Travel blogger in Indonesia's Bali mounts international appeal to stop stalker fan

Bali-based American Alexandra Saper said she fled Indonesia after Robert James Keating arrived at the resort island on Jan 29. - PHOTOS: THEWAYFARESS.COM, COURTESY OF ALEXANDRA SAPER via The Straits Times/ANN

BALI, Feb 26 (The Straits Times/ANN): After weeks of appealing to police and officials on three continents to stop a stalker seemingly bent on kidnapping her, 31-year-old social media influencer Alexandra Saper says help may finally be at hand.

The Bali-based American said she fled Indonesia after Robert Keating – who had set up multiple Instagram accounts to send her messages and “dark” e-mails including dozens of lurid videos – arrived at the resort island on Jan 29.

Saper said she had previously consoled herself that the messages were the work of an unstable mind who likely would not navigate the challenges of international travel to follow through on the threats.

“Up until then I was terrified, but I spoke to my parents about it and to my friends in Bali, and we were all just: ‘He’s mentally ill. He won’t do this.’ I was able to tell myself it wasn’t a real threat,” said the lawyer-turned-travel-blogger, who has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram.

But then Keating, said to be a 38-year-old former traffic management operative from Horsham, West Sussex, England, reached out to Saper’s friends asking for her whereabouts and sent messages regarding his travel dates.

“When he got to Bali, I finally thought, this is a threat. This is a danger,” she said.

She filed a report with the local police and moved in with friends. On Feb 15, Saper, who calls Keating “deranged” and “delusional” in her posts, announced on Instagram that she had escaped to “somewhere else in the world where I know I won’t be found”.

Keating – who is still in Bali, according to his Facebook profile – makes plain his infatuation with Ms Saper, referring to her as his “queen”.

In one of the videos that The Straits Times has seen, he models a black cap and jacket and pulls the collar up around his nose before exclaiming into the camera: “I’m going to kidnap your a**.”

After nearly two weeks of phones calls and technical glitches trying to share a Google Drive folder of video and e-mails as evidence, Ms Saper was told by regional police in Sussex last week that they have assigned officers to her case, which they called “extreme” and a “textbook” case of a suspect intending to use violence.

Saper said: “Now they finally have all the evidence, which is black and white, so I’m hopeful they’ll move quickly.”

Indonesia in 2022 passed legislation making sexual harassment and online stalking a crime.

But Bali police came in for criticism from overseas media for seemingly acting too slowly to protect Saper, something local officials deny.

“We have taken proactive measures to secure Ms Alexandra and the community,” police chief Leo Dedy Defretes, who oversees Badung district where Ms Saper lived, told ST.

Details of police measures are withheld from publication to prevent interference with ongoing operations.

But Saper’s flight from Bali – she has asked ST to refrain from publishing her location – may have stymied the investigation into Keating’s alleged threats, local police say.

Police said investigators have briefed the US Embassy through its consulate in Bali this week in an attempt to reach out to Saper for details that would help them conclude their investigations. They said they lack the resources to translate all the evidence she provided and need her to specify the offending portions.

Saper told ST that Bali police had questioned her through a translator for over eight hours, and their insistence on her submitting to a psychological evaluation wore her down, eventually triggering a “trauma freeze”. Still, she has tamped down criticism of Indonesian police, saying her own government and the British police need to do more to keep women safe from online stalking.

“This isn’t a Bali thing. I don’t feel supported by the embassy,” Saper said of the US mission. “I’ve been extremely frustrated by the police in the UK, where he’ll eventually return to, where he started this whole thing.”

When reached by ST through Instagram, Keating said the videos were a prank and her allegations were “spun-up influencer garbage”.

He dismissed the video depicting him warning that he will kidnap Saper. “How on earth can you take that seriously? I have a playful nature. Silliness is a part of who I am.”

A spokesman at the British Embassy in Jakarta said staff are “aware of this case and have offered to provide assistance” to Ms Saper.

Saper said the embassy referred her to a consular agent at the US Embassy via instant messaging.

US Embassy officials say they are taking the matter seriously.

“The safety and security of American citizens is our No. 1 priority,” said embassy spokesman Michael Quinn.

“We have been communicating with the relevant authorities from the moment we became aware of the case,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Saper, who first came to Bali five years ago, posing for social media posts at the edge of infinity pools or with fiery tropical sunsets, said she just wants to return and get back to work.

During a video chat, Saper was visibly exhausted and said she was suffering from acid reflux due to stress. She said she would use her “privilege” and social media following to raise awareness of online harassment and challenge the authorities to stop offenders before they do physical harm.

A video posted on her Instagram detailing her ordeal has been played more than 730,000 times.

“If it’s not me,” Saper told ST, “then he’s going to move on to someone else in another country.” - The Straits Times/ANN

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