does its cast of characters.

I go to the office and live through 9/11. I bait a perv who turns out to be a serial rapist. I pop into Parliament for a meeting and the government collapses around me.

When does it ever end, I wonder? Where’s my share? Where’s Leo Bloom’s share?


A few years ago I wrote a deeply personal blog post about my experiences, twenty years ago, at the intersection of immigration, human rights, and data justice. There were three points to the piece.

The first, as with most of what I write, was to shake readers into recognising their own unconscious biases and assumptions, the ones they neither see nor comprehend because those values are what they are born and raised with.

The second point was to get readers to understand how low-paid staff at the coal face of public service are very often there because a “recruitment agency” (in this case, Melville Craig/Hudson) sent them there with no training, support, or even a background check, because all your average screeching cokehead “recruitment consultant” cares about is hitting her sales target; and if the worker doesn’t like being thrown into the most stressful jobs possible with no contract or support, well, they can just leave (and never get another job through the agency again, whilst being blacklisted city-wide through the recruitment industry whisper network).

And third was to nudge readers who work in civil society, and government, to understand what people at that intersection live through every day, and to legislate in ways that make their lives easier – and acknowledge that they’re doing their best against ridiculous odds – rather than legislating in ways that make their lives harder and treat them as presumed deviants and criminals.


In the piece, I wrote about my experiences in a no-rights temp admin job I took via an agency, while I was job hunting, which I never should have been placed in: as a medical typist at an NHS psychiatric facility here in Glasgow. Do understand that “psychiatric facility” means the transitional space for people heading into or out of “the wards”, which is of course the Scottish aphorism for a secure mental health lockup, aka the place where people are sectioned, e.g. the place people go when medical professionals conclude that person needs to be under 24/7 lockup for their own protection, either with or without their ability to consent.

I wrote (yes, I’m quoting myself, that’s not the cardinal sin here):

My job was to type the letters that psychiatrists dictated into their little tape recorders (this is such an early 00’s story, isn’t it), post them out to the patient’s GP, and file a copy in the patient’s file. At least, that’s what the recruitment agency told me it would be.

In truth it involved two more things. One was being put directly onto the computerised NHS database for the entire fucking city of Glasgow, less than a half hour after the first time I walked into the building, with no training, supervision, or support. I could have been anybody. I could have pulled up any record I wanted. I could have amended any record I wanted. I could have read anything I wanted. And I did. Nobody cared.

That was my first introduction to the UK’s data protection regime.

The other thing was being put into direct contact with psychiatric patients. They’d contact me directly on the phone, wanting to speak to their consultant, and then unload their literal derangement on me when I couldn’t just put them through. What’s more, the facility was perpetually short staffed, so they’d send me downstairs to man the front desk, where I would have to witness things like rough sleepers licking the door handles. One day I was relieved from the desk minutes before a deeply ill woman began smashing the waiting room furniture onto her two-year-old child’s head.

I even got myself a psychotic stalker. She was known for developing obsessive fixations with the staff in the facility, and it became my turn. So she’d phone me at all hours, or show up outside begging to see me, meaning I’d have to stay barricaded in the typist pool room for the full working day.

Did anyone take this seriously? No. It was literally the office joke: “oh, you’ve got her this week.”

In writing down the bones, I remembered how there was one morning when I arrived at the clinic, and as always, the phone at my desk was already ringing off the hook. It was her. That was the nature of her stalking. She would have been calling nonstop, knowing I was walking from the station to the clinic. (She’d obviously done a recce.) I hadn’t even taken my coat off. But I had to answer the phone, because I have this annoying thing in my constitution which compels me to conduct myself as a professional even when I’m working with people who have no intention of reciprocating.

As always, as soon as I said “hello”, I heard the usual sobbing hysterics: Heatherheatherheather WHERE ARE YOU I NEED TO SEE YOU RIGHT NOW HEATHER etc etc etc, choked out between equally deep gulps to swallow the tears.

I can’t recall what it was that morning that made me think you know, I just don’t have time for this shit today so I broke my own character and said, in the calmest voice I could muster before I’d had a chance to sit down: “Fiona, you know that I don’t actually work here? I’m not an NHS employee. I’m just a temp typist. I was sent here by an agency to help clear the typing backlog. That’s all I’m here to do.”

And you know what she said then? “OH. OH oh. I’m so sorry about that.” And hung up, leaving me in peace forever to come. No tears, no gulps, no hysterics, no sobbing. Just a conversational speaking voice. Just like that, like an actor breaking character.

