Results from a six month investigation of more than 350 homicides, has found a strong link between some key stalking behaviors and murders.
The research, which was conducted at the University of Gloucestershire in the UK, and titled, Exploring the Relationship Between Stalking and Homicide, found that when the intention behind the stalking was identified, managing the fixation could lead to countless lives being saved.
Criminologists found that staking was present in 94 percent of the cases they looked at, including covert watching, which occurred in 63 percent of the circumstances.
Other triggers highlighted related to the control that the stalker had over their victim, as well as threats to kill.
26-year-old nurse Jane Clough from the UK was stalked by her ex-partner and subsequently stabbed to death in June 2010.
Her ex-partner, Jonathan Vass, had been stalking her, and she had even predicted her own death in her diary.
Her parents, John and Penny Clough, have been fighting for tougher action on stalkers since her death.
"Stalkers actually terrorize their subjects, they are serial perpetrators. Once they move on from one victim they will go for another," Mr. Clough said.
"People are still living in fear. People are being convicted of stalking, but the penalties seem to be nothing more than a slap on the wrist and they are getting away with it," Mr. Clough added.
Dr. Jane Monckton Smith, a former police officer turned criminologist, who worked on the research, discovered that in almost every case the killer displayed obsessive behavior and became fixated on their victim.
Social media & the internet can be used for stalking & harassment. 'Cyber-stalking’ or online threats can be just as intimidating. #Stalking— VS Surrey (@VS_Surrey) April 24, 2017
The researchers also found that stalking doesn't always involve following or watching someone — it can also be as simple as rearranging a victims garden furniture, sending unwanted gifts, loitering on a pavement or even calling the victims phone and leaving malicious messages.
Dr. Monckton Smith is calling on professionals across the criminal justice system to review their approach to assessing risk, so that the 1.1 million people who end up being victims of stalking on a yearly basis, can be offered greater protection.
"Practically every case we looked at featured examples of the obsessive, fixated behavior that typifies stalking," Dr. Smith said in a recent interview.
"Sadly, it is too late for the women and children that formed part of our research so we need to do justice to their memory by acting earlier, when stalkers are demonstrating these behaviors, rather than waiting for the escalation, which can have such profound and tragic results. Understanding the motivation behind these behaviors, and the risk that they present, is profoundly important," Dr. Smith added.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust, which runs the National Stalking Helpline, is calling on the courts to recognize stalking as a broader problem and pattern of behavior.
Dr. Jane Monckton Smith has joined us today to tell us about her recent study and review of domestic homicide and it's relation to stalking. pic.twitter.com/l484q64USd— Hollie Gazzard Trust (@HollieGazzardT) April 24, 2017
Chief executive of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Rachel Griffin, said that stalking is an obsession and this can increase in risk, leading to deadly consequences.
"Acting on what are currently considered to be minor, unrelated incidents, but which are driven by a malicious intent which could later put the victim at great risk, could help to save lives," Dr. Smith added.
The charity is currently working with three police forces and NHS trusts to pilot intervention programs that focus on the fixation of the stalker.
Campaigners are calling on the government to implement changes within the criminal justice system, to ensure the safety of victims is put first.