In the early 2000s, Camden was in the news for the gruesome murders of vulnerable young women. What led Anthony Hardy, a highly educated engineer, to kill so many?
Shock in North West London
On December 17, 2000, a man walking along the River Thames in West London noticed something unusual floating in the water. As he drew near, he realized that the object was the upper body of a woman. The rest of her body had been severed at the waist.
In late February of that year, three 10-year-old boys fishing in the Regent’s Canal at Camden retrieved a bag from the murky water. Upon opening it, the boys were horrified to find human body parts. Police were contacted and a search of the area immediately commenced.
In December 2002, a series of equally horrific crimes occurred in the Camden area. Even though police initially denied any link between the new victims and Zoe and Paula’s murders, it was later speculated that the same person might have been involved. The similarities between the cases were just too numerous to ignore. By January 2003, the police had a new suspect in custody, Anthony Hardy, 51, an unemployed mechanical engineer. His gruesome activities later earned him the nickname “the Camden Ripper.”
The Highly Educated Camden Ripper
The Daily Mail reported that Anthony John Hardy was born in 1951 in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire and was the son of a coal miner. From an early age Hardy yearned to escape the lower middle-class lifestyle in which he was raised. He worked hard in school and excelled academically. Ultimately, he was accepted at London’s Imperial College to study engineering.
During the mid-1970s, Hardy met and married Judith Dwight, with whom he attended university. The couple moved to Tasmania, Australia, where they raised their two boys and two girls. However, Justin Davenport and Hugh Dougherty reported in a November 2003 article in The Evening Standard that “from as early as 1982 Hardy displayed symptoms of mental illness.”
The Daily Mail article claimed that during that year, Hardy tried to kill Judith by bludgeoning her over the head with a water bottle, “before trying to drown her in the bath.” No charges were filed against Hardy and he checked himself into a psychiatric clinic in Queensland following the incident. He remained there for several weeks before returning back to Britain.
The couple filed for divorce in 1986. Judith maintained custody of the children and like Hardy, moved back to Britain to begin a new life. Shortly after returning to his home country, Hardy began stalking Judith, which led to her filing a restraining order against him. Davenport and Dougherty claimed that he broke the restriction order and as a result he was temporarily imprisoned.
Following his release, Hardy sought psychiatric help at outpatient clinics. According to Jeanette Oldham’s January 2003 article in The Scotsman, he was diagnosed with, “peripheral neuropathy,” a disorder which is known to cause depression. He was also diagnosed with manic depression and prescribed medication to reduce symptoms.
Homeless and Imprisoned
In the early- and mid-1990s, Hardy was homeless and spent much of his time living in various hostels throughout the city. During that time, Hardy began abusing drugs and alcohol, which further exacerbated his psychological problems. He got into trouble with the law on several more occasions for aggressive behavior and theft for which he served a short stint in jail.
Move to Camden
In 2000, Hardy moved into a one-bedroom public housing flat on Royal College Street in Camden. Oldham suggested that his new residence was located a short distance from King’s Cross, an area where prostitutes frequented. It was a location that Hardy deliberately chose for that very reason. The neighborhood would become his hunting grounds.
The BBC reported that Hardy’s primary motivation for committing the murders was so that he could photograph them. Hardy was later diagnosed with personality disorder. He preyed on the vulnerable — why did it take so long to catch him?