‘Camden Ripper’: Were these women the first victims?

Camden New Journal
WHEN detectives asked him where the sawn-off heads and hands of his victims were, the Camden Ripper – for that is the name the tabloids instantly gave Anthony Hardy 10 years ago – remained stubbornly obstructive.
No comment, he repeatedly muttered in response to police questions.

Those missing body parts of two women murdered in his Camden council flat have never been found, presumably buried in a refuse tip, a final resting place befitting no one.

While Hardy was jailed for life in 2003, and a court order rules that he will never be released, the unsolved secrets of Camden’s serial killer case have now been a nagging feature for a decade.

Not only did body parts go untraced, but the debate for those who know the case best is whether Hardy had killed more than the three victims that are known about.

Tonight (Thursday), a television criminologist will insist there are “compelling” leads to suggest he did, and will urge police to reopen their inquiries.

In the documentary, Killers Behind Bars, to be screened by Channel 5 at 9pm, Professor David Wilson goes as far as naming the cold cases he thinks should be reopened by police – and, significantly, does so with the apparent blessing of the father of one of the women he is referring to.

The documentary will, for the first time, link the deaths of Sharon Hoare, a prostitute murdered in Chelsea in 1991, and Christine McGovern, who was found dead in her bath in Walthamstow in 1995, to Hardy.

Professor Wilson, a former prison governor who has had contact with several serial killers during his career, including Muswell Hill murderer Dennis Nilsen, says: “I have the distinct impression that if police were to look closely with Hardy as a prime suspect in the Sharon Hoare and Christine McGovern cases then at long last their families might get some closure.”

The basis for his claim relies on comparing the “modus operandi” – methods used by a killer – in the cold cases to the Camden murders; a forgotten photofit of a suspect sought for attacking sex workers in west London in the 1990s bearing a striking resemblance to Hardy; and a new revelation that Hardy worked as a minicab driver around the time of Ms Hoare’s death. One of the last sightings was of her getting into a cab.

Hardy, now in his early 60s and with a history of bipolar disorder, was arrested at Christmas 2002 after the discovery of body parts in black bags in bins near his home on the College Place estate in Camden Town.

The killer’s misfortune was that Camden Council was a day late collecting the bins behind the College Arms pub – since bulldozed – due to the Christmas holidays, allowing enough time for a homeless man to discover a severed leg as he searched for something to eat.

The bin-bags contained the remains of Elizabeth Valad, 29, and Brigitte MacLennan, 34, both of whom had worked as prostitutes in the King’s Cross and Camden Town areas.

A search of Hardy’s home found more body parts, a hacksaw and walls splashed with blood, albeit some of it only discoverable by a chemical wash used to detect dried blood.

The sheer scale of the butchery was underlined by the fact that Ms Valad had to be identified by pin codes on implants in her breasts and buttocks.

The scandal of Hardy’s case – never probed by a public inquiry sought by Ms Valad’s family in the name of her daughter –was that he had murdered before and literally got away with it.

In the same flat in January 2002, the body of Sally White, 38, was discovered by officers investigating what initially seemed a routine case of criminal damage on the estate.

She lay dead on a bed in a locked room, naked. Police found her with a bite mark on her thigh and a wound to the head. Her bloodied hoody lay nearby.

Hardy was arrested but a murder investigation was dropped when Home Office pathologist Dr Freddy Patel ruled she had died of natural causes due to heart disease.

In a communications mix-up, the coroner of the day, Dr Stephen Chan, was never told of the suspicious circumstances in which Ms White’s body was found and an inquest reached a “natural causes” verdict.

Detectives say the pathologist’s findings effectively shut down their ability to investigate further.

Dr Patel was later struck off after being investigated for his mistaken findings into the death of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson, who died during the G20 protests in 2009 after being pushed to the ground by a police officer.

Ms White’s relatives had largely lost touch with her and there was no challenging voice at the hearing.

Hardy was ‘sectioned’ – in a secure unit, at which staff worried privately that they were dealing with a killer.

But he was later released and soon after went onto murder Ms Valad and Ms MacLennan during Camden Town’s darkest Christmas.

Professor Wilson and his research team have spent months interviewing people who knew Hardy, his victims, experts in criminal behaviour and those with in-depth knowledge of the case.

At one stage, they visited the Camden New Journal’s offices to study an article about Hardy’s letters from prison written after his conviction. In one of them, he tells a friend: “There is much more than anyone imagines to be revealed.”

During tonight’s Channel 5 documentary, Professor Wilson explains the study of criminology and the importance of comparing Hardy’s “modus operandi” with other cases. He says there are similarities with the cases of Ms Hoare and Ms McGovern, the latter of which somehow failed to receive widespread media attention.

The criminologist had acquired a list of unsolved murders of sex workers through Freedom of Information enquiries and then whittled that list down to those in the London area and ones with similarities to Hardy’s methods in Camden.

While Ms White’s death was mistakenly attributed to blocked arteries and shock generated by rough sex, Hardy actually killed with “crush asphyxiation”, which the documentary tells viewers is “relatively rare” in murder cases.

Essentially, his burly 6ft frame sucked the life from their bodies as he straddled them.

“Blood dams up in the head,” the Channel 5 researchers are told by experts. Hardy later said his victims died during bondage sex.

