'I was walking as fast as I could': Woman describes being followed by stranger in Vancouver
Published Friday, March 19, 2021 6:17PM PDT Last Updated Friday, March 19, 2021 6:44PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- Jamie Coutts had just finished doing her grocery shopping Wednesday evening and was walking home, when she felt like someone was following her.
“I first noticed he was following me between Keefer Street and Keefer Place,” she said. “I decided to film so I could see how close behind me he was and what he was doing.”
Shortly after noticing, she stopped walking and told the man he could pass, but he just “stared” at her.
“I said, ‘You’re walking too close to me,’” she recalled, adding that the man didn’t do or say anything.
The entire incident lasted about 40 minutes, Coutts said, explaining how she tried to test if he was actually following her by walking around the block several times in a circle. The man was always behind her.
“I was walking as fast as I could,” Coutts said.
Eventually she ran into a group at the skate park and she went over to them to ask if she could sit with them until the man left. Coutts reported the incident to police once she felt safe.
“I think in this circumstance, we saw a woman being very resourceful, both by creating evidence, but also creating a witness,” said Angela Marie Macdougall, director of Battered Women’s Support Services. “It is not to be taken lightly, at all.”
Vancouver police are investigating the incident.
“Thanks to this victim who’s made this very scary situation known, we have other victims that have come forward and we are investigating (those) as well,” said Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin. “We will continue to do so.”
One woman who believes she was followed by the same man also spoke with CTV News.
Dara Parker and her partner had taken their dog for a walk when she realized they were being followed.
“It was really creepy,” Parker said. “He just kept following us.”
That happened back in October, and Parker said she has not reported it to police yet. Parker said when she saw the post from Coutts, both she and her partner immediately believed it was the same man.
“I’m just so disappointed by the comments on social media, but especially disappointed by people who are critiquing and dismissing a woman who both in the moment was trying to secure her safety and other people,” said Parker. “When you’re in an emergency situation, your judgment is compromised.”
Macdougall said incidents like this can be quite isolating.
“The stats tell us, and we’ve had some research in Canada within the last 10 years, where at least 80 women and girls have experienced being followed by a stranger,” she said. “It is an ongoing reminder of just how much gender-based violence is happening.”
A report released this week by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability shows in that 2020, 160 women were killed in violent incidents in Canada, which is up from 146 in 2019. In 128 of last year’s deaths, the suspect was a man.
“We’ve had a regression over the last year in 2020 under COVID-19, which has created the conditions which have really allowed gender-based violence to thrive,” said Macdougall.
The best way to get past it, she said, is to have these conversations and fund programs for women.
That’s something Coutts agrees with.
"I think that we need more support for women and more outreach programs,” she said.
Coutts told CTV News Friday’s interview was the first time she’d left her house since the incident happened Wednesday afternoon. She said that right now, she doesn’t feel comfortable leaving her house and is hoping someone will recognize the man and come forward.
Vancouver police want anyone who may know who the man is – or who thinks they may have been followed by him – to contact them.