LONDON – Petrified Helen Pearson begged cops for help 120 times as she endured a five-year reign of terror at the hands of a stalker. But she claims police FAILED to take her seriously – until her tormentor stabbed her eight times in a churchyard, Daily Mirror reported.
Loner Joe Willis, 49, inflicted horrific wounds with a foot-long pair of scissors.
Helen, 34, from Exeter, was saved by a passer-by. The charity worker said: “The police had ample opportunity to catch him before he tried to kill me.”
Willis now faces a long jail sentence for attempted murder.
Helen answered a knock on her door one day – and was horrified to find a dead cat lying in a pool of blood on the mat.
It was the penultimate act in a terrifying stalking drama launched five years earlier by Willis.
During that time he had plagued her with hate-mail, vandalised her car and bike, bombarded her with menacing texts and daubed threatening graffiti outside her home – including the sick warning: “Die, Helen, die.”
Yet despite begging for help at least 120 times, cops failed to take the threats against her seriously enough.
And within a fortnight of the cat being dumped on Helen’s doorstep, stalker Joe Willis dragged the 34-year-old into a graveyard and stabbed her eight times with a pair of scissors.
She only survived because a heroic passer-by dragged him off her.
Willis, 49, is due to be sentenced at Exeter Crown Court in June after being convicted of attempted murder.
But Helen insists no jail sentence will ever be long enough to help her get over the emotional torture she endured at his hands.
She said: “Just because he’s locked away doesn’t mean my ordeal is over.
“I still get vivid flashbacks and every time my phone rings my heart beats out of my chest.
“The police had ample opportunity to catch him before he tried to kill me – they could have prevented this.
“The system needs to change and stalking needs to be taken seriously.
“If it wasn’t for the actions of that kind passer-by, I would not be here today.”
Helen’s life was turned upside down soon after she settled into a flat in Exeter in November 2008.
She had just moved out of her parents’ house and was relishing the independence of a place of her own and a new job working for a mental health charity.
She was keen to be on good terms with other people in the block, so when an elderly woman neighbour said her son Joe was sick, unemployed and lonely, Helen offered to help.
But she had a funny feeling about the bachelor from the start.
And even though they seemed to hit it off, she was certain there could never be any romance with him.
Despite her worries, Helen invited Willis to join her for a charity cycle ride.
He responded by asking her to go to a concert with him the following week.
Helen said: “It was out of the blue and because I wasn’t interested in him in that way I told him firmly no.
“On the night of the gig he rang me a few times but I didn’t answer.
“Next morning at 7am he was loitering outside the building.
“I almost felt like he’d been waiting for me – but I shrugged it off.”
She said Willis seemed drunk and demanded to know why Helen hadn’t gone to the concert with him and hadn’t returned his calls.
She went on: “He was slurring his words and smelt of booze.
“He kept asking why I didn’t answer the phone.
“I explained my mobile had been on silent and I’d told him before I wouldn’t be going to the gig.
“I even explained nicely but firmly nothing would happen between us.”
Helen soon forgot the incident. But within a couple of months, in January, her bike-tyres were slashed.
Helen assumed it was local yobs, especially since Willis was first on the scene to help her fix them.
A week later she came home to find her front door locks filled with glue.
She began to worry – and reported the incident to the police.
But she claims they told her the crime wasn’t serious enough to warrant an investigation.
Worse was to come. In April she had to change her mobile number after a string of abusive texts and calls.
She said: “I found out there was an advert selling sex in a phone box with my number on it.
“Then a plant pot was stolen from outside my flat.
“By now I had the feeling someone was out to get me.”
She reported each incident and even suggested Willis as a suspect.
But she said police repeatedly asked her if Willis was an old flame and told her he was unlikely to be the guilty party unless he was. The texts, which began in May, were packed with vile four-letter insults and many of them urged her to self-harm.
Helen started recording the incidents and her calls to police in a log that eventually covered two dozen pages.
She did it because she was convinced Willis was poised to turn violent.
By June she had quit her job and was almost a recluse in her flat.
On the rare occasions she managed to pluck up courage to venture out, she would find her car-tyres lacerated or the bodywork vandalised.
