Report — From the February 2014 issue

A God More Powerful Than I

Understanding a stalker’s love

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In the spring of 1796, a young Cambridge graduate named Charles Valentine Le Grice moved down to Cornwall to become a tutor. His friends were dismayed. Le Grice had prospects. He was close to Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Charles Lamb. He also had a sweetheart in London. “Le Grice is gone to make puns in Cornwall,” Lamb wrote to Coleridge. “He has cut Miss Hunt completely: the poor girl is very ill on the occasion; but he laughs at it.”

The job in Cornwall sounded rotten: a sickly boy on an estate called Trereife, just outside the fishing harbor of Newlyn, about as far west in England as you could possibly go. The attraction, Le Grice’s friends surmised, must be the mother, a nobleman’s widow. “He will, of course, initiate himself quickly in ‘whatsoever things are honest, lovely, and of good report,’ ” wrote Lamb. Le Grice did just that. He married Mary Nicholls in 1799 and became a curate. He spent the rest of his life writing sermons, essays about fishing nets, and iffy poems about the glories of England’s westernmost tapering: “O! Land of yellow ling, and powdr’d hake! / O! Cornucopia of clouted cream . . . ” His pupil died of “ossification of the body,” in 1815, and the only issue of the new marriage, Day Perry Le Grice, inherited Trereife instead.

Illustrations by Andrea Dezsö

Illustrations by Andrea Dezsö

Jeremy Le Grice, a descendant of the lost poet, moved into a set of lofts at the back of the manor house at Trereife in the mid-1990s with his wife, Lyn. The estate, which had shrunk since the eighteenth century, was owned by a cousin. Over the years, Jeremy and Lyn had made a habit of refurbishing old farms and barns, partly to suit their work (he was a painter and needed the space for his canvases; she was an interior designer), and partly to suit their large family: they already had five children between them, from earlier marriages, when they became a couple in 1970. Their only child together was born the following year. They named him Jude.

Jude grew up to become a singer. He sang a glorious bass in church choirs, and when he was not singing, he cut down trees. He was huge and curly-haired, a man of the outdoors. He followed his impulses, which were romantic and historical and all his own. He did not seem to be leading a modern European life. He spent years living on a roof in Rome. He rescued people from earthquakes. He was in a shipwreck. A friend said the only expression he had ever heard that described Jude adequately was in French, and it meant “clown of God.”

But Jude’s life went terribly wrong. He has spent much of the past decade locked up in psychiatric wards. He fell in love with a girl, pursued her relentlessly, and was prosecuted as a stalker. Refusing to recant his love, Jude disappeared deeper and deeper into Britain’s mental-health system. To his family and to people who had known him a long time, it was obvious that a grave injustice had occurred.

I heard this story from a friend in the summer of 2009 and wrote to Jeremy and Lyn soon afterward. They invited me to Trereife and I spent the day with Jeremy in their drawing room, next to an old rocking horse, talking about his son. “He thinks in very epic ways,” Jeremy said. “This is the difficulty.” He and Lyn decided it was too risky for me to write an article about Jude. They didn’t want to do anything that might jeopardize his release from hospital, which they believed could happen at any time.

Two years later, however, I got an email from Lyn. “Developments with Jude are not progressing,” she wrote. For the first time, she and Jeremy were beginning to lose hope that Jude might ever be free. Under British law, he was allowed to appeal his hospitalization once a year. Every year, he tried to do so. But each appeal was a significant undertaking: new psychiatric reports had to be drawn up and a tribunal of doctors and judges assembled at the hospital. In an age of funding cuts and apparently limitless bureaucratic incompetence, these had become almost impossible to organize. But Jude’s next tribunal was in late September, and Jeremy and Lyn wanted me to come.

We arrived at the hospital, on the edge of the ancient Cornish town of Bodmin, at ten o’clock in the morning. Bright-green fields lay to the west. We were shown into a waiting room whose aesthetic horror seemed almost contrived. “These dreadful blinds one gets accustomed to,” Jeremy assured me. He and Lyn sat down on a red sofa. There was a power outlet between their heads.

We waited and waited. The tribunal was delayed, and then canceled. Someone had forgotten to invite one of the judges. (By Lyn’s reckoning, hearings of Jude’s case had been postponed fifteen times in the previous three years.) No one knew how Jude would react. In the past he had responded to such setbacks by refusing to take his medication, or by abusing the limited freedoms he had accrued — the intricate constructed steps by which he was supposedly being reintroduced into normal society — by going into Bodmin to drink.

Illustrations by Andrea Dezsö

Today he was not even surprised. When his parents, followed by two female nurses, led him out from his ward into the sunlight, he appeared resigned to the delay.

Since adolescence, Jude has been physically imposing — tall and very broad. In his twenties, years of forestry work made him resemble a socialist-realist statue. Now aged forty, and softened by antipsychotic drugs and years of inactivity, Jude was on the heavy side. But he had dressed up for the judges: he was wearing pale-blue trousers, a cream-colored jacket, and a shirt of blue and pink checks. His beard was freshly trimmed and there was color in his cheeks. He looked like a small giant on his way to a country wedding.

To atone for the botched tribunal, Jude’s supervisors allowed him to leave the hospital for a few hours. We went for lunch at a nearby pub. A Liverpudlian nurse named Phil, with tattoos on his neck, came to keep an eye on Jude. As we ate, Jude said that he wished he had just been given a prison sentence rather than having to go through this eternal, interrupted appeals process. “I think I would have been a lot more productive,” he said.

After lunch, we went for a short walk along the nearby path of an old railway track. Jude and I fell into step on the sunken line, under a canopy of leaves showing the first signs of autumn. This was the first of around a dozen conversations I would have with him over the following months in which he tried to describe the vast bedevilment of love that had reduced his life to its current confusing state.

