A Coquitlam resident is sending out a warning to other women after being followed by a strange man in a Burnaby park yesterday for 30 minutes despite several attempts to evade him.
Melody Johnson said she entered the Burnaby Lake trails at the Cariboo Dam entrance sometime after 5 p.m. just as the man seemed to be leaving the park.
Shortly after he passed her, however, she realized he had turned around and was following her.
Johnson, who is 30 years old and describes herself as a five-foot-three “small girl,” said she stopped beside the trail and pretended to tie her shoe to let him pass.
He did, and she lost sight of him, she said.
She had hoped he was far enough ahead of her that she couldn’t see him, but somehow he ended up behind her again, she said.
“Along that stretch of path, the only way he could have ended up behind me is if he had hidden somewhere waiting for me to pass him,” Johnson said.
At that point, Johnson said she was “quite scared,” so she video-called her mom and sister, telling them she thought she was being followed.
She then stopped again and pretended to take some photos to let the man pass.
As he did, she turned the camera around so her family could see him, but he turned his face away, according to Johnson.
She said she had even loudly told her family “I think this guy is following me” as he passed.
Johnson said she then kept an eye on the man until he turned down another trail.
She stopped to make sure he was actually following that trail before she moved on, she said
Still on a video call with her family, she said she told them to let her know if they spotted him again behind her.
“Less than a minute later, my sister said, ‘He’s behind you; walk faster!’” Johnson said. “That was probably one of the scariest moments of my life.”
She said she picked up her pace until she was almost jogging, but the man kept about 15 metres behind her for about seven minutes until she finally met an older woman walking in the opposite direction.
“I stopped her and said ‘I think this guy has been following me for over 20 minutes now. Can you please walk with me?’ She immediately turned and walked back the way she came to walk with me. I almost started crying with relief. I genuinely thought I was going to be raped and killed.”
A short distance further on, the pair encountered another young woman on the trail, and she joined them as well.
“The man that was behind me immediately slowed down the second he saw the three of us together,” Johnson said.
She called 911 when the women got to Warner Loat Park near the Burnaby Lake Nature House, and she said the dispatcher warned them not to try to take photos of the man, as it might antagonize him.
“I can completely 100% understand why because of the fact that, when he walked past us, he clearly turned his head; he was definitely trying to not be seen, so I feel like, if he would have actually seen me or the other ladies trying to take a photo of him, he might have lost it,” Johnson said.
She waited at the park with one of the other women until police arrived, and an officer then drove her home.
“I cannot even begin to describe how terrified I was during this, and I can't even begin to thank the two women that walked with me for helping me,” Johnson said. “I don't even want to think of what might have happened if I hadn't run into anyone.”
Burnaby RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Brett Cunningham called the man’s behaviour “concerning” and asked anyone with information that could identify him to come forward.
“The woman in this situation did the right thing,” he said. “She did not turn her back, stepped aside and attempted to let the man pass. When he continued to follow, she sought immediate help from someone nearby and called the police.”
The suspect is described as a five-foot-10 South Asian male with a medium build and black facial hair but not a full beard. He was wearing a black sweat suit with a black toque and white running shoes.
Contact Burnaby RCMP at 604-646-9999.
To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).