Camden Ripper: The prison letters
Camden New Journal 12 August, 2005
SERIAL killer Anthony Hardy has told friends that he prays for forgiveness in his prison cell after “finding God” and “rediscovering Catholicism”, the New Journal can exclusively reveal.
Hardy – nicknamed The Camden Ripper after his gruesome murders, among the most shocking in British criminal history – has regular chats with prison chaplains and litters conversations and hand-written letters with references to the Bible.
His attempts to find redemption through religion is just one of the revelations in a series of extraordinary letters sent from Wakefield Prison in Yorkshire to a friend, Sarah McGuinness, one of the witnesses who gave evidence to an inquiry into the mental health care that Hardy received before his killings.
Hardy, 55, who mutilated the bodies of two of his victims with a hacksaw in his Camden Town council flat, has also become a vegan, writes short stories to beat the boredom of prison life, paints and is desperately trying to lose weight.
The letters – the only insight into his life behind bars since he was charged with the murder of three prostitutes – were penned throughout last year. They reveal how he is desperate to make contact with relatives who have shunned him since his arrest.
In one of his first letters to Ms McGuinness, he said: “I have prayed for forgiveness virtually every day for the past year since my brother died in a car accident in Australia aged 60 on January 20, 2003. God has taken him to be with other members of my family. The chaplain of the prison gave me the news and we prayed together about Terry (Hardy’s brother) and myself.”
Hardy’s lawyer, Elaine Needham, is thought to be the prisoner’s only regular visitor. All visitors are stringently checked through a police database. He has spent periods in Belmarsh and Wakefield prisons, and has also been held at the high-security units at Rampton Hospital and Broadmoor.
Another Hardy letter said: “Elaine brought me the news that Harold Shipman had hanged himself on Monday night. I wonder if he redeemed himself before he died (repented?). ‘I am the resurrection and the life for whosoever believes me shall live, even though he dies’ said the Lord! John 11.25’ Shipman didn’t adhere to his hypocratic oath, so I leave his fate to the almighty. Amen.”
The note added: “I went to Rampton Hospital between April and July 2003 for assessment and met another wonderful chaplain and went to services when staff allowed me. I wanted to join the choir but circumstances and my return have prevented it.”
The letters reveal that Hardy, despite his new religious conviction, has not been a model prisoner. In one of the darkest passages he attempted to transpose the number “666” – the mark of the devil in the Bible – into his date of birth.
He wrote: “The ‘authorities’ think I’m behaving badly rather than being ill. I’ve lost all my correspondence due to a flood of biblical proportions which I caused in my cell… There’s a verse in the Bible which says “…and wash away all your iniquities” and that’s what I did in the flood! The staff were not so forgiving! I’ve become a Catholic since moving to Wakefield but they have no catholic priest to hear my confession – instruct me in the catechism – help me atone for my sins, so I’m in limbo until September when a priest will be appointed.”
Hardy, instantly recognisable by his beard, bulky six-foot frame and a face that has appeared on the front of every national newspaper, killed vice girls Elizabeth Valad, 29, and Brigitte MacClennan 35, in December 2002. He sliced up their bodies before trussing up their dismembered limbs in black bags and dropping them in wheelie bins at the College Place estate in Royal College Street where he lived alone.
The body parts were later found by a homeless man. Hardy went on the run but was arrested early in January 2003 after a massive manhunt as he begged for drugs to treat his diabetes at Great Ormond Street Hospital in Bloomsbury.
Chillingly, Hardy had been arrested on suspicion of the murder of another woman, Sally Rose White – a 38-year-old prostitute whose naked body was found locked in a secret room in his flat – 12 months before the first bin bag discoveries.
He was not charged after a pathologist and a coroner both insisted Ms White had died from heart complications. The verdict was only revised after Hardy’s arrest. He later confessed to all three murders and was jailed for life at the Old Bailey in November 2003.
From his prison cell at Wakefield, Hardy, a father-of-four, told Ms McGuinness: “I’m going to ask Elaine to write to my ex-wife and tell her about my rediscovered faith and assure her that she is safe now. I don’t expect I will ever be released from prison. I’d like to know how many grandchildren I have. I expect there are several.”
Hardy’s letters reveal how he has been classed a ‘category A’ prisoner and locked up in a cell opposite Soham child killer Ian Huntley. At one stage he claimed he was lined up for a cell swap with Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe.
Hardy has used his letters to Ms McGuinness to moan about his fellow prisoners, whom he says cannot match his intellect.
He said: “It’s lovely to have someone to write to who is my intellectual equal. There are many asylum seekers in Belmarsh and people who have been persecuted for their beliefs.
“Several are friends of mine and, of course, I have Christian friends from all parts of the world. Very few have had the benefit of an excellent education though.”
He is amusing himself by drawing and painting in prison and thinking up other diversions.
Hardy said: “I do art here which I find very satisfying. I’m in my Anthony Van Dyck phase now. I have his type of beard but my favourite artist is Salvador Dali. I’ve become a vegan, can you put me in touch with the Vegan Society? The prison can’t, even though they provide a vegan diet. I’m trying to lose weight by not eating fat in meat and dairy products.
“I can’t get to education either (High Security Category!) so I write short stories for my own amusement and read psychology, science and literature when I can. I have been to the gym here and in Rampton where I played volleyball quite successfully. Rampton had a pool, so when I dived in the water dived out!! Seriously they had a good music system at the pool so I had a good one hour session once a week.”
But although Hardy has found ways to while away the hours, he has told friends that he knows that he is unlikely to ever be released from jail.
In one of his longest letters to Ms McGuinness, he said: “I’m waiting to be given a tariff by the judge which could take months. There are 700 lifer cases waiting to be dealt with.”