A Vancouver woman is speaking out about a frightening experience after she was followed closely by a strange man for more than half an hour.
Jamie Coutts filmed much of the encounter and said her stalker didn’t appear phased by the camera at all.
It happened around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday near Keefer and Columbia streets on the edge of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside as Coutts was returning home from running some errands downtown.
“I noticed somebody was following me really closely behind, and so I actually just veered off the path so I could let him move and pass me, and he stopped as soon as I stopped,” she said.
“So I said to him, ‘You’re walking too close to me.’ And he didn’t say anything, so I decided to keep walking. And that’s when I noticed he was still walking, but instead about five feet behind me.”
Coutts said she decided to walk a few laps around the block to make sure the man was actually following her, and when she realized he was, she took out her phone and began recording.
She used the phone to keep an eye on him behind her as the man continued to follow her through the neighbourhood.
“He saw, he looked right at the camera. He didn’t care at all,” she said.
Coutts initially considered finding a bank where she could speak with a security guard, but with evening setting in she started trying to think of other places that might have lots of people.
She settled on the crowded skateboard park underneath the Dunsmuir Viaduct, where she sat down with a group of people she didn’t know.
The man stood about five feet away staring at her, before eventually walking away.
Coutts said in retrospect she should have phoned police, but that in the stress of the moment her priority was getting somewhere safe and staying ahead of her pursuer.
“I actually didn’t really think about it until I posted on social media and people started saying it to me, too. It’s so funny how for some reason, our brains don’t go there right away when we’re put in kind of a dangerous situation.”
Coutts has since reported the incident to Vancouver police, who say they are investigating.
“What I can tell you is we are reviewing the circumstances of this incident … as part of any investigation of this nature what we do is we will look at the circumstances and the MO as well as a suspect description, and we will assess to determine if there are any other incidences in Vancouver or elsewhere in the region that could be linked,” Sgt. Steve Addison said.
“I’m aware that there other people who have commented on social media that they’ve had similar interactions either with this person or with a person who appears similar to this, and we encourage those people to phone us, make a police report.”
Coutts said she’s also encouraged the women who commented to contact police.
She’s also speaking out in the hopes of alerting other women to be careful and to raise awareness about the reality of what women face.
“Right now I’m a little bit nervous, but moreso disappointed, because with everything going on right now and the COVID restrictions, there aren’t really a lot of opportunities to leave the house and get fresh air,” she said.
“When I go outside and I walk and I go to the store, I go to the gym, I really enjoy that time and I don’t drive — I live downtown so I can walk places, and I feel like I’m kind of at least temporarily taken away from me.