My son the serial stalker

The Express, UK
June 24, 2004



EXCLUSIVE: Richard Jan was the loving first child of a surgeon born
into a middle-class home.

Now he is facing life in prison after a seven-year reign of terror.

Here, speaking for the first time, his mother reveals her heartache

IT WAS a cry for help. Her elder son was withdrawn and moody.

Her younger son was virtually estranged. Her miserable marriage made
for constant tension at home. Depressed, exhausted and at the end of
her tether, Peggy Jan called social services.

The conversation she had in October 1996 with a social worker at St
Bernard’s Hospital in Ealing, West London, set off a chain of events
which was to shatter the Jan family. Almost eight years later,
Richard Jan is in a top security prison, labelled Britain’s worst
stalker after being convicted two weeks ago on two counts of arson
with intent to endanger life and one count of causing a public

The arson involved setting alight a social worker’s car and the home
of an Ealing councillor. The public nuisance charge is a blanket term
for what amounted to a seven-year campaign of harassment. While Jan
denied arson, he admitted sending hundreds of letters and making
hundreds of phone calls to 200 victims.

Jan will be sentenced next month, pending a psychiatric report, but
the judge has hinted at a life term. “If I could have known what
would come from that telephone call, I would never have opened my
mouth, ” says Peggy Jan. “I was simply asking for help – not only for
Richard but for the whole family because I felt we could not go on as
we were. Instead, Ealing social services have destroyed us.”

While she accepts Richard has done wrong – as he does – what angers
Peggy is that the eight-week trial made no attempt to examine what
could have driven him to such extreme behaviour.

Instead, reports have portrayed him as a violent social misfit with
no friends.

“That is a lie, ” she says. “Richard could be short-tempered. He
could hurt verbally but he has never raised his hand to me or anyone.
I know he must pay the price for what he did but nobody has given any
thought to what started this, to how it could easily have been
avoided and to how we, his innocent family, have suffered.”

RICHARD’S best friend, Dr Peter Stanley, who rented him a room at his
home in Streatham, South London, says Richard was anything but a

“He is very sociable and when we went out in a group, he was the life
and soul. He had friends and he certainly had girlfriends too.”

So how did a well-educated man with no criminal record turn into the
worst stalker in Britain?

Richard, a biochemist, became depressed after being made redundant.
Since he refused to see a doctor, Peggy hoped social services could
help. “I hoped someone would come and talk with us as a family, to
advise us, ” she says.

Instead, on October 9, 1996, she answered the door to find a social
worker, two doctors and two police officers. Standing some distance
away were three or four more policemen and an ambulance was parked in
the street. “They said they had come to see Richard and everyone
walked straight in, ” Peggy recalls. “I asked why the police were
there and they said something about being concerned about possible
violence. It was 10am and Richard was asleep. His room was a boxroom
but they all squeezed into it. Imagine being woken up from a deep
sleep to find a group of strangers round the bed.”

While the visitors talked to Richard in one room, his parents were
barricaded in another. “When I tried to open the door to see what was
going on, I couldn’t because a police officer was holding the handle,
” says Peggy.

After 20 minutes or so, the social worker came to tell Peggy and her
husband that the two doctors had assessed Richard as having a
personality disorder and he had been taken away for their safety.
Later that day, Richard returned, saying he had been bound over after
being brought before Ealing magistrates for breaching the peace.

Learning of his mother’s telephone call, Richard blamed his parents
for the day’s events. He left and it was six-a-half years before
Peggy saw her son again.

But what had driven Peggy, a loving, attentive mother, to such
exasperation that she felt only outsiders could help? To explain
that, we must go back to the earliest days of Richard Jan’s

The Jans are Armenians from Iran. Peggy arrived in London in 1958
aged 20 to train as a nurse.

Seven years later, while visiting her family in Tehran, she was
introduced to Dr Jean Jean, a halfFrench, half-Armenian eye surgeon
20 years her senior. They married in 1965. At 48, Dr Jean had enough
years of service at his hospital to retire with a pension.