Talking to Jude is an unusual experience. He looks you in the eye but speaks slowly, with a circumlocutory quality. You are tempted to finish his sentences but you learn not to, because you realize that you can rarely anticipate what he wants to say or the often rather formal words he will choose. Jude once told me that, as a boy, he played “at a vast radius from the house.” He gives you travel directions as if you might be a hobbit. “You climb up all the mountains and you go straight into Wales,” was how he told me to find a town where he once lived.

That day, Jude looked at the branches above our heads and wondered aloud whether it would be a mast year — a bumper harvest of nuts and fruit. He said that he had been thinking about what to say to me and was feeling overwhelmed by all the connections, all the associations, all the context he wanted to explain. “If my particular story is told,” he said, “where do you take it from?” Did it start with the westward migration of Charles Valentine? What about the death of Jude’s grandfather in the early months of the Second World War? And what of Cornwall’s industrial decline? “I’m a bit wary of pressing those buttons, really,” he said.

It was time for him to go back to the hospital. Phil was standing by a white van. “It’s going to be hard for me this afternoon,” said Jude. He took Lyn’s head in his hands and put his forehead against hers. They said goodbye. “They’re not going to let me out, Mum. That is the reality.” Phil tooted the horn as they drove up the hill.

Jude and school never got on. He was diagnosed with dyslexia at an early age. But there was something else as well. Jude decided that the world was divided into people who obeyed teachers and people — his people, the lively ones, the characters — who did not. Being diligent in lessons meant that you didn’t have any other ideas.

After Jude dropped out, at the age of fifteen, Jeremy and Lyn asked a local woodsman, Peter Perry, to take him on as an apprentice. Cornwall is not naturally blessed with forests. The soil is often too thin, the winds too severe. But Perry managed an old woodland in a valley, called Trelowarren, on Cornwall’s southern heel, whose oaks, ashes, sweet chestnuts, and Douglas firs were of sufficient scale to impress the young man. After the oppression and confusion of academic study, Jude exulted in the dignity of working on the land. He fell into the life of a tree worker.

Trelowarren was owned by another old family of Cornish gentry, friends of Jude’s parents. He was awed by his eighteenth-century ancestors and what he perceived as a lost confidence to mold landscapes — something that impressed him all the more as he cleared fallen trees from several estates after a series of storms in the late 1980s. “Smashing your way through,” he recalled, “and suddenly dawning on you what these places were.” He was aware of the fundamental tension in the identity he was forming for himself — an artist’s son, a Le Grice, working as a laborer. He joined the miners and farmers on the local rugby team at St Just, rowed in pilot gigs (a form of brutal open-sea rowing in Cornwall), cultivated a more rural accent, and he sang.

And when he sang, the contradictions in his life seemed to dissolve: simple songs to begin with — songs from the tin mine in St Just, sea chanteys, hymns — sung with other men and lots to drink. Jude would join crowds in pubs, singing round a piano, and in the combination of their voices with his, he found an intense sense of belonging. In the mid-1990s, he spent months in Rhosllannerchrugog, a Welsh mining village with a rich musical tradition (there are four male choirs in a town of 9,500 people). He was handed a sheet of Latin for the first time. It was Cherubini’s Requiem in C minor. Jude picked up the music by ear, and suddenly the feeling was like wading into those storm-damaged gardens. “This felt like something I was more natural to. This was my father’s music.”

Jude’s friends and family noticed that, in contrast to his frequently scattered and elliptical thinking, his singing voice was precise and gentle. “It is creativity,” Jeremy told me. “Raw creativity.” In 1996, when Jude was twenty-five, his parents arranged for him to meet Ben Luxon, an internationally known opera singer from Cornwall.

“It was the strangest experience for me,” Luxon told me. A baritone and former member of Benjamin Britten’s English Opera Group, Luxon had seen his career end prematurely after he contracted a rare form of cancer that wrecked his hearing. Following chemotherapy and a few failed comebacks, Luxon had returned to Cornwall for good.

When Jude visited him for the first time, Luxon could not make him sing. Instead, the young man wanted to talk — about his experience of music, about pubs, trees, and a new notion of going to study in Italy. But the conversation was tortuous. “Jude would speak for a while,” said Luxon. “I would ask him a question and then everything would stop.” Jude’s mind seemed to run wildly but rigidly, on rails that were discernible only to him.

Finally, though, Luxon got Jude to sing a hymn, and it was true, the voice was wonderful. He agreed to teach Jude, but the lessons proved frustrating for both: Jude would take weeks to learn what other singers picked up in an hour. “I very quickly realized that if there is a God, he is very cruel,” Luxon told me. “Because this is a beautiful voice, okay? He has quite an exceptional, beautiful, young bass voice. But he cannot learn.”

In the end, Luxon decided that Jude’s learning disabilities were so severe that he would never have a professional career. To help him understand the rigors of training as a singer, Luxon brought Jude to a weeklong opera master class run by his former wife, Sheila Amit, at Canterbury Christ Church University, in July of 1998. “I assumed — this is the real mistake I made — I assumed he would realize this was all beyond him,” said Luxon. “But I totally misjudged his way of thinking and his mind. And that, of course, is where he met Rebecca.”

The master class was on The Marriage of Figaro. Every few months, Sheila Amit — like her ex-husband a former opera singer — would invite a handful of her pupils in Canterbury to focus intensively on a single work.

Amit had given the part of Cherubino, the page boy, to a mezzo-soprano in her early twenties named Rebecca Norton. Unusually, Rebecca wasn’t in the music program at Christ Church. She was a drama student at the University of Kent, another college in the city, but she had tracked Amit down after walking past her house on a summer’s evening the previous year and hearing an aria through the open window.

Amit heard Rebecca sing and took her on straightaway. Although she was studying theater, Rebecca had been immersed in music all her life. Both her parents were musicians (her father a cellist, her mother a singer), and the house where she grew up, in the western English county of Dorset, had been filled with Bach oratorios and the uncertain scrapings of children at cello lessons.