Investigators found that the killer, before cutting up their bodies in his bath, had posed their corpses in demonic masks and, if it is possible to be even more bizarre, Mr Men socks. There may have been an element of necrophilia, experts claimed.

It is the “crush asphyxiation” which forms a key strand of Professor Wilson’s view that it may be confirmed in the future that Hardy had killed others.

He says there are similarities with the heavy violence used against Ms McGovern – she was found with a crushed spine and broken nose – before she died.

Reviewing Hardy’s case files, Professor Wilson says Ms McGovern died at a period when Hardy was known to be in the “middle of a major psychotic episode”.

He says: “I believe there is rarely such a thing as coincidence in serial murder so this link feels important. Another link is that Hardy regularly used sex workers, preferring to contact them through adverts placed in magazines where Christine was known to advertise her services.”

Hardy’s history of mental illness and violence is documented in a report compiled for a behind-closed-doors inquiry held by the local mental health trust.

The same report confirms the father of two sons and two daughters had tried to kill his wife while they lived for a spell in Australia.
Hardy had attempted to bludgeon her in the 1980s with a water bottle frozen with ice.

Professor Wilson has spent even more time zeroing in on the case of Ms Hoare, who was found dead in Chelsea in 1991.

She had come to London from Bristol with a dream of becoming a model, but had turned to prostitution at only 19.

During the documentary, Channel 5 will tonight broadcast Professor Wilson’s interview with Ms Hoare’s father, Jack Hanson – the first time he has spoken about the unsolved case.

He tells Killers Behind Bars that he was anonymously tipped off that his daughter had been knelt on during her death, a point which Professor Wilson fits into Hardy’s “crush” modus operandi.

Mr Hanson – clearly emotional during the interview – adds: “I had an email to say: ‘I think the minicab driver should be investigated’, which I thought was quite odd at the time.”

The criminologist’s research later establishes the new revelation that Hardy was working as a minicab driver at the time of Ms Hoare’s death. A woman who knew both Hardy and Ms MacLennan reveals she got to know him after he picked her up in his cab from a nightclub.

Mr Hanson tells Killers Behind Bars: “I would love closure. It would be nice to see someone punished because this is not right. There is a man or woman walking around perhaps having a good life. That can’t be right.”

In a further twist, Professor Wilson finds a forgotten photofit, briefly printed in newspapers in the 1990s around the time of Ms Hoare’s death, of a suspect believed to have attacked prostitutes in west London.

There is a clear resemblance to Hardy, a point confirmed by former staff at the Arlington House hostel in Camden Town who knew him.

Professor Wilson says: “The revelation that Hardy worked as a minicab driver and the fact Sharon Hoare was last sighted in one before her murder, although circumstantial, are a significant lead.

“His similarity to the photofit of a man attacking sex workers in west London feels important too. It makes me believe there are enough compelling leads to warrant further investigation by police in both these cases.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “The possibility that Anthony Hardy was responsible for other murders was fully investigated at the time and no evidence to support this was uncovered. There will be no further action by police.”

Killers Behind Bars will be screened on Channel 5 at 9pm tonight (Thursday).

10 years on, the questions that won’t go away

AS police searched the bins and drains outside Anthony Hardy’s flat a decade ago, I stood on the police cordon as two curious boys cycled up on BMXs and asked the officers what they were doing, writes Richard Osley.

“Somebody’s dropped a fiver,” one of them replied.

It was only black humour which got some of those men and women in uniform through the day.

The gory finds inside the flat would churn even the strongest of constitutions. In Killers Behind Bars, screened for the first time tonight, Professor David Wilson describes the property as “an abattoir”.

That may sound the stuff of a tabloid headline writer, but his work is more serious than a salacious, low-budget rehashed telling of Camden’s serial killings story.

He is not the first to throw out the names of women who might have been killed by Hardy, but he is the first to explain how he reached his conclusions.

That said, the need for a pinch of salt is always there. Professor Wilson admits some of his leads, though well researched, are “circumstantial”.

Sharon Hoare’s unsolved murder has been linked in the past to other killers and nothing has come of it.

Alun Kyte, who was given the just-as-lazy, newspaper nickname “the Midlands Ripper” after a series of murders in the 1990s, and Costa Del Sol strangler Tony King, who confessed to murdering two young women in Spain, are names that have cropped up before.

There have been failed attempts to link Hardy with other crimes too. The murder of Paula Fields, whose remains were dumped in the canal in Camden Town in 2001, was linked in newspaper reports to him but police always knew she had been killed by John Sweeney, the Scalp Hunter.

Viewers may wonder whether, if the “modus operandi” is so similar in the cold cases being linked to Hardy, why severed body parts were not found back in 1991 and 1995 as they were in 2002.

The underlying problem may still be that Hardy’s life and crimes, and the scandal of how he dodged the authorities when he surely could have been caught before killing again, were never the subject of a rigorous public inquiry.

No evidence was heard in a courtroom and the evidence to a mental health inquiry was submitted with press and public locked out.

Through the cracks, mystery remains and you can’t blame a curious television criminologist for trying to fill the gaps. The case has always warranted more attention.

Camden New Journal deputy editor Richard Osley has reported on the Anthony Hardy case since 2002.

%d bloggers like this: