Murder by the Sea: Mathew Hardman

Mathew Hardman’s murder of his 90-year-old neighbour on Anglesey in 2001 was extremely disturbing.

Why? Because, as presenter Geoffrey Wansell says in tonight’s Murder by the Sea, it was so ‘unfathomable’. Hardman, aged 17, was an art student who had delivered newspapers to Mabel Leyshon, who lived up the road from him.

Hardman, of course, had his reasons, unfathomable as they are to us. He had become obsessed with vampires and latched onto the elderly pensioner to be his victim.

An ‘unheard of’ crime

He stabbed her 22 times and cut out her heart. He then drank her blood. Be warned, it is a horrific story and certainly one detectives found perplexing.

This is the second of the cases in this series that I was invited to appear on. Having studied this grim, depressing crime, I still found Hardman’s state of mind off-limits to my comprehension.

On the programme, however, there are some insights from the likes of clinical forensic psychologist Professor Mike Berry. ‘If I was faced with this case of a 90-year-old woman being stabbed 22 times, I would not have been looking for a fantasist who was into vampires,’ he says.

‘I would probably have thought more of either robbery or some sexual behaviour. Seventeen-year-olds don’t normally kill old people. They’re more likely to kill someone their own age and it’s likely to be impulsive or sexually based, that kind of stuff.

‘To kill somebody because you want their blood is extremely rare. For a 17-year-old, it’s unheard of. That made it difficult for the police.’

A normal-looking teen

Hardman didn’t look the part of a self-styled vampire obsessive. He didn’t dress like a goth, was generally pleasant and average-looking.

But in his internal world, he fantasised about being a vampire. He also thought the old folk of peaceful Anglesey would be missed by no one.

Present Geoffrey Wansell

Crimes of passion and jealousy, robberies gone wrong, even serial-killer murders all have some kind of rationale to them. But Hardman was a fantasist who had lost touch with the real world. No one could have seen him coming.

People on the small island were beside themselves with fear at news of this unhinged crime. They locked their doors and looked over their shoulders.

Despite the normal appearance of the boy next door, Hardman was clearly disturbed. It’s a fascinating, but chilling, case. This young man’s ‘intensity of belief that went beyond reality’ is something that even Professor Berry finds frightening.

Murder by the Sea is on CBS Reality at 10pm tonight and is repeated later this week.

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