Murder by the Sea
True Crime Stories from our Sinister Shores

​There is something sinister about a British seaside town. On the surface they’re all funfairs and breezy promenades. Yet dig a little deeper in the sand and you soon uncover an underworld of murder, madness and mayhem…

Murder by the Sea is a companion book to the long-running true-crime documentary series on CBS Reality. Scroll down to read an exclusive story from the book!

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“He could go round in his home town killing people because he was a vampire”

 

Anglesey, 2001
Victim: Mabel Leyshon
Murderer: Mathew Hardman

 

Sometimes a murder occurs that is so far on the extreme limits of normal human behaviour that it disturbs the most experienced detectives and psychiatric experts. The island of Anglesey, off the north Wales coast, had the misfortune to be the setting for such an unsettling murder in 2001.

Reached via two bridges, the Britannia Bridge and the Menai⁠ Suspension Bridge, Anglesey is a haven for lovers of the outdoors, pensioners and holidaymakers. It features a number of historic landmarks, including the 13th century Beaumaris Castle, a World Heritage Site, and the spectacular South Stack Lighthouse.⁠ Anglesey Island covers 260 square miles and is the second most populous UK island after the Isle of Man, with a population of around 70,000. Most locals are habitual Welsh speakers. Devotees of water sports, hiking, golf and cycling are among those drawn there.

On a quiet Sunday, 25 November, in the mid-afternoon, a crime was uncovered that dismayed and terrified the islanders. Detective Superintendent Alan Jones was called to the home of a pensioner. The 90-year-old lived in a village famed for having the longest place name in Europe – Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch – known for convenience as Llanfair PG. Jones was not on call that day, but recognised that this was an incident that required urgent attention.

“The events as told to me were that there was an elderly lady, now known to be Mabel Leyshon, aged 90, living at a property by herself,” Jones said. “She’d been visited by Meals on Wheels at Sunday lunchtime to take her hot food. Not getting an answer at the front door, the lady delivering the food had gone to the back and seen broken glass and a broken window, became quite rightly concerned, called the police, and there was an emergency response by the local uniformed police. They entered the premises and then as a result of what they saw, it was called in and a major crime investigation was commenced.”

The uniformed officers who entered the bungalow on a road called Lon Pant would probably never have experienced such an appalling scene. Even senior investigator Jones was taken aback: “It was quite a difficult scene to interpret at first. Very, very bloodstained. An elderly lady in a chair – turned out that she’d been stabbed 22 times. There was a lot of blood.” A couple of candlesticks had been put on the floor, pokers taken from the fireplace and placed in the shape of a cross in front of Mabel Leyshon’s chair. “There were a couple of other items that were of concern to us,” Jones said, “a saucepan, some newspaper in the saucepan. All of this was examined, and it took quite some time before the full version of events unfolded.

 

“It was absolutely savage and brutal, and something that was a shock to all of us.”

Home Office pathologist Dr Brian Rodgers was called in by North Wales Police. He recalled his journey to Anglesey: “A chilling mist had descended over the Menai Bridge. I felt like I was driving into a real-life horror movie – and I was.”

Dr Rodgers was briefed and shown a video taken at the bungalow in preparation for visiting the crime scene. Wearing a protective suit to avoid contaminating evidence, he joined investigators to assess what had happened.

The pathologist described the scene he found. “Mabel Leyshon lived in a very smart bungalow. An elderly lady, and I think, if I remember, her husband, who had died, was a retired veterinary surgeon. So, she was obviously quite a well-to-do lady. And it was a quiet area. It’s not what you expect to happen in Llanfair PG.”

Mabel had been sitting on a sofa armchair – her glasses were on the armrest and various magazines were open there, including a TV Times or Radio Times. She had been laid out on another armchair facing the doorway as visitors walked in. The pathologist said, “And it immediately became obvious that this was a rather odd scene, to say the least. One thing that took your eye right in front of the fireplace was a candlestick and two cross pokers. And then to the side of that, in the armchair, the body of the victim was slumped in the chair on her back, with the feet resting on a small pouffe.”

The full horror of the murder then became apparent. “It was clear that attempts had been made to open up her body in a number of areas, with the idea of possibly draining blood from her,” Dr Rodgers said. “A number of the larger wounds were post-mortem [after death]. And then there were a number of stab wounds and defensive wounds. By that, I mean wounds to the arms and the hands, which you will see when a victim tries to ward off an attacker – they put their hands up, they will get injuries to the forearms, the hands, particularly if they try and grab a knife blade coming at them.

