Australian Story: October 12

ABC highlights how difficult it is for victims of stalking to have their stories taken seriously.

A two part Australian Story highlights how difficult it is for victims of stalking to have their stories taken seriously.

This episode is ntroduced by Debra Newell whose story of being stalked was made into the Netflix drama Dirty John.

In 2014 Di McDonald was recently divorced, and dating was the last thing on her mind. But a chance encounter with a customer at the store where she worked changed her life.

The customer was a middle-aged, unassuming man called Max Gardiner. When she agreed to have coffee with him, it quickly led to a nightmare scenario that continued for five years.

Gardiner was jealous and controlling and when Di ended the relationship after a few months, he went on to stalk her relentlessly in a psychological campaign of terror – tracking her movements, sabotaging her car and waging an offensive public campaign via posters and letters.

Di went to the police, but because Max had disguised his identity, they said there was little they could do. It left Di desperate, traumatised and vulnerable.

“He was just everywhere I was,” she says. “No matter where I went in Melbourne, something would happen. I was just banging my head on a wall as far as the police were going, to the point where I said, Will you help me when I’m dead?”

“What possesses someone to do that, to wage that sort of warfare?” says friend Peter Newson.

“I think it would be very reasonable for her with that level of obsession to be in fear of her life,” says academic Professor Heather Douglas.

This exclusive two-part program highlights the little-known subject of stalking and coercive control, revealing how difficult it is for victims like Di McDonald to have their stories taken seriously and get justice.

Because ultimately it would take a determined young detective and a famous FBI profiler to crack the case.

Producers: Cheryl Hall and Belinda Hawkins.

8pm Monday on ABC.

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