Comedian Matt Reed was 29 when he first started talking to a woman called Chloe.
He had recently moved from Manchester to Sunderland to become a carer for his mother, who had just been given four months to live.
Isolated and house-bound while he looked after his dying mum, he took solace in speaking to women online.
It was on Facebook that Matt came across Chloe, 27, whose profile pictures showed she was a beautiful slim brunette from London. The pair became increasingly close, especially after Matt’s mother’s death.
“She said her sister had died, too, so we bonded over that. We were chatting for ages, every night,” Matt, now 39, tells Yahoo UK.
Soon, he was “head over heels” for his internet confidante. He was keen to meet her, but every time he tried, disaster would strike.
“I’d get the train to London for the day, spending a fortune on a train ticket, then when I was halfway there she’d call me up and cancel. There was always an excuse. She said she had previously been with an abusive partner, and was worried this was going the same way.”
Then, Chloe told Matt she had moved to Wynyard in Stockton-on-Tees – just a 45-minute drive from his home in Sunderland. But, despite her apparent proximity, she kept making excuses not to meet.
At the same time, Chloe began buying lavish gifts for Matt. One day it would be a £200 Paul Smith jacket, another time she would surprise him by ordering him an £800 Hotel Chocolat bundle.
A year after Matt first started speaking to Chloe, he decided enough was enough – and asked a friend who worked in telecoms to help him track her phone number, to find out Chloe’s address in Wynyard.
However, when the number was tracked, it belonged to an address in Darlington. What’s more, there was no Chloe living at the address. Instead, there was a 20-year-old Sophie, who lived with middle-aged parents Joan and Warren.
“Everything fell apart, once I realised she wasn’t who she said she was,” says Matt, who was by this point at a loss for whom he had actually been speaking to.
He had by this point spent £11,000 – the entirety of the money he’d inherited from his mother – on train tickets and hotel rooms in his quest to meet Chloe.
Over the next two years, Matt tried to move on with his life, performing comedy gigs up and down the country. But Chloe remained a shadowy presence through it all.
Chloe would contact Matt from several different numbers. [Photo: Matt Reed]She would also use different numbers to contact Matt, making it near impossible to block her out of his life – and somehow was able to track him.
“She would know where I was at all times, it was horrible. She’d say: “Oh I thought you said you were here tonight.”
Armed with this knowledge, Chloe would make covert appearances at his comedy shows.
“I was performing at a gig in Stockton, and she texted me about a song I was playing as part of my act. It ruined my night – I spent the whole time scanning the crowd to see if she was there.”
On another date, Chloe turned up at Matt’s comedy show in a disguise.
“She said: ‘I came to find you the backstage but you weren’t there.’ No one had seen her.”
Matt checked the CCTV, and saw a woman in a hat and a long collared coat which hid her face. The footage showed her getting out of a taxi, walking outside the comedy stand and sending a text, before getting back in the car shortly afterwards.
By this point, Matt unsurprisingly wanted nothing more to do with Chloe – and would tell her in no uncertain terms to leave him alone.
“I told her: ‘You’re not who you say you are. Leave me alone.’ The next morning, I woke up to 170 missed calls and 72 messages from her, all saying that she loved me.”
Then, one evening, Matt was at home when his phone buzzed. It was Chloe – and the message contained a picture of his front door.
“I rushed out the house. The lights were all off in the street – it was pitch black – but I could see a woman in the distance, her face lit up by her phone. She had wild hair like Slash from Gun & Roses, which she wore brushed over her face.”
As Matt walked towards the woman, she started screaming at him to leave her alone, and ran away.
“I yelled after her: ‘Please just tell me why you are doing this to me.'”
Back at home, Matt realised he needed to seek help. Through the ordeal, he had lost three stone and his hair had began to fall out.
To add to the worry, Chloe had blackmailed Matt – threatening to share intimate details he had confided in her with friends and family.
READ MORE: Polyamorous couples share their experiences
“The police weren’t helpful at all. One of them said: ‘What are you worried about? She’s a lass’,” he reveals.
However, he eventually convinced them to help him track his stalker down.
It transpired Chloe, the pretty brunette in her twenties Matt had met on the internet, was actually Joan*, 54, an unemployed mum from Darlington who spent her life perpetuating an online fantasy self.
What’s more, Joan had been using Matt’s phone to track him for the past three years. She had even hacked into the phone’s microphone function, so she could hear his conversations.
“When the police arrested her, she was broken: crying one moment, and laughing the next,” says Matt. He now has an injunction against Joan, who faces sectioning if she comes within 750 yards of him.
While Matt says he is still affected by the ordeal, which claimed three years of his life, he has managed to challenge it into his work, including his 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Comedy show, ‘Stalked’.
Are you worried about a stalker? Contact the National Stalker Helpline for advice and support.
Yahoo UK’s series, Yahoo Stories, shares real-life experiences. Have you got one to share? Tweet us via @YahooStyleUK.