“So, as well as those, it was also obvious that there was a huge wound to the chest. You couldn’t see it very well, but it was clear that the breastbone, the sternum, had been split open and the cavity beneath, where you would normally expect to see the heart, looked empty. It became clear that the heart was not in her body, and to the right of her feet was a silver platter full of fresh blood and blood clot, with a pan sitting in that and a newspaper-wrapped object. The suspicion was that could be her heart. We unwrapped all the newspaper, and that was the heart. It had been fairly roughly removed.”

Wounds were also found to the neck and backs of the legs, part of the killer’s perverse attempt to drain blood.

It seemed extraordinary that a little 90-year-old woman, just four feet eleven inches tall,⁠ could put up a considerable fight to defend herself in such terrifying circumstances, but Mabel Leyshon had done so.

The splatter around the saucepan suggested that blood had been dripped into it.

Dr Rodgers decided to examine everything forensically at the mortuary, performing an examination of the wrapping and photographing the heart as it was unwrapped. All items were packaged in evidence bags and taken to the mortuary along with the body. For the pathologist, this was an unprecedented scene. He had seen worse, but none where the body had been mutilated after death for an as yet unknown purpose.

The body was taken to a mortuary on the mainland in Bangor. The pathologist did his examination in the early hours of the morning. Here, one of the most bizarre and disturbing aspects of the crime was revealed. “A large number of forensic exhibits and samples would be taken by me,” Dr Rodgers said. “We’re trying to get DNA trace evidence from the body. And then with the crime-scene investigators, I would photograph all the injuries, and document and track them. I think there were 22 stab wounds, and that’s not including all these injuries whereby there’d been attempts to open up various parts of her body, which seemed unusual unless whoever was carrying that out was trying to drain her of her blood. And that was my impression. The distribution of these wounds after death were, in my view, clearly an attempt to drain blood from her body.”

Which raised the question: was the perpetrator someone with medical expertise, or a complete amateur? Police would consider the possibility that the killer was a butcher, a veterinary surgeon, even a mortuary technician. “It’s really down to whether you need medical knowledge to remove someone’s heart,” Dr Rodgers said, “and I suppose you could say you needed a certain amount. But is that not available on the internet? That was the difficulty.”

Most murder victims have a personal relationship with their killer. This is particularly the case for women. The Office of National Statistics⁠ shows that between 2007–08 and 2015–16, more than 70 per cent of female victims knew their attacker. So, who could want to inflict such violence on a quiet retiree such as Mabel? Detectives considered the occult aspects of the crime – the staging of the candlesticks and cross-shaped pokers – as one aspect that could indicate a possible perpetrator.

Alan Jones, who had taken charge of the case as Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), revealed the difficulties he faced: “It was hard to determine at first why anybody would want to stab somebody so brutally. It wasn’t clear at the start that anything had been stolen. There was difficulty because she didn’t really have any close relatives that she was in constant contact with. So, we had to try and determine whether anything was stolen from the premises, and that seemed not to be the case. But it became clear to me that we were looking for somebody who had some degree of derangement, mental illness, or something perhaps that happened in the past that may have come to the notice of the public or the police.”

As Christmas approached, residents of Llanfair PG and Anglesey locked their windows and doors in dread of another horrific attack. Detectives tried to allay their fears and assured people they were pursuing several lines of inquiry.

The murder team consulted two criminal psychologists to generate a profile of the kind of killer they might be seeking. Det Supt Jones said this suggested a “male, probably 30- or 40-ish, but that there would be some degree of derangement – and to consider occult practices, these sorts of things. So, there was a lot for us to look at.” There were several meat-processing factories on Anglesey, and police focused their inquiries there for a time, in the belief that whoever was responsible had access to butchery knives and experience of butchery. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but these were all lines of inquiry that had to be made and discounted.

One aspect of the crime scene that puzzled investigators was the significance of the saucepan containing the blood. Det Supt Jones wanted it forensically examined, but this presented a dilemma. Ideally, the pan should be checked for fingerprints or DNA, but examining it for both could destroy either piece of evidence. In the event, it was painstakingly examined by the Forensic Science Service and a strange discovery was made. There was a human lip mark on the saucepan. “It became apparent that whoever was responsible had most probably drunk the blood of the deceased,” Jones said.

