Matthew Hardy: Where is the Cyberstalker Now?

The pervasive issues of online stalking and harassment can leave victims with profound and enduring consequences, affecting their mental health, personal lives, and overall well-being. Matthew Hardy’s case stands out as a disturbing example, where he systematically targeted hundreds of women over an extended period. In the Netflix documentary ‘Can I Tell You A Secret?’ survivors courageously share their stories and bring focus on the impact of such digital abuse. The documentary also explores the factors that eventually resulted in Hardy’s arrest and subsequent conviction.

Who is Matthew Hardy?

Matthew Hardy’s childhood in Northwich was marked by bullying, with classmates noting his tendency to keep to himself. Many believed he might be on the autism spectrum, but lacking awareness at the time, he remained undiagnosed, becoming a target of cruelty. In 2009, during his 6th form, Hardy began messaging multiple girls from school through Facebook, initiating a pattern of online behavior that would later escalate into a troubling case of stalking and harassment.

Hardy’s pattern of online harassment involved sending anonymous messages containing false information about the recipients’ families and relationships. For instance, he falsely claimed to one girl that her boyfriend was unfaithful. When students discovered Hardy’s involvement, it did not deter him. In 2011, he targeted a girl named Amy Bailey, making about 50 calls daily and stalking her at her workplace. Despite Amy’s distress, the Cheshire Constabulary’s response was limited, advising her to block him without significant intervention.

In 2011, Hardy faced legal consequences for hacking into Samantha Boniface’s account, resulting in a guilty plea for harassment. He received a restraining order, a suspended prison sentence, and 250 hours of community service. Subsequently, in 2013, Amy reported Hardy for stalking and hacking, leading to another guilty plea, a suspended sentence, and a restraining order. Despite repeated violations of the restraining order against Amy in 2014, 2015, and 2016, law enforcement took no significant action.

Hardy’s behavior escalated as he progressed from targeting classmates to harassing women in his hometown and eventually stalking women across the UK with whom he had no prior connection. Despite the Cheshire Constabulary contacting him over 100 times and 62 victims reporting his actions over 11 years, Hardy continued his predatory behavior. He willingly participated in interviews three times and was arrested on 10 occasions, yet law enforcement struggled to effectively curtail his actions. The increasing number of victims faced limited recourse when seeking assistance from the police.

Matthew Hardy is in Prison Today

Matthew Hardy’s relentless digital stalking began to see its conclusion when PC Kevin Anderson, a seasoned veteran of the Cheshire Constabulary, took charge of a case involving him. Anderson began by examining the existing reports and incidents related to Hardy, discovering a staggering volume of evidence. His first step was to reach out to various police officers handling Hardy’s cases and request their transfer to him. This strategic move allowed Anderson to consolidate the information and streamline the investigation under his guidance.

Appalled and angered by the extensive damage inflicted by Hardy on the personal and professional lives of his victims, Anderson was determined to bring him to justice. He reached out to the victims, assuring them that he was actively working on the case to pursue justice. Despite Hardy’s denial of involvement and his claim that his router could have been accessed by anyone in his apartment, Anderson, armed with substantial evidence, managed to arrest Hardy in February 2020 and brought him in for questioning. He noted that the apartment lacked any decor or personalization. He also took a tablet, his router, and a SIM card holder from Hardy’s place.

At the time, Hardy claimed that he was innocent and kept drawing attention to the fact that he was bullied when he was in school, he reiterated that he had always felt excluded and no one had even accepted him. He made no comments against any accusation and just read a prepared statement claiming innocence. Despite CPS deciding that the evidence was insufficient to indict Hardy on any crimes, Anderson refused to relent. He delved into the networks Hardy was using, meticulously tracked IP addresses associated with the texts and messages, and scrutinized records of various cell phone numbers supposedly used by Hardy.

Lia Hambly, one of the victims and a paralegal by profession, played a crucial role by providing detailed documentation of every instance Hardy had contacted her. Lia’s documentation, filed in an evidence file, provided invaluable support to Anderson’s investigation. Despite facing charges in March 2021, Hardy continued stalking existing victims and reaching out to new ones. Initially denying all allegations, Hardy pleaded guilty to breaching a restraining order from 2013, which prohibited the use of false details on social networking sites. He also pleaded guilty to three counts of stalking with the intent to cause alarm or distress and two counts of stalking without intent to cause alarm. Anderson, while wary of the potential leniency associated with a guilty plea, understood that stalking cases often resulted in lesser prison terms.

As told in the documentary, only 0.1% of stalking convicts receive prison time and those who do face an average jail sentence of about 13 and a half months. Surprisingly, Hardy received a nine-year prison sentence in January 2022, believed to be the longest for a stalking offense in a British court. However, in 2022, the Court of Appeals reduced his prison term to 8 years after considering his defense’s claims. They argued that Hardy, a clinically diagnosed 30-year-old with Autism and Asperger’s, was an unemployed man who lacked awareness of the gravity of his actions. He remains incarcerated in His Majesty’s prison.

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