Heartbroken mum Tricia Bernal’s daughter Clare was shot dead by stalker after weeks of torment — she backs The Sun’s Stop A Stalker campaign to save others

MUM Tricia ­Bernal will never forget the moment police knocked on her door at 2am to say daughter Clare had been killed.

Clare, 22, was murdered by Michael Pech after he stalked her for weeks mainly targeting her at London’s exclusive Harvey Nichols, where she worked as a beauty consultant.

Tricia Bernal is backing The Sun’s Stop A Stalker campaign
Gary Stone -The Sun

Ex-soldier Pech, 30, regularly turned up at her counter, on her way home and outside her flat bombarding her with 50 texts a day. Despite reporting it to police, six months later Clare was dead. Pech calmly strode up to the counter and shot her four times, before turning the gun on himself.

Now mum Tricia is backing The Sun’s Stop A Stalker campaign in a bid to raise awareness of the crime, which affects more than a million people a year. Tricia, 62, of Tunbridge Wells, Kent, says: “Every county should have a stalking service.

“We need to protect victims but we also need to address the offender. This is crucial — unless you have a two-pronged approach, it won’t work. They go into prison and when they come out it is likely they will either pursue the victim or move on to another.

“Simply locking them up is not going to work. It wouldn’t have worked for my daughter’s killer.”

Clare was murdered at London’s exclusive Harvey Nichols where she worked as a beauty consultant

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Launched on Monday, The Sun’s campaign backs MP Dr Sarah Wollaston’s Private Members’ Bill, which is demanding tougher powers for police to step in at an early stage.

The change in law would mean police can apply to the courts for a Stalking Protection Order to stop a stalker contacting his victim while evidence is being gathered for prosecution. Breaching it could mean up to five years’ jail.

Clare was killed in September 2005, shortly after moving from Kent to a flat in Dulwich, south London. Pech, originally from Slovakia, was a security guard at Harvey Nichols and, in January 2005, he asked her out.

They dated for just three weeks, but when she tried to end it, Pech became obsessed and launched a five-week harassment campaign.

Clare’s attacker, Michael Pech, shot her four times before turning the gun on himself

Tricia explains: “Clare told very few people because she was embarrassed that she had dated someone who became obsessed so quickly, someone who was harassing her.

“She told me and a couple of close friends who witnessed it as they worked on the counter and were also her flatmates.”

After the couple dated for three weeks, Pech returned home to visit his mother in Slovakia.

“That is when the stalking began,” Tricia says. “The day after his return he stood outside her flat refusing to leave for two hours. That is when Clare ended the relationship.

Tricia believes we need to protect victims like her daughter Clare – but we also need to address the offender

“He went up to her colleagues and would say, ‘Please talk to Clare’. She would say, ‘He keeps telling me he loves me. I don’t know what to say.’ He found every excuse to talk to her at the counter. He would watch her reflection in mirrors at work. Wherever Clare was, he was. She felt intimidated.

“There was an incident outside Harvey Nichols. He shouted, ‘You stupid little girl, you know you love me. I love you too.’ She rang me distressed, saying ‘I don’t know what to do Mum’. It was taking over her life.

“He sent her messages, saying, ‘If I can’t have you no one else will’, ‘I will kill myself if we are not together’ and ‘It’s our anniversary tomorrow, how shall we spend it?’”

“One evening after work, Clare saw Pech on the Underground platform. As Clare ran away from him he chased after her and jumped on the train, sitting opposite her. She was crying. She said ‘Michael, please leave me alone. If you don’t I’m going to have to report you.’

Clare was not given a formal risk assessment

Add your support at change.org/p/the-house-of-commons-stop-a-stalker

“He leant over and said ‘If you report me, I’ll kill you.’ She said, ‘I won’t report you, if you leave me alone’. He grinned, stroked her face then jumped off the tube and tapped on the window.”

Clare’s friend raised concerns to a Harvey Nichols security manager and Pech was moved to another part of the store. Alarmed at CCTV footage and evidence that backed the claims, the manager advised Clare to call police. Restraining order didn’t stop him.

The head of the store’s security interviewed staff members, putting together a file of comments that would have alerted a professional who understands the danger of stalking that this was high risk.