The satanic elements, brutality of the assault and mutilation of a defenceless elderly woman made this one of Britain’s most rare and heinous murders. “To say it was one to shock is a bit of an understatement,” said Dr Rodgers. “In all honesty, Llanfair PG is a small community and to have an elderly lady not only murdered but then mutilated in this manner was totally bizarre for anywhere, let alone a place on Anglesey.”

The mood on the island was one of horror and worry that the offender was still out and about on the island. The police ran local patrols to reassure the public that they were active and trying their best to find the killer. People had burglar alarms fitted, Age Concern asked residents to keep in touch with elderly neighbours, and closed-circuit television was installed in the village.

It was a headline-grabbing investigation, particularly in Wales, where it was splashed on the front page of the The Daily Post. Reporter Eryl Crump was told by one police contact, “If I told you what was found in that house you would never believe me.”

Another officer said, “The devil has been to Anglesey.”

 

Almost four weeks into a manhunt that had so far failed to turn up a compelling suspect, Det Supt Jones turned to the media. “I’ve always worked closely with the media to seek their assistance for anything that might have happened in the preceding months or even years in the locality that concerned the public,” he said.

Anglesey was a relatively small and close community, and the media was now key to enlisting the help of local residents. Jones also suspected that the murderer was based near to Mabel Leyshon’s home. “It’s a peaceful place,” he said, “not subject to a lot of crime. We made a point of reminding the community that there wasn’t much crime committed within the island. A lot of people know each other, but we were looking to the community to help us solve the crime.”

He was not necessarily anticipating reports of crime-related activity, but any behaviour that might have struck members of the public as out of the ordinary. BBC Crimewatch and the local press were among the outlets he turned to. It was just before Christmas when Det Supt Jones appeared on Crimewatch. He told viewers this was the most horrific murder he had dealt with in his 25 years’ experience. A further public appeal was made in January,⁠ and the strategy worked, as hundreds of people got in touch.

One reported incident from a couple of months before Mabel’s murder stood out. A foreign student said a young man had asked her to bite his neck and had talked about vampirism and vampires. Jones said, “We wanted to trace that foreign student. She turned out to be a German student, and she had a lot of useful information to give to us.”

This was the breakthrough the investigation badly needed. Jones explained what happened next: “She gave us the name of Mathew Hardman, and told us that he had talked about vampirism and about how, if you were a vampire, Llanfair PG would be an ideal place to be because there were a lot of elderly people and sources of blood.

“Now, we could have taken that with a pinch of salt. But I thought if someone is acting that strangely, then we should consider at least tracing them, interviewing them, and eliminating them from our inquiry. So, we took a full statement from the German student.”

Mathew Hardman did not fit the profile of someone who would murder a pensioner in the extreme way Mabel Leyshon had been killed. He was 17 years old, an art student. For a teenager said to be into vampirism, he did not dress in the style of goth subculture – no dark clothes, dark eye makeup or references to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Hardman looked perfectly average. He had two older sisters and lived with his mum, Julia, a nurse, and stepfather, Alan Benneyworth, a former Ministry of Defence fireman. They lived in the same village as Mabel Leyshon, residing about a quarter of a mile from her bungalow. Hardman had been born on the north coast of Anglesey, at a place called Amlwch. In 1998, when he was 13, his family moved to Llanfair PG. His father, who was separated from his mother, died that year from an asthma attack. The loss was said to have distressed Hardman, who had been close to his father. He was also dyslexic, which may help to explain why he studied art, a subject that often brings out the visual skills of people with the learning disability.⁠

Clinical forensic psychologist Professor Mike Berry highlights how far Hardman was from being a likely suspect. “If I was faced with this case of a 90-year-old woman stabbed 22 times, I would not have been looking for a fantasist who is into vampires. I would probably have thought more of robbery or some sexual behaviour. Seventeen-year-olds don’t normally kill old people. It’s more likely to be someone their own age. It’s more likely to be impulsive, a fight, 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, basically. So, he’s unusual, to say the least, and that made it difficult for the police because they didn’t know originally that they were looking for somebody who was into vampires and fantasies.”

Senior investigator Jones said, “We kept him under surveillance for a time to get some of his habits, his movements. We found out that he was studying at the local college and was living at home with his mother. So, we decided that we would do a full search of the premises. We would arrest Mathew at his home address in the early hours of the morning. We made sure, first of all, that he was inside the premises. We would do a full crime-scene examination.”

