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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
'Infatuated' student harassed Greer
Germaine Greer
Germaine Greer: injured during the attack
A student has been given two years' probation after admitting harassing the feminist icon Germaine Greer in her home.

Karen Burke, from Wollaton, Nottingham, and a student at Bath University, admitted the offence when she appeared before magistrates in Harlow, Essex.

She was ordered not to contact Ms Greer or go within five miles of her home near Saffron Walden, Essex.

Originally Burke had been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm and with false imprisonment. But those charges were dropped and replaced with the harassment charge.

The court was told Burke sent unwanted and distressing letters to Ms Greer, 61, and went to her home near Saffron Walden, Essex, on three days in April.

Unwanted visits

Dinah Walters, prosecuting, said Burke, who was studying Italian, German and European studies, was a woman of previous good character.

She said Burke had begun writing to Ms Greer in connection with her work.

The author, who is also professor of English at Warwick University, wrote back asking for the correspondence to stop.

But the letters continued and Burke arrived at Ms Greer's home on the afternoon of 21 April. The writer had not met her before and was not expecting her, the court heard.

Miss Walters said: "She (Ms Greer) gathered from the conversation that Karen Burke was infatuated with her and wished to adopt her as some form of spiritual mother figure."

Burke continued to make unwanted visits to Ms Greer's home and the police were eventually called in to remove her, the court heard.

She was released by police and went back to Ms Greer's house the following day, Miss Walters said.

'Mummy, don't do that'

"(Ms Greer) was about to leave her home to go to a dinner engagement when Karen Burke approached her outside the house," said Miss Walters.

Germaine Greer's home
Germaine Greer's home in Great Chesterford, Essex
"Professor Greer in fact screamed and turned to go back into the house. She was intending to call the police.

"But Karen Burke jumped on to Germaine Greer's back shouting out, `Mummy, Mummy, don't do that'."

Miss Walters said Ms Greer tried to get back into her house but Burke held on.

A two-hour struggle, during which both women were injured, took place.

It was interrupted when Ms Greer's friends arrived, concerned that she had not turned up for the dinner party.

"They found Miss Burke holding on to Professor Greer by the legs and screaming," said Miss Walters.

"Professor Greer was obviously in a state of distress."

I get letters from desperate people every day of my life

Germaine Greer
Burke, who told police she saw Ms Greer as a motherly figure, admitted her actions had been "extremely stupid".

She said: "I don't know what got into me. I just wanted to get all this stuff out of my head. It is an emotional thing. I wanted to hug her."

Stuart Barlow, defending, said Burke had willingly agreed to medical treatment and would undertake "whatever was required".

'Not afraid'

Speaking shortly after the incident itself, Ms Greer said she did not regard herself as the victim.

She said she had received constant attention, some of it hostile, since becoming a household name 30 years ago following publication of her work The Female Eunuch.

"I refuse to be afraid. I get letters from desperate people every day of my life and we deal with them as we think fit," she said.

"It is one of the penalties of being a public figure, which I don't particularly enjoy, but it is a responsibility and I do try to discharge it to the best of my ability."

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See also:

27 Apr 00 | UK
Greer shrugs off assault
27 Apr 00 | UK
Greer's life at the edge
28 Dec 99 | Americas
Is feminism relevant in 2000?
24 Nov 99 | Meet the panel
Dr Germaine Greer, feminist writer
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