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Page last updated at 16:59 GMT, Monday, 12 March 2007

Murder in slow motion

Tania Moore
Tania Moore was murdered by an ex fiancee turned stalker

The UK is lagging far behind the USA in handling stalking cases, says the leader of a crack US team at the forefront of tackling stalkers.

Prosecutor Rachel Solov, who chairs San Diego's Stalking Strike Force, told BBC One's Panorama that in the US, stalking is treated as a serious crime.

She said it requires specialist training for police and prosecutors.

"The United Kingdom is 15 years behind us in the way we handle these cases," said Ms Solov.

"Even within the framework of the differing laws the UK could take what we have done here and establish something that could work in the United Kingdom.

She added: "The biggest misconception is that stalking happens only happens in Los Angeles among celebrities. It happens to ordinary people every day across the world."

Rachel Solov
If we can save one woman then we've done our job
Rachel Solov, chair Stalking Strike Force, San Diego

The Stalking Strike Force was established in 1994 and is run by the District Attorney's office in conjunction with San Diego Police.

The Strike Force was strengthened by the enactment of nation wide anti-stalking law in 1996 as part of the Violence against Women Act.

Chief of San Diego Police William Lansdowne told Panorama that the stalking unit was set up originally because of the number of tragic murders that had occurred in the city and in the state of California.

This caused the city authorities to rethink the way in which stalkers were viewed and treated by the criminal justice system.

"We've had some very tragic cases and it's because we hadn't taken enough notice that we have re-evaluated how we do business here," said Chief Landsdowne .

"Stalking is a very serious crime and the only way you're going to prevent the violence that comes with it is to identify the perpetrator quickly and then have the laws that enable you to be able to make a very quick arrest."

Chief Landsdowne added: "We have found now that we're not having the homicides that we had before we aggressively went after stalking.

"It is absolutely government¿s responsibility and law enforcement's responsibility to understand how serious stalking is, to respond to it quickly and to have the tools through the law and the courts to allow you to prevent it."

In the last three years only one person has been killed by a stalker in San Diego.

William Lansdowne
Stalking is a very serious crime and the only way you're going to prevent the violence that comes with it is to identify the perpetrator quickly
William Lansdowne, chief of police San Diego

Detective Robert Meisner who handles many stalking cases stresses the importance of swift action on the part of officers on the front line.

"There will be a threat assessment done immediately by the responding officer. We check has there been violence in the past? Has there been other cases where he's talked or assaulted women?

"If the officer feels there is an immediate need to get this stalker into custody, they will try to apprehend the criminal right then."

Deputy District Attorney Ms Solov, who is starting her fourth year of prosecuting just stalking cases, said: "There's a lot at stake because if we don't do our job right or we miss something someone's life is really in danger.

"If we can save one woman then we've done our job."

Stella Moore, whose daughter Tania was shot dead by her ex fiancé turned stalker traveled to San Diego with Panorama wanting to see if there were lessons which British police could learn about the handling of stalkers.

Stella Moore
Stella Moore believes stalking should be a distinct crime

Tania was murdered in March 2004 by Mark Dyche, who stalked her for 14 months, assaulting her and threatening to kill her.

Derbyshire Constabulary failed to investigate any of Tania's complaints thoroughly during that time and ignored the fact that he had a history of violence against women.

He was sentenced to life for her murder in 2005.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigated how Derbyshire Police had dealt with Tania¿s case, after her death.

IPCC Commissioner Amerdeep Somal concluded the police investigation was 'abysmal'.

She told Panorama that it was the first time in her professional career that she had used that word to describe the behaviour of any police force.

Mrs Moore is calling for the police and other agencies in the UK to define stalking clearly.

BBC reconstruction of Tania Moore murder
Tania Moore was murdered in 2004

"They are shying away from using the word stalking, they seem to want to use harassment or domestic violence.

"I seriously believe that eventually stalking will have its own identity - we have to give it a title and by giving it a title we will go forward," she said.

But Deputy Chief Constable Brian Moore who leads on domestic violence for the Association of Chief Police Officers, told her that the UK Protection from Harrassment Act, introduced in 1997, is sufficient to prosecute cases which involve stalking and that he believes that police forces have adequate guidelines and systems in place to protect potential victims.

Mr Moore also told Stella that cases such as her daughters are "regrettable tragedies but they are extremely small in number and we do a very good job in stopping the vast majority of harassment cases getting that way."

  • Murder in slow motion will be aired on BBC One and on this site on Monday 12 March at 2030.

    Murder in slow motion: Transcript
    15 Mar 07 |  Panorama
    Tania's family seek death penalty
    12 May 05 |  Derbyshire
    Man guilty of showjumper murder
    12 May 05 |  Derbyshire
    'Evil' man obsessed with revenge
    12 May 05 |  Derbyshire
    Detective sacked over Moore case
    01 Nov 06 |  Derbyshire

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