I have no medical training or experience but somehow, with ten seconds of talking, I got her to flick it off like a switch.

Fucking at it, I thought. That’s my official clinical diagnosis, made in an NHS building I never should have been in, working in job I never should have been placed in.

And all of that, save for the blog post, was a quaint memory for two decades until last week when, once again, I was reminded that I am, despite my best efforts, Leo sodding Bloom.

To state the obvious, you never forget the name, face, occupation, accent, and case history of someone who has aggressively stalked you IRL: and remember we are not talking about some anonymous online troll, I mean someone with an active criminal history who has forced you to barricade yourself in a building, whilst being laughed at by your co-workers who find it all funny.

(That latter part, being laughed at for being scared and trying to get help to protect myself, is a wound that’s never healed.)

Nor do you forget that person’s details when part of your job involves accessing their paper medical records, contained in two paper folders each six centimetres thick and held together with clips and rubber bands because all they are biologically capable of doing is stalking for as long as they live,

and yes I am reiterating once again that I have no medical training, I had no background clearance or security check, I was given no instruction or support in that job, I had no data protection training despite having god-mode access to thousands of people’s lifetime medical histories, and I should not have been anywhere near those records, or the building, nevermind being put into direct patient contact, nevermind being stalked by the person in the data.

And yet I was somehow the “difficult” one for having a problem with this; and as for being stalked, I was just supposed to swallow that as a condition of a temp job and I’m sorry you feel that way is all I got.



Last week, I stumbled upon some online sleuthing speculating about the real-life identity of the stalker portrayed in a certain hit Netflix series; speculation which the individual herself has confirmed.

Can you imagine what it felt like for me to say to myself Oh. Wow. That’s her. That was her. That is her. That was the woman who stalked me?

I can assure you: no, you can’t.

Because my thoughts weren’t self-pity for myself.

My thoughts were: everyone in the system gave her every benefit of the doubt, and every bit of support they could offer, and no one in the system gave a damn about me, and so they let her get away with it and she kept on doing it and ten years later she did it to someone so badly he had to make a Netflix series about it, and god knows who else she’s harassed in those two decades, and what on earth is going to get her to stop?

So here’s the dilemma I’ve been wrestling with for the past week or so:

Do I, as someone who advocates for privacy so hard that I wrote a book about it, owe this woman any right to privacy?

Because being (as I said at the start) someone who can now see the half-century mark in front of me, there’s another question that I wonder about a lot too:

What about me?

When do I start being treated with the same kindness and compassion and humanity that others seem to take for granted but I somehow have to fight for, and always lose? What about me?

When do I get to speak up for myself, about my own hurt, and not be labelled “difficult” or “making a fuss”, while someone who hurts people on an industrial scale gets the benefit of the doubt and the compassion? What about me?

Yes, I know she’s unwell, but what about me?

Yes, she has a condition she can’t control, but what about me?

Yes, it’s great that we live in a society here in Scotland that allows people to be flawed human beings, but what about me?

Why do I have to stay silent about my own experiences, and my own hurt, because this is some sort of binary equation in which the other person always takes priority? What about me?

Why was I put in a situation, in the first place, where my rights – and dignity – were contingent on my employment and immigration statuses? What about me?

What if we lived in a world where the ability to pay your bills didn’t hang on going through useless and unqualified “recruitment consultants” at “recruitment agencies” (both terms belong in scare quotes) who only care about making the sale sale sale, and respond to your difficulties by tutting “well I’m sorry you feel that way” whilst quietly typing “DIFFICULT – DO NOT PLACE” in your database entry? What about me?

What if someone had thought “holy shit, she’s even stalking the temp” instead of laughing at the temp and taken steps that, in some alternative history timeline, meant she never crossed that man’s path, or anyone’s, ever again? What about him?

Why is everyone tiptoeing around her and her needs, rather than asking who else has she hurt? Who else has she done this to? What about them?

I’m going to continue wrestling with that dilemma, probably while talking to my garden vegetables, but I think if 2024 me could look back at 2004 me, this would be the advice I’d give her:

Privacy is a fundamental human right, and data protection is the means by which people’s privacy is secured.

And it’s great that you have that running through you like an electrical current, but a lot of people are going to spend the next couple of years taking the piss on you because of who you are, knowing that you don’t have the legal rights to stand up for yourself yet. But don’t confuse your lack of legal rights with a constraint on your dignity.