Rebecca was excited to be whisked into the world of Amit’s elite young singers, but in her bones she suspected that she did not have the exquisite vocal talent of some of the other pupils, many of whom were older. This unease deepened when she began to learn her arias for the master class. In The Marriage of Figaro, Cherubino falls madly, comically in love with the Countess, his mistress. The adolescent boy, always played by a woman, spends most of his time mooning around and hiding from the Count in cupboards. Rebecca’s chief memory of the master class is standing on a small stage in a chapel, feeling terribly self-conscious, singing of the intolerable symptoms of love: I sigh and groan without wanting to, / I quiver and tremble without knowing it, / I find no peace night or day, / And yet I like suffering this way!

Jude watched her from a chair against the wall. Rebecca had noticed him, but they had not spoken. She could tell just by looking, though, that he wasn’t another music student. There were the clothes (heavy lumberjack shirt, huge boots, tall socks); something off-kilter as well. Someone had told her that Jude was spending his nights outdoors, sleeping on Amit’s lawn. Rebecca’s impression, she told me, was of “a very large, Thomas Hardy–esque character that did possess some kind of charisma.”

On the final afternoon of the class, when the students were relaxing in Amit’s garden, Rebecca saw Jude standing nearby on his own, not talking to anybody. At that moment, she was discussing with another student how she would travel home to Dorset the following day, and she did not think much of it when she encountered Jude at the train station early the next morning. He was from Cornwall, after all, and was heading in the same direction. “I am polite and decide to assume that given he knows singing teacher and her ex husband, he will be ‘safe,’ ” she told me in an email. They boarded the train.

Can you disaggregate an attraction? Is it the combined weight of beautiful parts — “The way you wear your hat, / The way you sip your tea” — or something entire and irreducible? “He seemed to fall in love with Rebecca’s voice,” said Sheila Amit afterward. But Jude has never identified anything so specific. There was her manner: direct, almost tomboyish. Her hair. That she was from the west. That her family was musical. But these were as ripples before the real wave of feeling that overtook Jude, which was vast and mystical. To him Rebecca was like other girls he had met, and like none of them. She was familiar, and she was foreign. She was from the present, and she was from the past. He felt a cross-wiring. Everything changed. “I felt the enormity of the reality of the world I lived in,” Jude told me. He was Dante on seeing Beatrice: “Behold a god more powerful than I, who, coming, will rule over me.”

The train headed northwest, toward London. As often happened to Jude at moments of extreme emotion, he found it hard to think or to say anything. “I can almost remember the angle of my head, looking away from her and feeling ecstatic.” He stared out the window.

Since he had sung for Ben Luxon eighteen months earlier, Jude’s life had been accelerating, and changing shape. The late 1990s was a terrible time to be working on the land in Cornwall; several farmer friends of Jude’s had gone broke and committed suicide. Adding to the sense of crisis, his half sister Harriet — Jeremy’s younger daughter from his first marriage — suffered a breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Jude began to think of a way out of Cornwall, and a path that would enable him to develop his singing. “I started pulling out this thread of where did all these songs come from, and where did written music come from . . . A whole bunch of ideas seemed to lead me to Italy.”

Jude drove from Trereife to Milan in a Land Rover in the spring of 1997 — a little more than a year before he met Rebecca. He spent time at the city’s horticultural school, and then, in the summer, he headed south to Gargano, on the spur of Italy, where there is a shrine dedicated to the archangel Michael, one of the patron saints of Cornwall. On his way back to Milan, Jude ran out of money. As he approached a toll booth on the outskirts of Rome, he decided to avoid paying the charge. He drove his Land Rover hard up a steep embankment on the side of the highway and heard a terrible sound. The gearbox was smashed.

Fortunately, Land Rovers have a second set of low-speed gears, for agricultural tasks, and Jude was able to nurse the car to the top of the embankment, where he came across a fence. He had a set of wire cutters in the car, and he clipped his way through. He found a smaller road and headed into the city. “That was my introduction, crawling into Rome.”

In the center of the city, Jude spotted another Land Rover. He decided to park next to it, and to sell his damaged vehicle to the owner for parts. He slept in his car overnight. The Roman Land Rover turned out to belong to a group of young geologists. They bought Jude’s car and took him in for a few weeks. Through friends in Cornwall, Jude then managed to find a singing teacher, a Welsh soprano named Anna Risi. Risi remembers the young man arriving at her house, at number twenty-six Via dei Serpenti, that summer. “He came along, this Jude chappy,” she told me. “And he had an astounding voice . . . Such a beautiful, soft, gentle, velvet sound.” He reminded her of Feodor Chaliapin, the great Russian bass. Risi offered Jude a place to stay. He moved into a small shack on her terrace. There was a view of the Colosseum. Jude unpacked a Cornish flag he had brought with him. Each morning he awoke to see it flying over the Forum. “It really was a magic period,” he told me.

Risi gave him singing lessons. Like Luxon, she was struck by his slowness to learn, but she also discerned in Jude a rare gift for legato, the ability to sing smoothly through a piece of music. “Jude had an extraordinary sense of line,” said Risi. “It was noble, you know, a noble way of singing.”

Being in Rome awakened in Jude a new interest in Christianity and the history of medieval Europe. He attended services at both Catholic and Anglican churches regularly. (It was in this period that Jude helped rescue a widow and her two children after an earthquake in Umbria.) As his religious devotion increased, Jude began to perceive in Risi’s circle of artists a moral laxity, above all in people’s relationships, that troubled him. “It seemed very decadent,” he told me. By the time he returned to Cornwall the following year and joined Luxon for the master class, Jude was increasingly exercised by the tradition of marriage and its need for protection. He felt upset by the failure of both his parents’ first marriages and, more recently, the breakdown of Luxon’s marriage with Amit. “I perceived Ben as this Cornish bard in a way, and some sort of nobility was being eroded. I had to do something.”

