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Matthew Hardy, from Cheshire, carried out a campaign of online stalking and harassment that spanned more than a decade.
His relentless online stalking destroyed friendships, relationships and even nearly ruined the wedding day of one of his victims.
Others lived in such fear that they slept with samurai swords and baseball bats next to their beds.
But despite terrorizing young women for more than a decade, it wasn’t until January 2022 that Hardy served a nine-year prison sentence.
As Can I Tell You A Secret airs on Netflix, FEMAIL takes a look at Britain’s worst cyberstalker who managed to evade justice for 11 years.
Matthew Hardy, Britain’s worst cyberbully, enacted a tirade of online bullying and harassment that spanned more than a decade. MailOnline analyzes how he evaded justice for so long
When did the harassment of Matthew Hardy start?
Hardy’s cybercrimes began when he was in high school in 2006.
Just as Facebook was in its infancy, so were Hardy’s bullying and harassment tendencies.
The then-teenager had a tough time in high school, according to his classmates, who said he was often teased and bullied.
Gina, who attended the same school in Northwich, said she often felt sorry for Hardy.
She said The Guardian in 2022: “He was isolated, I made an effort to greet him.”
But when his classmates and girls from nearby schools flocked to sign up for Facebook, Hardy began using the platform to harass them.
According to the publication, he harassed 25 girls from one school in Cheshire alone.
Melanie (not her real name), who was his first victim, shared that girls at school quickly realized that the anonymous person who sent them messages about their cheating boyfriends was Hardy.
But it all came to a head when Hardy told Melanie that his late mother had been having an affair.
Amy Bailey (pictured), who was also a Northwich pupil, was just 16 when Hardy started harassing her in 2011. At one point, Hardy called her 50 times a day.
Telling police she “could no longer take” Hardy’s harassment, authorities said there was nothing they could do because he was online.
Amy Bailey, who was also a Northwich pupil, was just 16 when Hardy began harassing her in 2011, bombarding her phone with 90 calls a day.
She told The Guardian: ‘Once, he said he saw me washing a car, another time, he commented on the color of my T-shirt. “I walked in and started crying.”
However, when she told Cheshire Police about Hardy’s harassment, she was ordered to delete her social media accounts and block his number.
That same year, Hardy was convicted of hacking and harassing another former classmate, Samantha Boniface.
Two years later, in 2013, he pleaded guilty to stalking and hacking Amy Bailey and was given a restraining order and suspended sentence.
Bailey reported Hardy to the police on three separate occasions for breaching her restraining order: once in 2014, once in 2015, and again in 2017.
Hardy’s convictions did not appear to deter him when he adopted another victim, Gina Martin, in 2013.
She woke up daily to new messages from people who had interacted with an impersonation account Hardy had created for her.
His constant rants began to make Martin afraid to visit his parents at home, since he knew he only lived five minutes away.
Eventually, she also reported Hardy to Cheshire Police in 2016.
In September 2016, he was arrested under caution, but in April 2017 the Crown Prosecution Service refused to pursue the case.
These were not the only tormented women in the area; Hardy’s periodic harassment of Northwich pupils eventually amounted to 25 years.
But his disturbing tendencies didn’t end there.
Hardy would cast his net further, harassing surrounding women and then women he had never even met.
How did Hardy evade justice for 11 years?
Abby Furness (pictured) said she was made to feel “really stupid” when she initially reported Hardy to Kent Police in July 2020. He continued to harass her until September 2021.
The serial offender began targeting women with large social media followers, with whom he had no connection.
Among the women Hardy approached was Zoe Hallam, who first received a message saying: “Can I tell you a secret?” on Hardy’s Snapchat in 2018.
These messages then progressed to silent phone calls, in which Hardy mocked Hallam for crying in fear on the phone.
Hardy even went so far as to pose as his partner’s father online and engage in inappropriate conversations with teenagers, tarnishing his reputation as a doctor.
Hallam felt responsible for his partner’s father’s reputation being tarnished, a feeling shared by many of Hardy’s victims.
Eventually, things became so terrifying for Hallam that he slept with a samurai sword next to his bed.
In April 2019, she reported it to Lincolnshire Police, but they claimed there was nothing they could do.
They said they could only track numbers of “high-profile” cases, such as rape or murder.
Abby Furness, whose relationships were also torn apart by Hardy’s online torment, was made to feel like she was wasting the police’s time when she spoke out.
Since he began harassing her in 2019, Hardy had sent intimate photos of her to his boss, destroyed their relationship and even impersonated her online.
But when he finally reported it in July 2020, according to Furness, Kent Police implied he was overreacting.
Furness admitted that she felt “really silly” after the phone call and recalled: “They said, ‘Do you want to In fact Do you think you are in danger? Because we are 20 minutes from you and something can happen here.”
Although Hardy stalked her until September 2021, she felt there was no point in contacting the authorities again after her initial correspondence with Kent Police.
When did they catch Matthew Hardy?
Hardy had terrorized women for more than ten years before Cheshire PC Kevin Anderson (pictured) was assigned to the case in December 2019.
Lia Marie Hambly (pictured had documented over 700 pages containing communications from Hardy, which was a huge boost in helping PC Anderson strengthen the case).
Hardy was arrested a total of ten times before he was finally put behind bars.
Once Cheshire PC Kevin Anderson was assigned to the case in December 2019, his decade-long tirades of bullying and harassment would come to an end.
While trawling through Cheshire Police systems, Anderson made a disturbing discovery.
More than one hundred records had been made about Hardy to the police from 62 different victims.
While contacting Hardy’s victims, he noticed that one was a former paralegal named Lia Marie Hambly.
Hambly had documented more than 700 pages containing communications from Hardy, which was a huge boost in helping Anderson strengthen the case.
In January 2022, Mathew Hardy was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to harassment and stalking involving fear of violence and stalking.
Although only nine cases were considered during Hardy’s sentencing, the final number of his victims is probably in the hundreds.
Anderson told the Evening Standard that they were probably “too many to comprehend.”