Bus driver who was stalked by a passenger for six years fears she will eventually try to kill him
How do you define when someone is being too clingy? It's a difficult question to answer - not least because it differs for everyone. Some people need plenty of time before they can trust and care for another person properly, while other people can fall in love at a glance and are comfortable sharing virtually anything immediately. But there's a very fine line between infatuation and obsession, between an interest in someone's life and full-blown harrassment. This is what happens when a crush turns ugly, and a lover becomes a stalker.
Nobody knows this better than Hungarian bus driver Imre Marton, whose life has been "ruined" over the last six years by a violent and aggressive stalker named Charlie Howells. Howells has bombarded him with messages, followed him around constantly, and threatened to kill him so many times that he know wears a stab proof vest on the rare occasions when he leaves the house.
The trouble first started back in 2012, when Howells was just a shy passenger on Imre's bus who confessed her love to him after he finished a shift. Imre, who had never even spoken to Howells before, politely yet firmly turned her down. She did not take the rejection well, and burst into hysterical tears. Imre was weirded out, but assumed that the matter was over.
He assumed wrong. Howells began sending Imre hundreds of Facebook messages a day, often from multiple accounts, and flooded his inbox with paragraph after paragaph of adoration. She somehow managed to obtain his phone number, and called and sent thousands of texts over a period of months. When Imre ignored her things only escalated. Howells began following Imre found, or would attempt to get on his bus (even though Oxfordshire busses had already banned her from travelling on their services).
The more this went on the more angry and unstable her behaviour became. She began telling other passengers that she planned to stab Imre in the neck, and would try to smell him or make bodily contact with him. Imre was forced to change jobs to try and escape her, taking a sizeable pay cut. But she still managed to track him down again, and soon Imre was calling the police and emergency services every day.
All this culminated in Howells being arrested after screaming threats at Imre in the street, and she was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison on charges of harassment and breach of her restraining order. Despite this, she still continually sent him messages from prison about her self-harming and suicide attempts, and after he appeared in a TV documentary about victims of talking, her threats got even more intense; since her release, her behaviour has not changed one iota.
In an interview about his experiences, Imre stated: "I am sure that one day she will kill me. It’s the end goal for her. Her mission is for us to die together,” said Imre, who moved from Oxford in January, but is too scared to reveal his current location. I take no comfort in her getting three years in prison, it just gives her more time to plan what she is going to do next – and that terrifies me. I never feel safe. I know she won’t stop and this is never going to end. I don’t trust her. I am living in fear, always looking over my shoulder. She would do anything to achieve her goal – for us to die together."
Howells has been jailed again for stalking, this time for three years. But sadly, Imre still doesn't feel safe. He has lost his girlfriend as a result of Howell's incessant campaign against him, and is now too poor to afford to move back to Hungary. "I don’t think it will stop her, it never has before," he stated. "Stalking is being taken seriously, but the sentencing is not long enough. Three years, again, is nothing for Charlie Howells. It gives her more time to plan."
If you'd like to help Imre return home, you could consider donating to his GoFundMe page. If you or anyone else you know has been a victim of stalking, then please visit Paladin (the national stalking advocacy service) for help and further advice.