FOR most of the noughties, Mark Wilson was an Aussie TV favourite as one of the judges on hit reality show Dancing with the Stars.
The professional dancer and dance teacher’s career soared after joining the popular program in late 2004, making him a household name.
But his new-found fame also soon led to “soul-destroying” attacks and threats at the hands of a mystery stalker who has never been caught.
On May 13, 2005, Mr Wilson received a call that would change his life forever.
It was the police, informing him of a fire at his Melbourne dance studio.
Mr Wilson initially thought it would be a small fire caused by an electrical fault or some other accident.
But it was arson — and the studio was “completely ruined”.
Determined to put the attack behind him, Mr Wilson opened a new studio in late 2008.
Just 12 weeks later, it too burned to the ground, with the culprit using the exact same method as the first attack.
And just a week later, Mr Wilson’s wife Annemarie received a horrifying phone call from the stalker, who threatened to torch the family home if they reopened a third time.
Now, the 55-year-old has spoken out about the devastating ordeal in a new book about stalking and the effects the phenomenon has on victims’ lives.
In Stalked: The Human Target, Mr Wilson told author Rachel Cassidy of the “soul-destroying” impact the stalking had on himself, his wife and their three young children.
“If someone is so determined to ruin you, to crush you, and is prepared to go to those kinds of lengths to wipe you out, financially and emotionally, there is no way you can defend yourself,” Mr Wilson says in the book.
Initially, the couple kept their business going, moving classes between a number of different locations to make them harder to trace.
But the fear took its toll, with worried parents pulling their kids out of classes in droves.
Facing mounting debt, they eventually made the decision to shut down for good, move away from Melbourne and forge entirely new careers.
Mr Wilson, who left Dancing with the Stars in 2013, went into advertising and then business coaching, and while he and Annemarie don’t yet own their own home, it’s a goal they hope to reach soon.
He told news.com.au he agreed to be featured in the book to give hope to others affected by stalking.
“The major reason for me becoming involved was to really let people know there’s a pathway after this … it’s important not to let this define your life,” he said.
“To be able to move ahead, it’s important to recognise that this happens, and that a stalker does this — but it’s not your fault.
“When these events happen, the power of the stalker is fear, so it’s about having a strategy around how you cope.
“Sometimes it means having to make brave decisions and to shift like we did, in order to be empowered for the next stage of life.”
He said he refused to become a “victim”.
“It’s not useful dwelling on unfairness and thinking ‘it shouldn’t have happened’. Denial and what-ifs aren’t productive — I look at what’s going to take my family and I forward,” Mr Wilson said.
“One of my drivers in life is being an example to my children because when they go through life and bad things happen, which they will, I don’t want them to give up.
“If fear grips you and you can’t move ahead, then the stalker wins.”
Mr Wilson said he hoped people would use the book as a resource and a learning tool and not just a “voyeuristic read”.