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How cyberstalker Matthew Hardy avoided justice for so long after Netflix viewers horrified by documentary

How cyberstalker Matthew Hardy avoided justice for so long after Netflix viewers horrified by documentary

Can I Tell You A Secret? has left Netflix viewers baffled

It's the brand new true-crime documentary that has left Netflix viewers, quite frankly, traumatised.

Since landing onto the streaming service last week, millions of telly-lovers have been sinking their teeth into spine-tingling cyberstalking horror Can I Tell You A Secret?, and researching the real-life case which shook the nation back in 2021.

For those who haven't had a chance to watch the chilling two-part docu-series, it follows the story of Matthew Hardy who - over the course of 11 years - subjected countless women to online bullying, abuse, threats and blackmail whilst under the guise of a secret identity.

Befriending the victim beforehand - introducing himself with a fake profile and asking them, 'Can I tell you a secret?' - Hardy went on to torment them by spreading fictitious, hateful rumours to their friends and family online.

After feeling the thrill in ruining someone's life, his fascination with cyberstalking took him further afield.

Despite being caught and warned by police officers, Hardy refused to stop and expanded his victim radius to the furthest stretches of the country until he was finally apprehended in 2020 and finally sentenced to nine years in jail two years later.

But how did this lonely, unemployed man from Cheshire manage to torment so many women for so many years before his arrest?

Matthew Hardy was eventually sentenced to nine years for his crimes.
Cheshire Police

2009 - 'Rejection'

Whilst social media was in its early days, Matthew set up a fake Facebook profile, which he used to belittle a handful of his female classmates.

Being someone that faded into the background, suspicion that it was him was never roused, and he went unnoticed during his late-teen trolling spree for several months.

In the documentary, his 'school friend' David tells viewers: "It would be easy to class Matthew as the stereotypical, quiet, techy guy in the corner who kept to himself, but there's more to what he was than just the kid that no one paid attention to."

A victim of him going by the pseudonym Melanie also told The Guardian: "He was always ignored by women. He never had a girlfriend. He never hung out with girls. I'm not a psychologist. But it seems to me that he was trying to get back at the girls who rejected him."

Another classmate Nini - one of his earliest victims - admitted: "We all figured out pretty quickly it was Matthew from school. He was messaging a lot of girls from our year, I would say the majority."

Matthew Hardy was bullied during his school years.

2011 - Hardy receives a warning

The Northwich Guardian reported at the time that they'd issued Hardy with a warning after he pleaded guilty to hacking into the social media accounts and harassing one of his classmates.

The online criminal was only sentenced to a suspended prison sentence, however (which he never served), as well as 250 hours of community service.

Hardy was also ordered to pay £300 in damages to the victim and £120 in court costs.

2013 - Restraining order

As the documentary explains, he began to send threatening messages to another woman from the surrounding area, Amy.

Hardy reportedly text her, claiming he could see her whilst she worked at her local garage, called her 'up to 60 times a day' and even attempted to physically harm her.

After a year and a half of looking over her shoulder, Amy contacted police officer Stuart Lumb, who set up a restraining order against him which, if he broke, would result in her serving time behind bars.

Hardy victimised countless women.

2013-2019 - Casting his net further afield

After six years of sporadically stalking thousands of other women, he came across Kent-born paralegal Lia, student/musician Abby, and Lincolnshire model Zoe - all of whom bravely open up on their torment in Netflix's heart-stopping new thriller.

What they had no idea about, however, was that Hardy was behind the fake profile, going on to mimic them on other platforms, sending harmful, hateful content to them, and share fraudulent sexually explicit messages - allegedly from them - with their nearest and dearest.

Abby claims that her cyberstalker told her boyfriend she'd cheated on him, sent her nude photos to her friends and family and spread rumours that she was having a sexual relationship with her uncle.

Lia also recalls a fake profile of herself being used to message her friends' boyfriends and husbands, while Zoe says Hardy made a false account of her boyfriend's father, on which he'd message underage girls inappropriate messages.

Can I Tell You A Secret? is Netflix's latest true crime offering.

2019 - Enter PC Kevin Anderson

In December 2019, Cheshire police officer Anderson was assigned to a stalking case involving Hardy.

But following a house raid, several interviews and a look into his tech devices, officers were not able to prove they had a viable enough case to charge him.

That was, until brave paralegal Lia presented him with a 700-page file, which contained screenshots from every single one of her interactions with Hardy across all of her social media accounts.

This - paired with evidence that he'd accidentally 'gone live' on one of his fake profiles and testimonies from 61 other women - gave Anderson his case.

Where is Matthew Hardy now?

After initially denying the accusations, Hardy eventually pleaded guilty to cyberstalking and harassment in January 2022, a year and 11 months after his arrest.

He was subsequently sentenced to nine years for stalking, with the judge telling him he put his victims 'through severe misery', despite the defence arguing that his undiagnosed autism and Asperger's had a part to play in his crimes.

His sentence was later reduced to eight years by a court of appeal after judges agreed his initial jail term was too high.

To this day, Hardy remains in a 'Category B' prison facility.

Featured Image Credit: Credit: Cheshire Police/Netflix

Topics: Crime, True Crime, UK News, Netflix, TV And Film