There was a proper way to love, just as there was a proper way to sing or to cut down a tree. Within moments of being in the same room as Rebecca, Jude resolved to court her as a woman should be courted. As the two of them changed trains in London and headed out to the west, Jude focused on trying to arrange to see Rebecca again. He came up with the idea of a driving trip. Jude imagined taking Rebecca to Trereife, to the landscapes that his father painted, to the choirs of Rhosllannerchrugog. He wanted to bring her to his uncle Pat, an old sheep farmer with one arm who lived on the cliffs in Wales and who had loved his wife passionately before she died. “I wanted to show her round to the pretty extraordinary places and people that I knew.”

“I have a very, very strong image of him looking out of the window in silence but looking completely tormented and stifled,” Rebecca told me. “There is a table in between us. He is staring out of the window and his jawbone is clenched. There is a lot of huffing and puffing.” Rebecca was put on the defensive. “He was off-loading everything so quickly,” she said. “There wasn’t space between the initial thought, to be frank, ‘Is he an attractive guy?’ ‘Shall I talk to him?’ ‘Okay, he’s a bit strange but that might be quite interesting . . . ’ I didn’t have a chance to do that because before I knew it, there was this huge agenda coming my way.”

She did not think Jude was dangerous, but she felt highly uncomfortable. He asked for her address and telephone number, to arrange the first stage of the driving trip. She began to tell him, but Jude struggled to write the information down. In the end, she wrote it for him on a scrap of paper. Then she got off the train a stop early, at Poole, and called her father.

Illustrations by Andrea Dezsö

Jude was elated. “It felt like there was a connection there.” He decided to get off the train as well and see if Rebecca wanted to begin the driving trip the very next day. Some family friends, the Brownings, lived nearby, outside the town of Dorchester, and they were used to Jude’s dropping by to spend the night as he traveled back and forth from Cornwall. He spent most of the afternoon at their house, helping out in the fields, before calling Rebecca to see if she would be happy to set off tomorrow. She said no. She was curt. She did not want to see him. Jude was thrown off balance. “There was some sort of muddle-up.” It was important to get things back on track as quickly as possible. Jude asked Helen Browning if she had an old ring she could spare him to give to Rebecca. “That’s what I felt I wanted to do, was give her a ring.” When Browning said that she didn’t, Jude asked for a lift into Dorchester.

By now it was late in the afternoon, toward evening. It was a Sunday. All the shops on the main street were closed. Jude stood in front of a jewelry shop, staring at a rack of rings. He knew what he would do. He took out a business card and wrote a short note, explaining that he would like to pay for the ring and the damage, and then he kicked in the window. There was no alarm. He took an amber ring. “I wasn’t that familiar with jewelry.” Then he ran around the corner and hailed a taxi to Blandford, where Rebecca lived. Jude said he felt neither particularly afraid nor full of misgivings. Sometimes it was necessary to just let events unfold. “I had this mechanism in my life of saying, ‘This is a bit out of control but I’m going to go through with it. I’m going to stick it out through.’ ”

Rebecca’s mother and stepfather were away. The family home, Orchard House, was a large redbrick house set on its own, just on the edge of Blandford St Mary, a small village that adjoins the larger town of Blandford Forum, about twenty miles from Dorchester. Unsettled by the train journey, Rebecca did not want to be alone that night, so she had called two friends and arranged to meet them for a drink in Blandford.

When Jude arrived in the town that evening, he had no way of finding the house. Weighed down by his luggage, he walked through the streets, growing tired. Eventually he gave up and settled in at the Stour Inn, a small pub that faces the gates of Bryanston, the private school where Rebecca’s mother and stepfather worked in the music department. Jude was wondering what to do next when Rebecca and her friends walked in. He stood up and pressed the ring into Rebecca’s hand. “He looked haunted,” she told me. Deeply shocked that he had managed to find her, Rebecca shared a brief drink with Jude before she and her friends made their excuses and left. When they had gone, he walked to a nearby phone box and called the police to turn himself in.

At his short trial the following month, Jude’s lawyer and family pleaded that his breaking into the jewelry shop in Dorchester had been a momentary, misguided act of passion. He was found guilty of criminal damage and made to pay an £834 fine. Jude said very little to anyone. All he could see in front of him was a campaign to marry Rebecca. “I just thought, ‘This is it,’ and absolutely dug my feet in. ‘I’m going to win her. I’m going to get my way. It is just how long is it going to take.’ ”

The world’s first antistalking law was included in a major revision of the Danish criminal code in 1933. The crime was forfølgelse, the persecution of another. (Forførelse, two letters different, is Danish for “seduction.”) For more than fifty years, Denmark’s law was an exception. Although men and women have intruded in each other’s lives, often with terrible consequences, throughout history, only a handful of psychologists considered it a discrete form of behavior, worthy of study on its own. That changed in the 1980s, with what American newspapers began to call “star stalking.” The murder of John Lennon by Mark David Chapman, a young man entranced by The Catcher in the Rye, and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley Jr., a young man entranced by Jodie Foster, helped form the popular conception of the obsessive fan whose love is connected to violence.

In 1989, a television actress, Rebecca Schaeffer, was shot on her doorstep in Los Angeles by a man named Robert Bardo, who had plagued her with love letters. Within a year, California had passed America’s first antiharassment law. To help protect celebrities, the LAPD set up a division dedicated to the prevention of stalking, the Threat Management Unit. A widely quoted estimate from the time put the number of star stalkers in the United States at 200,000.

The threat posed to news anchors and television hosts made star stalking a voguish subject. The publicity caused domestic-violence campaigners to point out that there had long been similar frightening behavior in more ordinary lives. In the early 1990s, antiharassment laws were passed in every U.S. state. “Star stalking” lost its prefix in public conversation and became plain “stalking,” but it never quite shed its initial association with glamour, strangers, and murder.