During the search, police took away his footwear. Then came the big find – in the youth’s bedroom was a knife. Tests would reveal that it had Mabel Leyshon’s blood on it. Another breakthrough came when the Forensic Science Service examined the rear of the pensioner’s bungalow, where the killer had broken in. The culprit had left blood staining on the windowsill. “More interestingly,” Jones said, “within the blood staining was also DNA, and that was Mathew Hardman’s DNA.” So, traces of Mabel’s blood had been found in Hardman’s bedroom, while his DNA was discovered at her home. Subsequently, his trainers matched prints at her premises as well.

So, as unlikely as Hardman looked as a ritualistic murderer, this evidence was damning. What was the detective’s first impression of him? “Surprisingly, he didn’t seem bothered, didn’t seem fazed by it all. In fact, if anything, he seemed to enjoy the whole experience, from arrest through interviews to being charged. He never admitted to the offence, but he was quite content to talk to the interviewing officers.”

Investigators were piecing together a more coherent picture of the young killer and his connection to Mabel. She was, Det Supt Jones said, a “very proud lady. Very smart, very tidy, kept herself to herself. The premises was kept in good order. We did find a link between Mathew Hardman and her, in that he had in the past been delivering a free newspaper to her premises, and he had, in fact, spoken to her at the premises.” He denied killing her, however.

Jones and his team were nevertheless relieved that they had gone ahead with the arrest of Hardman. In addition to the footprint, knife and DNA evidence, they also found signs of his obsession with the occult and vampirism – books, magazines and sites visited on his computer. Prof Berry said, “Without any doubt, when the police eventually consider him a suspect and go to his house, they find material there far in excess of what the ordinary teenager would have. An ordinary teenager would have a few photographs, maybe the odd magazine, but they wouldn’t have it to the extent that did, the intensity of his interest. That’s the key thing, this belief that went beyond reality about vampires. This was quite frightening and worrying, because there is very little anybody would have known about it. You would not have predicted that this guy would kill.”

Hardman’s secret fixation on vampires was one part of his mentality. Criminal psychologist Dr Donna Youngs points to another component in his homicidal worldview. “The existence of the kind of material that we know Mathew Hardman collected and devoured on the occult will have played a role in what he went on to do,” she said. “But the reason it was allowed to have this impact upon him was because of a pre-existing psychological dysfunction within him, which was this inability to see other people as fully human. Normally, a healthy person would have other people. In the narrative of Mathew Hardman, I don’t think there are any parts written for other people. Other people just don’t figure, don’t exist in his personal narrative, and I think that’s what we’ve seen here, with the cutting out of the heart and so forth. He sees other people without any humanity whatsoever. And when he became interested in the occult, that simply channelled this profound psychological dysfunction that already existed into this type of horrific offending.”

A chilling factor here is how detached from reality he became. “He asked a 16-year-old girl to bite him on the neck because he was convinced,” Prof Berry said, “based on no logic or any sensible ideas, that she was a vampire. She was going to bite him and then make him a vampire. Then he could go round in his home town killing people because he was a vampire.”

Tragically, Mabel Leyshon was drawn into his appalling fantasy. Despite having known her for several years, Hardman had no qualms about attacking her. “He knew her, he knew the house, and I imagine he knew he would get in quite easily,” Prof Berry said. “So, what he’s done was quite cold-blooded, but also lazy. Most killers move a further distance from their home area to start their killing. To kill literally on your doorstep increases the risks of being caught.”

 

Mold Crown Court heard the full story of Mathew Hardman’s evolution from teenage student to fantasist and murderer. A boy who had known Hardman at school described him as a “normal lad” to the court. He was not particularly sociable, the witness said: Hardman stayed in at home most of the time. He had had a paper round from the ages of 13 to 16, which included Mabel’s bungalow.

Because of his dyslexia, Hardman had had a special needs tutor, who told the jury he had been well behaved, with a good sense of humour. Hardman left David Huws School at the age of 16 to study art and design at Menai College. In addition to college, he had a part-time job as a kitchen porter. A friend said his home featured nothing strange that might indicate he could be a killer. When it came to his art portfolio, however, friends said it was filled with “morbid and depressing” images, revolving around death, blood and knives.

The court also heard about his disconcerting encounter on 23 September 2001, two months before the murder, with the German exchange student, aged 16, whom he was convinced was a vampire. In addition to asking her to bite him, he had said Anglesey was perfect for vampires because there were many pensioners there who could be killed for their blood. People would assume, he suggested, they had died of heart attacks.

