On 25 November 2001, with crime tape surrounding a modest bungalow in the Welsh village of Llanfairpwll in North Wales, police told the curious media, “The Devil has been to Anglesey.” The home that had now become a crime scene was that of 90-year-old widow Mabel Leyshon. Living alone and still fiercely independent, this church-going elderly lady was known in the village and posed no threat to anybody. On that winter afternoon, however, when her regular carer had arrived to check on her, it was discovered she had been brutally murdered and mutilated in her own home.
Mabel Leyshon had been stabbed to death inside her living room. Laid out on a chair, candles and two pokers positioned in the shape of a cross lay near her body. Her chest had been cut open and her heart removed, placed neatly in a saucepan wrapped in newspaper. Deep cuts had been made in her leg and a volume of her blood drained. It was a horrific crime scene which was covered in forensic evidence. Whoever had carried out this crime had not made a great deal of effort to cover their tracks.
In January 2002, two months after the murder, police began to focus their attention on 17-year-old Mathew Hardman who lived just doors away with his mother. An average teenager, well liked and well behaved, he knew Mabel from his paper round which he had been doing in the area since he was 13-years-old.
Mathew Hardman denied any involvement in the murder, despite his DNA being found all over the crime scene and Mabel’s blood found on a knife he had in the bedroom of his own home. Charged with murder he entered a plea of not guilty. At his trial in July 2002, the prosecution laid out the sequence of events they believed had taken place the night before Mabel’s body had been found. Mathew Hardman they said, had left his home on 24 November 2001 armed with a knife.
He broke into Mabel’s bungalow in the early evening, able to do so unheard due to Mabel being hard of hearing and having her TV set volume up loud. As she sat in her armchair with her back facing the living room door, Hardman walked up behind her and stabbed her 22 times. This frail 90-year-old woman had no chance of defending herself against the able teenager and was no match for his size and strength.
International behavioural analysis expert and former FBI profiler Mark Safarik has conducted extensive research into violent crimes against elderly woman. In an interview with Crime Traveller, he highlights how elderly women’s risk is elevated due to the fact they often live alone and physically cannot defend themselves. Furthermore, he states, “These offenders actively seek out these older women because they are not confident enough to target women who are in their own age range.” Referring to the cases he has studied for his own research, most of which also involved sexual assault he said, “These offenders are men who often have very little control in their own lives and are usually dependent for support on a dominant female.”
In the case of Mathew Hardman, there was no evidence he sexually assaulted Mabel Leyshon before or after he killed her, however, an especially disturbing aspect of the killing was the mutilation of her body, the removal of her heart, and the indication he had done so in order to drink her blood. The nature of the crime scene, the purposeful positioning of her body and the reference material police found in Hardman’s bedroom, led them to label this murder as a ‘vampire killing’.
“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.”
A look across crime history highlights a number of cases where the same label has been applied. These include the ‘Vampire of Hanover’, German Fritz Haarmann who is thought to have killed at least 27 victims between 1898 and 1924 with the biting of his victims’ throats being a regular feature in his kills. Andrei Chikatilo, known as the ‘Butcher of Rostov’ in Russia, killed 53 victims, mutilating their bodies, removing their organs and drinking their blood. He was eventually caught and convicted of multiple serial murder, shouting out in court, “I am a mistake of nature, a mad beast.” He was executed for his crimes in 1994.
Mathew Hardman’s motives for this brutal killing of a defenseless elderly woman appears to have been driven by his obsession with the occult and vampires, believing that the drinking of his victim’s blood would turn him into a vampire.
One witness who testified at his trial was a 16-year-old German exchange student who was in Anglesey in the months before the murder and had got to know Hardman. She told the court he had told her he believed she was ‘one of them’ and was desperate for her to ‘bite him’ to transform him too into a vampire. Disturbed by his behaviour and his demands, the girl refused, angering Hardman to the point where the police were called, however, no action was taken against him. After a two week trial, Hardman was unanimously found guilty of the murder Mabel Leyshon.
At his sentencing, Mathew Hardman was told by the judge that no other conclusion could be drawn other than “vampirism had indeed become a near obsession with you…that you did think that you would achieve immortality by the drinking of another person’s blood and you found this an irresistible attraction.”
Since his conviction, Hardman’s behaviour in prison has not shown him to have changed his thought patterns or developed any remorse for his actions. The Daily Post reported in March this year that Hardman still denies he was the killer of Mabel Leyshon and has continued to show no emotion. Chris Kinealy, one of the psychiatric nurses who worked with Mathew Hardman for many years told the paper, “Shortly after arrival, I referred him to meet a psychiatrist who concluded he had no mental issues, which I found mind boggling to be honest,” he said. “Through 16 hours of interview, he at no time offered any sympathy, any concern about Mabel Leyshon and what happened to her,” he added.
Mathew Hardman is now 33-years-old and has spent the last 15 years behind bars. Sentenced to life in prison to serve a minimum of 12 years, it is unlikely due to the severity and brutality of his crime this killer will ever be released.