“Stalking” was an enormous conceptual success. A fully formed mass phenomenon was ready to be discovered in the societies of the developed world. Antiharassment laws were passed in Europe, Australia, Canada, and Japan. Since the completion, in 1998, of the first major study in the United States, by the National Institute of Justice, a consistent 8 percent of American women and 2 percent of American men say they have been stalked; 1 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, say they’ve been stalked in the past twelve months. This means between 2 and 3 million people are being stalked in the United States at any one time.*

* Sensitive to exaggeration, surveys of stalking do not use the word “stalking.” In the NIJ survey, 8,000 men and 8,000 women were asked whether anybody, excluding debt collectors and salespeople, had followed them; spied on them; sent them unsolicited letters; made unsolicited calls; loitered outside their house, school, or workplace; showed up in unexpected places; tried to communicate with them against their will; left unwanted items; or tried to destroy something that they loved. This had to have happened on two occasions or more, and only people who were “significantly frightened” or “fearful of bodily harm” during the experience counted as having been stalked.

Illustrations by Andrea Dezsö

Discovering stalking is not the same as knowing how to control it. In the United Kingdom, the path to antiharassment legislation began as it did in California, with murder by a stranger. A real estate agent named Suzy Lamplugh disappeared on July 28, 1986, after going to show a client a house in the London neighborhood of Fulham. Lamplugh’s body was never found, but her family believed she had been lured to the house by someone who was fixated on her. A trust set up in Lamplugh’s name campaigned for ten years for legislation that addressed stalking.

During debates in Parliament about the new law, MPs stumbled over the fact that many activities that might constitute stalking — surprising someone on her lunch break, calling her all the time — are exactly the sorts of things ordinary, dippy lovers do. “A girl gets a bunch of flowers. Then it is two bunches of flowers. By the time a serious incident occurs, she is getting a bathful of flowers every day. At what stage did it become stalking?” Paul Infield, the current chairman of the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, asked me. “Not one bunch of flowers, because, God, we’ve all sent a bunch of flowers to a young woman. Two bunches of flowers? Three bunches? Four? You tell me.”

Every gesture can hurt us. For that reason, the net for stalkers in the Protection from Harassment Act (1997) was cast deliberately wide. Victims needed to experience unwanted attention on just two occasions to bring a case. It was up to the court to decide whether that attention, whatever form it took, was harassment or not. If it was, and if that harassment put the victim in fear of violence, then the perpetrator could be imprisoned for up to five years. The law was passed during Jude’s first summer in Rome.

After the trial, Jude returned to Italy. He began doing tree work in Rome, and Risi taught him arias from The Magic Flute and the bass part of Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle. Jude bought a flamboyant old Mercedes truck, known as a Unimog, and when Lyn came to visit, he drove his mother around the city on its high wheels.

He awoke each day thinking about Rebecca. He decided to visit Rebecca’s house for the first time in the summer of 1999, a year after the master class, and this set the pattern for what was to come.

Jude would stop at Blandford St Mary on his way to Italy, or on his return. Dressed in a dark three-piece suit, his hair clean and cut, he would park in the village and walk to Rebecca’s front door. His visits, ever hopeful, were like those of Gabriel Oak, in Far from the Madding Crowd, whose first sight of lovely Bathsheba Everdene comes when she refuses to pay the toll at a tollbooth. Oak brings the spirited girl a lamb to rear. “Oak put the lamb into a respectable Sunday basket, and stalked across the fields to the house of Mrs Hurst, the aunt.” (Scorned at first, Oak finally marries Bathsheba on the penultimate page.)

Almost always, Rebecca’s mother, Linda Brown, answered the door. “No one else knocked at the front door of our house,” Linda told me. Soon she came to dread the sound of knocking. Because Jude approached on foot, there was never any warning of his arrival. He would just appear, asking to speak to Rebecca. Linda would say she was not there, and their conversations on the doorstep became a catechism: respectful, insistent, mechanical.

“She’s not here.”

“But I would like to speak to her.”

“I’m sorry, she’s not here, and she doesn’t want to speak to you.”

“But I need to speak to her.”

“Jude, you can’t speak to her.”

“I need to speak to her.”

Eventually he would turn and walk away. A few months later, he would be back. Jude went to Orchard House around fifteen times over the four years following his first visit. “I was going to win her and that was going to be the shape of my life,” he told me. Once, on an early occasion, Rebecca was there, and she did speak to him. But then, getting the interview that he craved, Jude seemed stuck again, unable to hear. Rebecca found the disconnection, his lack of empathy, frightening.

In early 2001, Jude made a more public gesture. He was in Yorkshire having a small crane fitted to the Unimog. Just before Valentine’s Day, he picked up the truck and drove it down to the border with Wales. A few weeks earlier, he had picked out a semimature ash tree to present to Rebecca. It was about fifteen years old, thirty feet tall, and, in Jude’s mind, a symbol of femininity. He attached the ash tree to the Unimog’s roof. Its pinnacle reached over the front windscreen, and Jude drove for a hundred miles with his eyes upward, afraid that it would catch in the branches that overhung the road.

He arrived in Blandford St Mary early in the morning. Jude chose a spot in front of Orchard House and began to dig a hole. Once they were married, these would be the things they would talk about. It was the first perfect spring day of the year. Jude unloaded the tree. He lay down for a minute. A skein of geese, white against blue, flew over his head, V for Valentine. It was a good omen, and he allowed himself to rest, which is how Rebecca’s stepsister found him — asleep on the grass, next to the Unimog, the ash tree, and the halfdug hole. She called the police while Jude dreamed.

The study of stalking is a discipline of typologies. Forensic psychiatrists pore over thousands of cases, looking for patterns: What was the initial relationship between stalker and victim? How long did the stalking last? Did anyone else get involved? A 2006 study of American and Canadian stalking cases divided stalkers into four groups: ex-intimates (from spouses to one-night stands), acquaintances (from neighbors to patients), public strangers (who stalk public figures), and private strangers (who stalk private citizens). In the 1,005 cases examined, the stalking ranged from a single day of harassment to twenty-six years. Fifty percent of the stalkers were former lovers of their targets, 13 percent were acquaintances, 27 percent stalked someone famous, and 10 percent stalked someone they did not know.

