Lily Allen has given a candid interview with the Observer as she awaits the sentencing of her long-time stalker Alex Gray, opening up about how law enforcement failed her and how the ordeal left her “a changed person”.
The seven-year saga all started with a tweet. In 2009 Alex Gray created the twitter handle @lilyallenRIP – and claimed to have written Allen’s single The Fear. Shortly afterwards, she began to receive abusive rants, letters and suicide threats. “He would drop off these letters at my record company, my management offices, my sister’s shop, my flat,” recalls Allen.
Allen was understandably shocked, so much so that she reported the letters to law enforcement; “It was freaking me out a bit and I’m not easily scared, so the fact I went to the police with the letters shows how serious I felt it was. Alarm bells were ringing. But I felt comforted by the fact that I was telling the police, I was keeping a record.”
A short while later, Gray approached some of Allen’s colleagues, including her assistant – who then described him to her as “frightening… so I’d be looking at scruffy blokes on every street corner.” At a concert she called police after believing she had seen him in the audience. “I was on stage and someone holds up a banner saying, ‘I wrote The Fear’.” she said.
After an extended period with no news from police, she then received a call that did little to reassure her. “They just said, ‘Alex Gray is active again.’ I had no idea what that meant. I did all my own digging, got my own lawyer, put measures in place to protect my family. I didn’t even know what he looked like.”
Allen said she begged authorities for a photo of Gray, and although they initially refused she was eventually granted access to a photo. The whole incident left her feeling isolated. “I felt very alone. I have some trust issues now, not least with the police. Who can you trust if you cannot trust institutions like the police?”
The saga came to a head when a man broke into her home after Allen forgot to lock her back door. She was asleep in her room with a friend, whilst her kids slept in another room in the house. A loud banging noise woke her. “I sat up and looked and the door-handle was twisting round. This guy came steaming in and I didn’t know who he was. I recoiled and he ripped the duvet off, calling me a ‘fucking bitch’ and yelling about where his dad is.”
The man had an object concealed inside his jacket, which Allen still believes was a knife. The man was caught off guard when he found out she wasn’t alone, and her friend pushed him back out of the house whilst she ran to check on her kids. The police believed that it was simply a coincidence, but Allen doesn’t buy that, especially given that Gray’s sister had recently reported him missing in Scotland, and that Gray’s mother had forwarded an email from Gray to police that stated he was in London planning to murder a celebrity.
“For me, it was too much of a coincidence that the only night I had left the shutters up, this man came in. I believe he had been spending a lot of time out there in my garden, watching,” Allen said.
After police discovered that her handbag had been stolen, Allen says she found it increasingly difficult to convince them to consider the case stalking rather than a burglary. “For me, the burglary was like this insignificant thing compared to what he was doing to me and my life,” she said. “After about a week, I went out as I was due to DJ at an event. I hadn’t had any contact from police, I presumed they were actively searching for him; it’s now apparent to me that wasn’t the case. When I arrived home, my handbag was on the bonnet of my car outside my house. Burnt. Everything pulled out and cut up or burned and the bag burned.”
The British singer-songwriter admits she felt lost, and that police had left her out in the cold. “It’s difficult to articulate it when you have no definition, when the police are saying, ‘right, it’s burglary if you want this guy to get a prison sentence’, and you’re thinking, ‘but I don’t give a shit about my handbag. What I give a shit about is a man who is saying he wants to put a knife through my face”, she said.
A charge of harassment was finally added to Gray’s case, but it didn’t cover any actions before 2015. Additionally Allen says she has never received an apology or explanation for why the letters she reported to the police were not used, but were rather destroyed ‘according to police protocol’.
The whole incident has changed Allen, who has been left with ongoing irrational fears over similar incidences – and still sees Gray’s face on people in the street – “I’ve had to leave the flat I loved, move nearer a main road with lots of CCTV about,” she said. “It was not special attention I looked for. It was reassurance and validation. The police made me feel like a nuisance, rather than a victim.”
“He has a mental illness. The system has failed him” she said of Gray. She doesn’t blame her stalker either, but rather the same institutions that failed her, “until he gets the right treatment and the right help he needs, then I’m not safe,” she said.
Gray will be sentenced next month after he was convicted of burglary and harassment.