Sixteen months after the wedding, the couple moved to London where
Peggy gave birth to Richard, in July 1966. Another son, Frederick,
followed two years later.

But the marriage soured almost immediately. Jean had expected to
secure a post as a consultant or senior registrar at a London
hospital. When none was forthcoming, he refused to take lower
positions and became bitter. “My husband was very selfish and very
proud, ” says Peggy, 68.

APART from a six-month stint at Moorfields and another at the West
Middlesex Hospital in Isleworth, Jean never worked again until his
death in 1998. Peggy worked as a clerk at the Law Society after her
husband forbade her from resuming her nursing career. “We rowed a lot
and my husband put me down all the time. Children suffer when there
is no happiness in the home.”

Richard attended the fee-paying Ealing College and went to Queen Mary
College, London, graduating in biochemistry in 1987. He got a job at
Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, but when his department merged with
Hammersmith Hospital in 1992, he was made redundant. “He was so
unhappy, but he refused to go to the doctor, ” says Peggy. “His
father didn’t care and he had fallen out with his brother, Fred. I
was so depressed about everything that I thought, ‘I have to get some
help from somewhere for all of us.'” Peggy acknowledges she made one
mistake: she exaggerated Richard’s symptoms. “The first time I rang,
the social worker was impatient with me and said they wouldn’t come
if it was not serious.

So when she asked if Richard was threatening us, I said ‘yes’ because
I wanted someone to come and help us out of this fog.”

After Richard walked out, Peggy had to rely on Peter Stanley for news
of her son. But Richard’s problems really began after he lodged
formal complaints against Ealing social services and the West Ealing
Mental Health Trust. “He started off doing it properly. He got a
solicitor to write formal letters but he felt they were fobbing him
off and not taking him seriously, ” says Dr Stanley, 50. The more
frustrated Richard felt, the more extreme his behaviour became. He
even served fours month in prison for breaking an injunction
forbidding him from contacting anyone but the director at the Health

His trial heard how Richard used the Internet and private detectives
to track down social workers, lawyers, medical professionals and
councillors. He made 134 harassment calls to John Cudmore, the leader
of Ealing council, and more than 4,000 in total. On November 30,
2001, Councillor Liz Brookes, who was responsible for social
services, awoke to the sound of petrol being poured through her
letterbox, then set alight.

The social worker who had first come to his home in 1996 had her car
torched and was attacked twice by a “hooded figure” wielding a brick
and a baseball bat.

Richard was arrested in February 2003. After her husband’s death,
Peggy moved to California. On a visit to London in April 2003, she
learned her son was on remand.

Her first sight of him in many years was in the visiting room of
Wandsworth jail.

The prospect of a long jail term has made Richard suicidal, she says.

“He is a very different person now. He knows he did wrong and took
things too far. All he wanted was to be treated with respect. If
Ealing had apologised, none of this would have happened. He accepts
he must be punished and so do I.

But life imprisonment is not justice. I have no one to help me but I
will not rest until I get justice for my son.”

Ealing council issued the following statement: “This has been an
extremely difficult and unusual case for the council. After our
initial contact with Mr Jan, council staff attempted to deal with his
concerns. We responded to Mr Jan’s complaints and arranged to meet
him to discuss and explain our actions. When this failed to resolve
the issues, the local community health council arranged to provide
advocacy and mediation for him. As a last resort, the council was
given no other option other than to take out an injunction against Mr
Jan, as his persistent harassment of our staff reached a point where
we were seriously concerned for their wellbeing. The council is
pleased this case has reached a conclusion.”

Peggy Jan is a widow, estranged from one son, and separated by the
law from the other.

She has lost everything and has known so much misfortune that all she
can do is fight for her son.

Yesterday, she was on her way to Iran to sell family land to raise
money for her crusade.