The aim of making typologies has been to discover what connects stalking and violence. The risk is real: 28 percent of the cases involved assault, 5 percent involved sexual assault, and 0.5 percent ended in murder. But so far social scientists have struggled to find a simple marker that accurately predicts a violent outcome. Take the mentally ill: on the whole, stalkers with personality disorders or psychosis tend to be less violent than sane ex-boyfriends. The odds change, however, when it comes to the most horrendous attacks, when perpetrators are just as likely to be mentally ill as they are to be psychologically healthy (if these terms mean anything in the realm of emotional breakdown). As things stand at the moment, basic indicators such as age (stalkers under thirty), number of threats, substance abuse, and high levels of fear in the victim are more accurate predictors of violence than anything else.

Approaching the same problem in a different way, a team of psychiatrists in Australia, led by Paul Mullen at the University of Monash, in Melbourne, decided in the late 1990s to start looking more closely at what motivates stalkers. They came up with different typologies: five stalking mind-sets, or narratives, that have been widely adopted. There are the rejected (who can’t accept their loss), intimacy seekers (who suffer from unrequited love), incompetent suitors (who have no idea how to get a date), the resentful (who believe they have been wronged), and the predatory (who hunt).

When I first came across this list, I wondered whether Jude was an incompetent suitor. But when I began to describe his behavior to David James, a British forensic psychiatrist who works with Mullen and helps evaluate the risk of stalkers to the royal family and British politicians, I had spoken for only a minute or two before he said: “Your man is an intimacy seeker.”

Jude saw an old brown Jaguar for sale on the seafront in Penzance. It wasn’t going for much — a few hundred pounds — and it was still a dashing car. A doctor had once wooed one of Jude’s half sisters in a Jaguar. He felt it might have potency. It was more than six months since he’d tried to plant the ash tree (the police had made him take it away), and Jude was ready to make another grand gesture. He bought the car and kept it at Trereife. The plan formed itself: he would pick up Rebecca and they would drive to Rome together. He told no one. “I was keeping it quite covert. . . . You feel like you’ve got to produce a success. ‘This is Rebecca. She is with me.’ You don’t let it out until it is a success.”

He arrived at Orchard House early on a November evening in 2001. The Jaguar wasn’t in mint condition, but Jude was pleased with it. He thought it might cut through — make her smile. But the house was dark. Jude left the car in the driveway. Linda found it when she came home. Now she called Jeremy and Lyn whenever Jude appeared. They arranged to have the car moved, and Jude eventually drove it to Rome. He left it on the banks of the Tiber.

In the triangulations of Jude’s mind, between Cornwall and Italy, music and trees, Rebecca was always the third and missing point. “All the things I cared about seemed to be embodied in her.” But Jude also wanted his courtship to stand as an example against the drab realities of modern love. He watched his friends fall mundanely in and out of relationships and yearned instead for vigor and frankness. He viewed the Harassment Act, which people were now warning him about, as part of the same overall cheapening and delimiting of men’s encounters with women. Jude wondered whether Rebecca was using this relatively novel legal construct as a way not to engage with the truth and the power of his heart. “I was very conscious of that new legislation and I was, in a way, fundamentally opposed to it,” he told me. “People should have the freedom to upset people in courtship.”

The limits to decent behavior, in Jude’s mind, were laid down by chivalry. In late 2001, Rebecca moved to London, but Jude continued to direct his attention to Orchard House. I asked Jude once why he didn’t try and track her down. “I wouldn’t have liked the whole thing of trying to locate an address,” he said. “I felt that was sort of creepy. I was so conscious of presenting an honesty . . . I just wanted to say, ‘This is where I think you are, this is what I feel about you.’ ” He was anxious to head off the idea that he might be a stalker. “I was trying to get on top of that and say, ‘That’s not what I mean to you.’ ”

In April 2002, five months after Jude left the Jaguar at Orchard House, Anna Risi took him with her choir on a tour of Egypt. He was the bass soloist in Petite messe solennelle, performing to full opera houses in Alexandria and Cairo. Jude sang well. A musical career had never stood closer. When he returned to England, he was in good spirits. Passing through Dorset, Jude happened to see the name Blandford St Mary in a local newspaper. The village was hosting a display of vintage wedding dresses.

The dresses were on show in St Mary’s, the church a few hundred yards from Orchard House. Jude thought his next planned gesture would be funny. After all, he had failed with the ring, the tree, and the car. “I felt there was some comedy in the exaggeration and we could laugh about it.”

Dressed smartly as usual, Jude went into the church, examined the dresses on their stands, picked up his favorite, and ran out. “They shrieked and came running.” Jude tore off down the road. The dress trailed from under his arm. He was desperately in love, being chased through the sunshine. By the time he got to Orchard House, the police had already been called. Jude was arrested. In court, he pleaded guilty to harassment and was given a lifetime restraining order, forbidding him from approaching Rebecca or her family ever again.

Intimacy seekers are relatively rare. According to Stalkers and Their Victims, a textbook co-authored by Paul Mullen, intimacy-seeking is sustained by the idea that it is better to have any kind of love in your life — unrequited, unwanted, unreal — than no love at all. Intimacy seekers tend to be older than other stalkers, and more persistent. Pursuits last, on average, more than three years. No one else will do. “The object of their attentions is uniquely placed to satisfy their desires,” write Mullen et al. Intimacy seekers suborn themselves to their quest and feel entitled to a successful outcome. It is the only category of stalker in which women outnumber men.

Intimacy seekers have a marked propensity to psychosis and fixations known as erotomanic delusions. Erotomania was first described by the French psychiatrist Jean-Étienne Esquirol in his treatise Mental Maladies, which was published in 1845. Esquirol found erotomania to be “an exaggeration to the extreme limit” of the thoughts and fantasies that occur in healthy minds. Erotomaniacs were mad by degree rather than by kind. They wanted unobtainable people, were stricken by total melancholy, believed wrongly that they were admired. The plausibility of their delusions — which resemble normal emotional torment — made the disease especially hard to treat.