You do not owe privacy to someone who has aggressively sought to hurt you.

You do not owe privacy to someone who has hurt you and got away with it.

You are under no obligation to protect people who have failed to protect you.

You owe these people as much compassion, kindness, and consideration as they have given you,

which is fuck all.

So that’s my stance, and if you find that harsh, or inconsistent with my values as a privacy advocate, well, I’m sorry you feel that way.

sent from my iPhoen

Postscript: How To Social Engineer Your Way Into The NHS Database

Have you got a grudge, grievance or vendetta? Want to know more about the object of your affection and you won’t take no for an answer? Are you an obsessed fan? A bit of a stalker, even? Are you a racist, sexist, or violent criminal? Do you want to hit the jackpot on finding your targets’ most intimate personal data? Good news – it couldn’t be easier!

Just follow these ten simple steps:

  1. Look up your local “recruitment agencies” that have contracts for NHS placements.
  2. Pick an agency whose “recruitment consultants” gallery of professional portraits are pouting selfies indicating they’re all about 21 years old and thick as mince.
  3. Contact the agency, tell them you’re interested in admin temp work.
  4. Now here’s the critical step – mention your typing speed, which is obviously very fast.
  5. When you visit the agency to do your paperwork, slay your speed typing test.
  6. Mention you’d be well up for some typing work, like I don’t know medical transcription?
  7. Watch the pound signs appear in your recruitment consultant’s eyes as she realises she’s hit her sales target for the week by Wednesday #yougogirl #gratitude
  8. You may well find yourself sat in a desk in an NHS facility, logged in with someone else’s access because they don’t go through the faff of issuing logins to temps, with full read, write, and search capabilities to all the data on it, by the end of the day.
  9. Do your alleged job, smile, and be cheerful and chatty, and everyone around you will think och, they’re brilliant, so they are as you dive into the database, stalk your targets, and hit the jackpot.
  10. File your timesheet with the agency and get paid for your brilliance.

The Author

I’m a UK tech policy wonk based in Glasgow. I work for an open web built around international standards of human rights, privacy, accessibility, and freedom of expression. The content and opinions on this site are mine alone and do not reflect the opinions of any current or previous team.


  1. tfb says

    I think your conclusion is wrong, or rather, you are going after the wrong people.

    From what you’ve said this person is really seriously ill. If that’s true it’s not her fault that she does what she does and it is just as nasty to target her for it as it would be to target me for getting depressed or whatever.

    The people who have sacrificed their right to protection are the people who didn’t take it seriously, the people who laughed about you being targeted rather than actually doing something about it.

    On the other hand I’m not you, I know only the details here, and the bit about her suddenly going away, change of tone of voice &c gives me pause. Also nothing like this has happened to me so who am I to say anything?

    • So here’s my thought on why she needs to be targeted: this is essentially a Me Too type situation. You remember how that worked, where one woman would come out and say “that guy did this to me” and other women would read that and say “oh my god, me too” and it snowballed from there? (It’s how Manchester’s Harvey Weinstein got sent to Strangeways.) This woman is someone who already had a criminal record for stalking at the time she darkened my path. As I said, who else has she done this to, who doesn’t have a blog or a Netflix contract? Speaking up and saying “me too” may be the only thing that gets her the support she needs, more importantly, peace and quiet for everyone unfortunate enough to come into contact with her. To do that, people need to feel that they can speak up, and they should not be made to feel guilty that they’re being cruel to someone with a mental illness. It is not a crime to center yourself in your own experiences. It is a crime to stalk people.

      • tfb says

        Given ‘This woman is someone who already had a criminal record’ this convinces me: if you trust the legal system (which, given when and where we live may be a big if) then you’re right and I was wrong: she was not ill.

        So, I was wrong, I think. In any case, I know so little about this that my opinion is worth fuck all.

        • Don’t be hard on yourself; you’re thinking the same thing that most people are assuming about her, e.g. that she’s ill and in need of help. And there’s the rub. Yes she is ill but she is not fixable and no attempt to help her succeeds. Everyone in the health, social care, and law enforcement fields who tries to help her gets stalked themselves. Anyone naive enough to try to befriend her and hold her hand through the consequences of the show is going to get stalked themselves. God I hope no one’s doing that. But they will.

  2. Claire Worthington says

    I have a friend who came into contact with a very dangerous individual through their work and he’s ruined her life over and over ever since. Absolutely horrific

Comments are closed.