Police took statements from Clare, but not her flatmates or colleagues. She was never given a formal risk assessment.

Tricia has worked tirelessly as a trustee of the charity Protection Against Stalking to help change stalking laws
Gary Stone -The Sun

Tricia says: “The police relayed the message to Clare that he really didn’t mean the threat, that he said there was a language barrier and he was upset and would never have hurt her.”

Pech was sacked but it didn’t stop his stalking. The next day he turned up at her flat waving at Clare through the window. Clare called the police but when they arrived, he was nowhere to be seen. No action was taken.

Days later he tracked Clare down at a new flat — and was arrested. He held out his wrists waiting to be handcuffed and grinned at Clare.

“Clare was hysterical,” Tricia says. “It was then we felt he was capable of carrying out his threat, He did not fear the law. That was the last time Clare saw him.”

Clare told her mum how she planned to learn Italian

In April 2005, Pech was charged under Section 2 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and held for eight days at HMP Belmarsh. The case was adjourned until August 31 and Pech was bailed with the condition that he did not go to Knightsbridge or contact Clare. He then returned to Slovakia.

Life returned to normal for Clare and Tricia took her to Florence, Italy, for a birthday trip in the July. Inspired, Clare told her mum how she planned to learn Italian.

She also secured an interview for a receptionist job at a solicitor’s firm. “Clare was at her most beautiful and alive,” Tricia says. But while in Slovakia, Pech had retrained in firearms. He legally bought a gun and, in July, smuggled it back into the UK.

“He took four and a half months to plan my daughter’s murder,” Tricia says.

The gun used to kill Clare was smuggled into the UK by Pech from Slovakia

Are you being stalked?

IF you are a victim of stalking, tell a friend, secure your social media, contact the police and call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.

Add your support at change.org/p/the-house-of-commons-stop-a-stalker

Around 7.50pm on September 13, 2005, a colleague looked over at Clare indicating it was ten minutes until store closing. A few customers were milling near the counter as Pech walked up and shot Clare in the back of the head. He then shot her three times in the face before shooting himself.

Police arrived at Tricia’s Kent home at 2am. She recalls: “I was in bed asleep. My ex-partner went downstairs and I followed. The officer said ‘It’s Clare’ and I could just tell by their faces that we’d lost her. I asked ‘How?’ and they said ‘She was shot’. I said ‘By Michael?’. I just knew.”

Tricia believes Clare was failed by police, the coroner and the Crown prosecution Service (CPS). She says: “The police and the CPS did not recognise stalking as high risk and did not take it seriously.

“Formal statements should have been taken from colleagues and ­flatmates. They should have considered the file from Harvey Nichols. There was confusion between the CPS and the police as to whether he should have been charged under section two or four of the Harassment Act.

Tricia believes Clare was failed by police, the coroner and the Crown prosecution Service
Gary Stone -The Sun

“One or the other downgraded it to section two which is ‘harassment’ rather than section 4 which is ‘putting people in fear of violence’. That meant the potential sentence was six months rather than five years. Clare was never formally risk assessed by the police.”

Tricia believes Dr Wollaston’s bill will protect victims at a crucially early stage.

“Sarah’s bill is fantastic. Perhaps at the early stage, if given an order, this person will think ‘OK, this is not worth going to prison for. Protection orders have some meat on the bones.”

Before supporting The Sun’s call to action, Tricia has worked tirelessly as a trustee of the charity Protection Against Stalking to help change stalking laws. The grandmother, who also has two sons, also sits on the Home Office panel overseeing domestic homicide reviews.

“Things have improved but not fast enough,” she says. “For the past two years we have been trying to demonstrate the importance of a local stalking service and The Sun’s help could be invaluable. This paper has the power to make a real difference.

“Victims can feel embarrassed going to the police reporting what appears to be seemingly harmless behaviour. It might be flowers or love letters. What we need is for victims’ friends, colleagues and families to understand the seriousness of stalking and to report it at the earliest stage.

“Stalking gets easier by the day due to technology. One can stalk victims on social media. It’s easy to track people. Clare’s case is as relevant now as it was nearly 14 years ago. Lives are still being lost.”

Are you being stalked?

IF you are a victim of stalking, tell a friend, secure your social media, contact the police and call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300.


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