Modern psychiatrists distinguish between “primary” erotomania, in which the delusion of love is the only mental disorder in an otherwise functional life, and secondary, or “symptomatic,” erotomania, in which the delusion is the result of an underlying mental illness. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has linked erotomanic delusions to twenty-two separate conditions, although the delusions are most often associated with schizophrenia.

In whatever form it takes, erotomania is troubling for its resemblance to, and the inspiration it draws from, stories of true love. Esquirol diagnosed, among others, Aristotle and Don Quixote as erotomaniacs. “The typology of intimacy seekers,” writes Mullen, “is a typology of lovers.” Twenty-three years before Mental Maladies, another French expert on the heart, Marie-Henri Beyle (better known as Stendhal), wrote On Love, one of the first recognizably modern, psychological analyses of falling in love. The book is best known for its description of “crystallization” — the idealization of, the fixing of all our hopes on, the one we adore.

Stendhal wrote On Love after stalking Métilde Dembowski, the ex-wife of a Polish general, for several years. Dembowski refused to see the writer more than twice a month. He was, she wrote, “difficult to despair.” When she went to Tuscany in May of 1819 to visit her sons at school, Stendhal followed, disguised in a pair of green spectacles.

Jeremy and Lyn knew that Jude’s obsession with Rebecca was out of control. In a letter to the court after Jude’s arrest with the wedding dress, the Le Grices pleaded for care rather than punishment. The case soon found its way into the national media. the bass, the soprano and the 30-foot valentine gift, was the headline in the Daily Mail. The coverage gave Jude a surge of satisfaction. “It was like a release in some way. There it is, and now the world knows it, how I feel about that girl.”

Linda, who had stood on the doorstep so many times with Jude, suddenly had more people knocking. Reporters came to the village and started asking about Rebecca. (Coverage of the story continued, intermittently, until 2008.) Everyone wanted to talk about the case. “I felt so wide-open, so deeply exposed,” Linda told me.

When we met, Linda tried to explain the limitless sense of uncertainty caused by Jude’s visits. “When I say the words, ‘Jude will come again,’ I’m frightened,” she said. “And what am I frightened of? I think it is fear of the unknown and the unpredictable and the not-knowing and feeling completely out of control.”

Rebecca and I talked twice on the phone for this article and exchanged emails through her mother. She spoke fully and with great precision about her early meetings with Jude, but our conversations stopped abruptly at that point. (After our second conversation, Linda emailed, asking me not to call again.) Rebecca gave up thoughts of a singing career and now works as a drama therapist. In an email, she referred to “a degree of anxiety and stress that never goes fully away.”

Most stalking victims suffer from an array of physical and psychological effects, including severe sleep disturbance (80 percent in one Mullen study), flashbacks, and difficulty in their subsequent relationship choices. They move houses and change jobs. Even in the absence of any physical threat, there is something profoundly destabilizing about having a person in your life who disregards social norms.

By the spring of 2003, many of Jude’s plans were tinged with desperation. “At the start of the 21st century, Cornwall is in a vortex,” he wrote on a résumé he sent out while looking for tree work. He had an idea to track down yellow yews in southern Italy and make longbows of their wood, and to design a giant spade capable of moving fully grown trees. Everything, of course, depended on Rebecca. In the summer, Jude went back to Orchard House, breaching his restraining order for the first time. Again he brought a ring. Again Linda answered the door. She told Jude that Rebecca had a boyfriend and that he should stop causing trouble.

“I’m already in trouble.”

This time, Jude’s lawyer, with the encouragement of Jeremy and Lyn, refused to let him enter a plea. He was released on bail, on the condition that he sign in at a local police station every day. Before his trial, he was to undergo a series of psychiatric assessments. In his first such interview, in September 2003, Jude was asked to describe his love for Rebecca. “It’s like a noise. Once it starts, you focus on it.”

Before his assessments could be completed — the process lasted more than six months — Jude tired of the onerous bail conditions. In the spring, he went down to Newlyn and got on the Julian Paul, a fishing boat bound for France. He spent six weeks on the continent before attempting to return for a friend’s wedding in Cornwall. But on the morning of May 10, 2004, when Jude met up with the crew of the Julian Paul in Brittany for the return voyage, they decided to get drunk. “You could hear singing on board,” witnesses from the harbor of Le Diben told investigators after the boat hit a rock on its way out to sea and sank. When Jude finally got back to Britain, he was arrested, and this time they did not let him go.

When Jude was examined by psychiatrists, they perceived a life of more or less controlled eccentricity that began to deteriorate, rubbing up against the law and other people, in the late 1990s. “Prior to 1998, he had no convictions,” a doctor wrote after meeting Jude in prison following the shipwreck. “Since 1998, he has been convicted of at least one offence every year.”

Jude found it baffling to talk to doctors about his life and love. “I just sort of sat down with them and explained my full, happy life, and I thought, ‘Well, that will all be in order.’ And of course they turned up with a report saying, ‘This person has schizophrenia.’ ” By the end of the summer of 2004, three psychiatrists had decided that Jude showed signs of a serious mental illness. On September 7, Jude was admitted to the psychiatric-intensive-care unit of Bodmin hospital under Section 38 of Britain’s Mental Health Act, which provides for the detention of patients until they have been formally diagnosed. He was thirty-three years old.

Eighteen days later, he climbed over a fence during a game of basketball to go sing an aria at another friend’s wedding. He was arrested twenty minutes later. Because Jude was now considered a flight risk, he was put in prison. In all, in 2004, Jude spent seven months in jail, one month longer than the maximum sentence for nonviolent harassment. Frantic at what was happening, and desperate for Jude to be transferred to a hospital, Jeremy and Lyn wrote letters to their local MP and the Home Office. “Things were going horribly wrong,” Jeremy told me. “It is where the state suddenly extends its claws and claims somebody.”