From this point onwards, hardly a week passed without a new torment.
But whenever Helen saw Willis, he acted as if nothing was going on.
And she decided the best course of action was to ignore him.
Helen recalled: “He was so casual about it and even sidled up to my mum one day and asked her why I wasn’t speaking to him.
“She advised me it was best to act as though I didn’t suspect anything in case he took his anger out even more.” In August 2010 a terrifying letter was delivered to Helen’s home.
The unsigned note read: “I want to play a game. So far all you’ve had done has been damage to your property. I therefore wish to see how well you’d cope if you were attacked in person. Would you fight back, scream? Let the game begin.”
Days later the words “DIE HELEN” were daubed in blood-red paint across a neighbour’s door.
The letter was one of 23 – many with death threats – sent to her, her parents and even some of her friends.
Cops agreed the stalker must live near her.
But Helen said they continued to insist it couldn’t be Willis because he wasn’t an ex-lover.
She also claimed they ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him and admitted they had no officers who had experience in tackling stalkers.
Helen added: “I often got the impression they were trying to imply I was doing all this to myself. It didn’t help that every time I reported an incident I got a new reference number and spoke to a different officer.
“The reports were never looked at as a whole, which meant the police weren’t getting the bigger picture.”
In September 2010 her parents’ motor was vandalised and her own tyres were slashed again.
In all, Helen and her family ended up spending £9,000 on car repairs.
She said: “There came a point when I realised he wasn’t going to stop at me.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of putting my parents in any more danger, so I stopped
“We didn’t talk on the landline as we couldn’t be sure no one was listening in, so we’d call in the middle of the night to throw him off.
“In hindsight, I realise he was manipulating me to cut myself off from everyone. He wanted to get me on my own.”
Two months later – having already clocked up nearly 70 reports to police – Helen hired a private eye to put Willis under surveillance.
But the plan backfired because the stalker stayed away and Helen didn’t renew the contract.
In January 2011 Helen came home to find the words “rat face” emblazoned across the door of her bike-shed in red paint.
She managed to convince police to keep watch in an unmarked car in a bid to snare Willis. But Helen said the uniformed cops drove off halfway through the stake-out.
She added: “I was furious – if Joe had been watching he’d have seen what we were trying to do.
“They completely scuppered any chances of catching him in the act.” Four months later “DIE HELEN DIE” was spray-painted on the pavement near her home.
And after that she’d be woken in the night by smashed windows and knocks on the door at least twice a week.
Helen said: “You can’t imagine how much it takes over your life – living in fear, constantly wondering when he’s going to strike and if he’ll kill you.
“And I wasn’t able to turn to the police because they had no idea how to deal with my case.”
There was no let-up in the nerve-shredding catalogue of glued locks, vandalised cars and abusive graffiti over the next two years.
But it moved into horrifying new territory last September with the dead cat – whose owners remain a mystery.
Two Mondays later Willis finally pounced on Helen herself.
She recalled: “I felt a stabbing pain in my back.
“The sheer force of it pushed me to the ground and I was in total shock. As I turned I saw it was Joe – and he stabbed me again.
“He was staring blankly at me and my pleas for him to stop seemed to spur him on.
“It was like he was getting strength from my screams.”
Brandishing a foot-long pair of dressmaking scissors, the fiend dragged her into a local graveyard and launched another frenzied attack, stabbing her in the back, neck and head and missing her jugular vein by a hair’s breadth before the brave passer-by dashed to her rescue.
Helen said: “I was certain Joe was going to kill me and stuff my body into one of the graves.
“I kept thinking about my parents and how they might never find me.
“He kept punching me in the ribs and face and stabbing me over and over again.
“Next thing I knew he’d rolled off me and I took my opportunity to run.
“It was only later I heard a passer-by had pushed him off, saving my life.
“I ran as fast as I could to my gym where they called an ambulance.”
Doctors said one lung was full of blood and she was lucky to be alive.
Now Helen has made an official complaint about the way she claims she was ignored by cops.
She said: “The warning signs were loud and clear for five years.
“Police must take stalking seriously – and have specially trained officers to deal with these violent, distressing crimes.”
Police confirmed a complaint has been received and said it meant they could not comment further.