It also emerged that Hardman had been arrested for his behaviour during his encounter with the German student. He had visited the girl at her lodgings. When she refused to bite him, he had become violent and had to be dragged away by the landlady of the lodgings, who called the police. This was after Hardman had punched himself on the nose and asked the two women to smell his blood. Sergeant Peter Nicholson⁠ said he asked the lad to leave peacefully. “He didn’t make any sort of coherent response,” the sergeant said. “All he could say was, ‘bite my neck’.”

Hardman continued to deny he was the murderer, as he did when he was arrested. He had turned to his sobbing mother, as the arresting officers were about to take him away, and said, “It’s all right,⁠ Mum, I didn’t do anything.” The prosecution, however, detailed the compelling evidence against Hardman in the form of his DNA on Mabel Leyshon’s windowsill, the bloodstained knife in his bedroom, and marks from his Levi’s trainers at her bungalow.

At the end of a 14-day hearing, and after four hours of deliberation, the jury were unanimous in finding Hardman guilty of the savage murder. As the verdict was announced, it was Hardman’s turn to start crying as his mother wailed in the public gallery. The judge, Mr Justice Richards,⁠ ordered that he be detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure, a life sentence with a minimum term of 12 years. Mr Justice Richards said, “It was planned and carefully calculated. Why you, an otherwise pleasant and well-regarded young man, should act in this way is difficult to comprehend. You had hoped for immortality. All you achieved was to brutally end another person’s life, and the bringing of a life sentence upon yourself.”

North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom revealed how challenging the case had been for the 60 officers involved. “It was a particularly difficult investigation because of the awful circumstances. It was an unpleasant case, which the officers had to get very close to – in terms of dealing with the relatives and the appalling scene itself. We are human beings just like anybody else, but have to retain a sense of professional detachment. We cannot collapse in horror and recoil – it was a psychological challenge.”

After the trial, Hardman’s former girlfriend⁠ told a local newspaper that she had been taunted at school after his arrest. “I was his girlfriend for three months – on and off – last year,” she is reported to have said. “He was quiet, really kind. I felt gutted when I heard he had been arrested. I don’t think he’s really up to doing anything like that.”

The youngsters had shared a passion for the rock music of Marilyn Manson, a controversial figure whose name is a juxtaposition of the names of film star Marilyn Monroe and Charles Manson, whose followers committed mass murder. “He did my art homework for me,” the ex-girlfriend said. “I’ve still got that. It was called the Apocalypse.”

 

There is a level of plain unknowability to Mathew Hardman. Forensic psychologists and psychiatrists can inch us closer to some insight into his inexplicable behaviour and brutality, but even after he was locked up, he still continued to perplex.

Chris Kinealy was the admissions nurse at Altcourse Prison in Liverpool, where he dealt with prisoners on referral from 1998 to 2010. He was stunned by his first encounter with the youth. He said, “I was told this young boy was coming through and he was accused of a heinous murder.” Even for a high-security prison such as Altcourse, the horror of Hardman’s crime was unusual. “I was asked to interview him by the admissions manager, who asked me to have a prison officer with me. I didn’t want that, but he insisted.

“Mathew Hardman walked into the little room, which I had as my office, stood there with a very pleasant grin on his face. Young, handsome, long blond hair, blue eyes, bit of acne. Very well spoken. Asked me if I was the doctor. I explained I was the psychiatric nurse. He sat down. Very pleasant, easy to talk to, and I said, how do you feel? And he said, “This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me.” I was absolutely flabbergasted when he said that, but you learn to keep a straight face. We chatted for about an hour. He seemed totally unconcerned about the situation he was in. He treated it all as a huge joke.”

This was while Hardman was still 17 and on remand. He was placed on the hospital wing because the prison was intended for those who had turned 18.

Kinealy recalled, “He spent nearly a year on the hospital wing. I spoke to him sometimes three times a week. He never admitted responsibility for the crime, and he maintained this air of absolute total indifference.

“Whenever I spoke to him, he would say it’s a mistake. The judge did comment that he was convicted on overwhelming evidence. That was the expression the judge used. I walked into his cell and he was curled up in a foetal position, crying, and I said, ‘You’ll be getting shipped from here, Mathew. The only advice I can give you is keep your head down and behave yourself, because you’re an infamous criminal, you’re going to be well known in the YP – young prison – the institution that you go to.’ And he asked me, ‘Do you think I’m guilty?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I do. Everybody thinks you’re guilty. I know you’re guilty.’ And he just burst into tears and curled up in tears again. That was the only time I ever saw him display any emotion.”

