Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Stalkers and harassers of royalty: the role of mental illness and motivation

D. V. Jamesa1, P. E. Mullena2 c1, M. T. Pathéa3, J. R. Meloya4, L. F. Prestona1, B. Darnleya1 and F. R. Farnhama1

a1 North London Forensic Service, London, UK

a2 Department of Psychological Medicine, Monash University and Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health, Victoria, Australia

a3 Threat Management Centre, Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia

a4 Forensis Inc., San Diego, CA, USA


Background Public figures are at increased risk of attracting unwanted attention in the form of intrusions, stalking and, occasionally, attack. Whereas the potential threat to the British Royal Family from terrorists and organized groups is clearly defined, there is a dearth of knowledge about that from individual harassers and stalkers. This paper reports findings from the first systematic study of this group.

Method A retrospective study was conducted of a randomly selected stratified sample (n=275) of 8001 files compiled by the Metropolitan Police Service's Royalty Protection Unit over 15 years on inappropriate communications or approaches to members of the British Royal Family. Cases were split into behavioural types. Evidence of major mental illness was recorded from the files. Cases were classified according to a motivational typology. An analysis was undertaken of associations between motivation, type of behaviour and mental illness.

Results Of the study sample, 83.6% were suffering from serious mental illness. Different forms of behaviour were associated with different patterns of symptomatology. Cases could be separated into eight motivational groups, which also showed significant differences in mental state. Marked differences in the intrusiveness of behaviour were found between motivational groups.

Conclusions The high prevalence of mental illness indicates the relevance of psychiatric intervention. This would serve the health interests of psychotic individuals and alleviate protection concerns without the necessity of attempting large numbers of individual risk predictions. The finding that some motivations are more likely to drive intrusive behaviours than others may help focus both health and protection interventions.

(Received September 23 2008)

(Revised December 29 2008)

(Accepted January 15 2009)

(Online publication April 01 2009)


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor P. E. Mullen, D.Sc., FRC.Psych., Clinical Director, Victorian Institute of Forensic Mental Health, Thomas Embling Hospital, Locked Bag 10, Fairfield, Victoria 3078, Australia. (Email: