A STALKING victim has spoken out to urge people to report harassment to the police - even low-level complaints.

Judith - not her real name - started to be bombarded with unwanted messages after meeting a man at a York social group.

She has taken the brave move to share details of her ordeal with The Press, after latest crime figures showed stalking and harassment offences in North Yorkshire rose by 75 per cent last year, and the police launched a new campaign to combat the crime.

Judith lives in a village on the outskirts of York and met William - not his real name - at a social group in York in 2014.

Although she didn't give him her contact details, he managed to get hold of them and began pestering her with unwanted messages.

Judith, who is now 79, said: “They were things like ‘I love you’, ‘I want to be with you’, that kind of thing. We were just casual friends in a social group. I was a bit surprised. I responded at first and said ‘can you stop sending me messages, I don’t want this kind of thing’. His response was to just send more messages.

“I stopped replying and was just deleting all the messages. I thought eventually he might lose interest. But then I got a message to say he had my address, he had Googled my house and said he wanted to come over and see me. I felt quite panicked. Up until then I was annoyed, but when I got that message, I felt quite alarmed. That’s what sent me to the police, I thought it had to stop.”

Officers visited William, and the messages stopped. But in 2016, out of the blue, William started contacting Judith again.

She said: “In two days I got 38 messages on my phone. In a way, that was helpful to the police. I remember showing them to the policewoman and she was shocked at the amount. I had put him completely out of my mind, then felt annoyed - ‘here we go again’. I didn’t respond to any of them this time, just contacted the police. They sent a female officer in an unmarked car and plain clothes and I was very pleased that that was quite discreet. I didn’t have to have the neighbours thinking I had been breaking the law.”

During the visit, police told Judith “we’ll sort it out, leave it to us”, and the messages stopped again.

Judith said she later found out William had made unwanted physical advances on another member of the social group.

She said she would “definitely advise people in similar positions to phone police”, and praised how “discreet and efficient” the force was. Judith decided to speak to The Press after police launched a harassment campaign.

She said: “There may be a lot of people who hesitate to go to the police and don’t feel it’s a serious crime whereas some person you hardly know turning up on the doorstep can be quite distressing.

“It’s definitely worth contacting the police, even if you’re not sure. I feel in my case it could have escalated and could’ve become much more of a nuisance than it already was. I feel it’s better to catch it at an early stage.

“I think the police did a brilliant job. I didn’t know what to expect from them, I just thought I would contact them and see if they could help. I thought they might have thought it was too insignificant and was quite surprised when they took it up straight away.”

Detective Superintendent Allan Harder, from North Yorkshire Police, is leading the latest stalking awareness campaign, and praised Judith for speaking up.

He said: “Judith did absolutely the right thing contacting the police as soon as she had concerns about her stalker’s behaviour. The continuous bombardment of messages she received, whilst not threatening, was unwanted, obsessive and caused her alarm and distress. This was clearly a case of stalking and no one should have to live with it.

“If someone’s behaviour is affecting you, you might think it’s not serious enough to report it but if you tell us, or contact one of the dedicated organisations that we work with, we can make those links for you and put steps in place to keep you safe – whatever it is that’s happened. Experiencing stalking is very distressing, can escalate to something more serious very quickly and can cause psychological trauma to victims - the risk of which should not be underestimated. I’d like to personally thank Judith for having the courage to share her experience and encouraging those in a similar position to come forward , even for things that may seem insignificant or trivial to others.”