For Kinealy, Hardman’s demeanour was exceptional, and it stuck with him. People entering prison for the first time, particularly younger offenders, display several types of behaviour. For some it is defiance: I don’t care, give me life, so what? Others might be in tears – I want my mum, my solicitor, a doctor. Putting on a show of bravado might be easy if you are in for shoplifting or smashing windows.

“But he knew what he was accused of: the most heinous crime imaginable,” Kinealy said. “When I was 17, I was a big strapping lad, but if I’d been taken to prison, charged with murder, I would have been in floods of tears. He just seemed to think it was all a huge joke.”

Hardman’s indifference to being in prison also struck Prof Berry. The clinical forensic psychologist said, “When he was taken into prison he enjoyed the whole process. It was the best experience he’d had in his life. Now, that is very strange, because you’ve got a 17-year-old boy who had been weeping at his trial when he got a life sentence. And yet within days he’s saying how much he enjoys prison. Does prison give him the safety and security he didn’t feel at home? We know he had a mother and stepfather, he had a nice stable home – and yet he’s looking for something else.”

In all the conversations the young prisoner had with his psychiatric nurse, he never discussed his motive for his monstrous crime. He never talked about vampirism or satanism. But Chris Kinealy found the contradictions in him hard to reconcile. Hardman was intelligent, but had left many clues at the crime scene as to his identity. It was almost as if he was coasting on a wave of delusion and unreality, expecting to breeze out of court having been deemed innocent. Then, once in prison, he seemed oblivious to the revulsion he had caused with his crime.

“Of all the interviews I’ve done, and I’ve interviewed tens of thousands of inmates coming into prisons, he sticks in my mind,” Kinealy said. “I remember him vividly. He was extremely convincing and extremely dangerous. When a boy commits a serious crime, you obviously look for motives. There was no motive whatsoever in this crime, except for the occult. It wasn’t sexual, it wasn’t gang related, it wasn’t drugs. It was a young boy who all on his own committed the most horrible crime imaginable on a totally innocent old lady. You ask yourself why? And the only reason is an insane one, that he thought he’d be a vampire and live forever. And I’m convinced he thought when it went to court he would just get not guilty and he’d walk out laughing. He didn’t, and that’s why that particular day he was showing emotion. This was his first real contact with reality when the judge gave him life imprisonment. When he got that [sentence], it came home to him. But his lack of emotion in itself was a symptom of a mental illness, I’m sure.”

Kinealy referred Hardman to a psychiatrist as a matter of urgency. He was seen by one, but he still ended up in the normal prison system, suggesting that if he had mental health problems they have probably not been treated. “I would have said someone like that needed transfer to a high-security mental hospital,” Kinealy said. He subsequently heard from another inmate that after being transferred to Moorland prison and young offender institution, Hardman – categorised as a vulnerable prisoner – was attacked on a couple of occasions by other prisoners. He had since gone to the gym and fought back against assailants. After that he was generally left alone.

In 2017⁠ there were media reports that Hardman was among a number of notorious murderers who had been told that they would never be released. This followed a European Court of Human Rights judgment that whole-life terms were not in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights. It will be a matter of rejoicing for most people that he will be shut away for good, but his ghastly crime leaves one question hanging that will likely never be resolved. How was it that a young man from an apparently stable background, with no evidence of having been abused, could turn himself into the perpetrator of such a distressing crime?

Det Supt Alan Jones had the satisfaction of catching Hardman, a killer he was sure would have committed further murders had he not been arrested, but he remained bewildered by the youth he took into custody. “Still difficult to believe how anybody could be influenced in that way to carry out such a macabre, such a savage beating of a vulnerable, elderly lady within his own community,” he said. “He only lived a short distance from her, so I do find it difficult to understand why.”

For Chris Kinealy, the young killer will always be one of the most extraordinary encounters of his time as a psychiatric nurse. He said, “The thing that sticks in my mind is when he walked through the door and stood and smiled at me. He was a young, handsome, well-spoken lad. And if – I haven’t got any daughters – but if my daughter had brought him home and said, ‘Dad, this is Mathew, I’ve just met him,’ I would have thought, Oh, well, what a nice lad. And that was someone who had disembowelled an old lady and drunk her blood.”