Treatment proper began in early 2005. Jude was sent to Llanarth Court, a medium-security mental hospital in South Wales. The mostly violent crimes of the other patients astonished him. He refused to accept that he was ill, and asked for meetings with Rebecca. “I just wanted contact with her to say, just to get the emotion of her to say, ‘I don’t want to be with you,’ and hear it from her lips.”

Jude was diagnosed as severely psychotic. He was forcibly injected with Clopixol, an antipsychotic drug, and in March the chief psychiatrist at Llanarth Court

formed the view that Mr Le Grice suffered from paranoid schizophrenia with erotomanic delusions concerning the victim. He had grandiose delusions regarding designing forestry machinery and other impractical or implausible ideas.

In other words, Jude’s love for Rebecca was the symptom of an underlying illness. On medication, his behavior was seen to improve.

Jeremy and Lyn visited once a week. The drive from Newlyn, there and back, took eight hours. They were shocked by Jude’s appearance. He was overweight, he had a tremor, and he drooled. For a man used to living outdoors, the endless hours on the ward were as alien as they were boring. Jude’s mind turned over and over and over. Religion, war, sexuality, madness. He took increasing solace in the rituals of Christian worship. He was baptized a Catholic. He refused to listen to music.

In the summer of 2005, Jude’s diagnosis was entered in court and he was hospitalized under Section 37, which allows for extended treatment. The doctors forecast an eighteen-month stay, during which Jude was expected to develop insight into his condition.

In the summer of 2006, two years after the shipwreck, Jude was released into Jeremy and Lyn’s care at Trereife. He was free for a year. He told his doctors he had been rejected by Rebecca “as profoundly as it is possible to be.” He stopped taking his drugs and, for a time, seemed able to defy the gravity of his heart.

But the following spring, the restlessness returned. Jude got in the Unimog and set off for Italy. This time, the truck packed up. He left it on a beach in Marseille. He came back to England and went to Orchard House. Rebecca’s parents had moved. Jude asked a neighbor for their address and turned up at their new house the day after Jamie, Rebecca’s elder brother, was married. The house was full of guests and relatives and had the happy afterglow of a wedding. Rebecca was there as well, in the garden, but Jude did not see her. He knocked on the front door. As ever, Linda answered. She hadn’t seen him for four years, but the conversation was the same as always. This time, at the end, Jude gave her the card of his psychologist.

Jude’s second detention was much worse. Again, he was held in Wales. This time he fought. In his mind, the only thing that equaled the weight of his punishment was his love for Rebecca. He climbed onto the roof of the hospital and demanded to meet her in Jerusalem. “Love will always overcome whatever wall is put in front of it,” he told me of his feelings at this time. “However high it goes — literally climbing over psychiatric-hospital walls.” It took a team of firefighters to get him down. Jude’s case was redesignated under a section of the Mental Health Act intended to protect members of the public from serious harm. His release would now have to be approved by the British secretary of state for justice.

Jude’s friends and family despaired. “I think of you every day,” Jeremy wrote to his son, “as I look out at the beautiful world wishing that you would allow yourself to act fully within it and take the prominent part that you are well capable of.” Ben Luxon, now remarried and living in the United States, flew over and begged him to accept help. But Jude refused. He thought increasingly of St. Michael, and his shrines in Cornwall and Italy. He carved a sculpture of the archangel out of wood. In December 2008, he told doctors he was no longer prepared to accept that his love for Rebecca was an illness.

Such is the power of erotomanic delusions that many psychiatrists believe they are untreatable. The only course of reasoning is a cost-benefit analysis: to try to persuade the patient that the collateral damage is not worth it. “You may eventually get a chink there,” David James, the British stalking expert, told me. “People may think there is nothing wrong with their stalking, but that there is something wrong with their life.”

In the spring of 2009, Jeremy and Lyn gave a dinner party. By chance, a friend from Dorset mentioned that Rebecca had married. They wondered, given the Catholic logic by which Jude now seemed to organize his thinking, what effect this news might have. He took the phone call from Lyn in the early evening, and whether it was the drugs, the exorcism of faith, time, or modern psychiatry, Jude says that he felt something break in him. “Relief. Just relief that I didn’t feel this pursuit of her . . . You know, what she had set off in me was, I felt this was something until death. Her getting married was a break. ‘This isn’t until death.’ ” Three years after learning that Rebecca had married, and three months after his failed tribunal in September 2011, Jude was allowed to begin a series of experimental home visits.

In April 2012, he was released, albeit under strict conditions. The terms of the Mental Health Act mean that Jude can be rehospitalized for the slightest infraction. He is banned from visiting Dorset and has to receive fortnightly injections of Risperdal Consta, an antipsychotic drug, at a local mental-health clinic.

Four months after Jude was released, Jeremy died. Jude sang a song he had written, “Has Gone a Love,” at his father’s funeral. In the year that followed, he was detained for breaking a door at home during an argument with his mother, but he was free again after a few months.

The last time I saw him, at Trereife, it was a gray spring day, not long after Easter. We sat down by the fireplace in the living room. Jude was wearing a brown tweed suit. Jeremy’s landscapes were all over the walls. The score for Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin was on the low table between us.

Jude had not seen Rebecca in eleven years. I asked him whether he wanted to see her again. “I’m thinking of how I can not disrupt her,” he said, in his slow, tangential way. “You know, I loved her. And I want her marriage to be happy. It has crossed my mind, trying to make contact, but really through desperation to, through trying to do myself in . . . But I’m not going to do that.” Jude gave an almighty sigh. “What stops that is . . . ” He could not finish the sentence. “I just hope that she is now in her marriage and knows she was someone who was greatly desired before she was married.”

He got up and walked to the lead-paned window. He looked down into the garden below the house and indicated a small, knotted tree growing on the slope that led away, toward the sea. “That is the ash I took to Rebecca, and she rejected it.” Horses and deer had chewed at the young tree, he explained, until it was fenced in. Now, ungainly but alive, it looked like it might just survive.

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is a journalist living in London. His last article for Harper’s Magazine, “Inside the Snow Globe,” appeared in the July 2011 issue

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