Every year, women are killed by stalkers and domestic abusers—despite previously reporting them to the police. Unfollow Me is a campaign highlighting the under-reported issue of stalking and domestic abuse. Follow all of our coverage here.
Meera Dalal was a woman with a promising future: She had a great circle of friends, a close-knit family, and a good career as a hospital liason officer. Her friends described her as the glue in their friendship group. “She was selfless,” her friend Jenny Patel told Broadly.
In April 2013, Dalal was on a night out with her friends when she bumped into a man she’d dated briefly as a teeager. (He cannot be named for legal reasons.) They reconnected and began dating. “She was really excited,” said her friend Shriya Parmar. “We were all excited for her as well. She was in a good place. She was happy.”
But Dalal’s demeanor began to change over time. She stopped hanging out with her friends and appeared preoccupied even when she did see them. “She was constantly on her phone,” Patel said.
Her friends witnessed several disturbing incidents involving Dalal and her partner. On one occasion, he threw her shoes over a wall because he was angered that Dalal was taller than him in heels. He attempted to physically assault her best friend Bhavni Morjaria after she counseled Dalal to leave him. Once he even obtained the CCTV footage from a restaurant Dalal had visited with her friends to check her whereabouts. Dalal often sent him photographs of where she was, and she constantly speaking to him on her phone or on Skype.
It became clear to all of Dalal’s close friends and family that she was in an abusive relationship, but they struggled to know how to help her. Dalal turned up at a friend’s wedding late and covered in bruises, her friend Dixita Tank remembers. She said that she’d fallen down the stairs and refused to be pushed further.
When her friends attempted to make plans to see her, she’d ask them to leave her alone. “She told me I was getting her in trouble [with her boyfriend],” Morjaria said. “I didn’t want to get her in trouble.” Abusers commonly isolate their victims from those who love them most to better facilitate their abuse. Like many domestic abuse victims, Dalal soon lost touch with her closest friends.
When Dalal ended the relationship, her ex began stalking her. He would turn up uninvited at the house where she lived with her parents. Her family says that he withheld her passport so that she couldn’t go on holiday with them. Dalal even began transferring large sums of money to his bank account. Daksha, her mother, thinks that he was blackmailing her: “She said to her dad, ‘I need to get a new car, because he keeps following me.’”
On 15 February, 2016, Dalal was found dead at her parents’ home in Leicester. She had died by suicide at the age of just 25. After her death, an investigation conducted by police watchdog Independent Police Complaints Commission (now known as the Independent Office for Police Conduct) found that Dalal had spoken to police multiple about the abuse, but refused to cooperate with officers investigating the allegations.
Her family believe this is because she was too frightened that her ex would retaliate with violence against her parents and sister. “He kept harassing her,” Daksha says. “She said to me two weeks before she passed away, ‘I’m not safe in this country.’”
“Following the death of Meera Dalal, the force identified issues in relation to the investigation and consulted the Independent Office for Police Conduct,” a spokesperson for Leicestershire Police told Broadly. “Following a public complaint in the weeks after her death, the force referred itself to the IOPC, who took this as an independent investigation.The IOPC investigation was completed in December 2016 and concluded there was no case to answer for misconduct against any of the officers.”
Broadly met with Dalal's friends Morjaria, Patel, Parmar, and Tank to find out more about her life and how best to help other stalking and domestic abuse victims.
If you or a friend is in an abusive relationship and you're unsure what to do, read our companion piece with anti-stalking charity Paladin for practical tips on how to help.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.