A sex obsessed killer – dubbed the Camden Ripper – received three life sentences at the Old Bailey today for the murder and mutilation of prostitutes.
Anthony Hardy, 53, butchered two of his victims shortly after he was released from a psychiatric hospital last year.
He had been discharged because he was considered not to be a danger.
Yet he had already murdered his first victim, 38-year-old Sally White, 11 months earlier. Both police and a pathologist were first led to believe she had died from a heart condition while in Hardy’s flat.
But a gruesome discovery by a tramp searching for food scraps started a trail which led to Hardy finally admitting he had killed Miss White and two other women he had hired for sex.
The tramp was rummaging through a foul smelling dustbin when he found a pair of human legs. They belonged to 29-year-old Elizabeth Valad. The bin also contained the upper torso of Hardy’s third victim, Brigette MacClennan, aged 34.
Further up the road police discovered another rubbish bin containing Miss Valad’s arms and the left leg and lower torso of Miss MacClennan.
They had both been strangled and dismembered by Hardy at his local authority flat in Camden, north London, where he was still keeping Miss Valad’s torso.
All three of the women’s murders formed a pattern, said Richard Horwell, prosecuting.
“We do not profess to have every piece of this disturbing jigsaw, but the defendant had an obsession with pornography and liked to dominate women,” said the prosecutor.
“A motive for the murders we suggest is that he decided to kill these women in order to photograph them in various positions which he had arranged when they were dead.”
He said Hardy had been in the process of preparing Miss White to be photographed when he was disturbed in January last year.
But he took various photographs of the other two women after killing them the following December. In some he hid Miss Valad’s face with a devils mask and her feet with Mr Men and Mr Happy socks.
The previous month he had been released from a psychiatric unit where he had been detained by court order after daubing abuse over a neighbour’s door.
Police discovered a large store of pornographic magazines, videos and fantasy letters he had written about his alleged sexual exploits when they searched his flat.
They also found the devil mask, a woman’s bra, knives, a saw, cleaning materials and a glass bottle with the words “Sally White RIP”.
Hardy, 53, of Royal College Street, Camden, north London, pleaded guilty to murdering Sally White, 31, Elizabeth Valad, 29, and Bridgette MacClennan, 34, who all died last year.
He had previously denied their murders but dramatically changed his plea within minutes of appearing in dock today.
He sat impassively, once wiping his eyes, as Mr Horwell gave details of his crimes to a silent courtroom.
Police had first gone to Hardy’s flat on January 20 last year in response to the neighbour’s complaint. When they went to Hardy’s flat, they found Miss White’s body behind a locked door.
She had a few minor injuries. On her palm was the message: “I only want £15.”
During the post mortem examination, the pathologist Dr Patel found evidence of severe coronary heart disease and a split in a healthy liver which suggested pressure had been put on it.
“From the evidence he concluded that the likely cause of death was that she had died from a heart attack because of the evidence of coronary heart disease.
“In the light of that conclusion police had no choice but to agree that no further action could be taken against the defendant.”
Mr Horwell said neither Dr Patel nor the police could have suspected how she met her death or what use might have been made later of her body.
On March 12 Hardy had pleaded guilty to criminally damaging the door and was sentenced under the Mental Health Act. He spent time at St Luke’s Hospital in Muswell Hill, north London, said Mr Horwell.
He was discharged from hospital on November 4. The following month his second and third victims were killed.
“Sadly the stories of the last few months of each victim are depressingly similar.
“Miss Valad, like Miss White, had become a crack addict and was financing that habit through street prostitution as was the third victim, Bridgette MacClennan.”
Mr Horwell said Hardy was one of Miss MacClennan’s regular clients towards the end of last year.
When police went to Hardy’s flat on December 31 to arrest him they found the front door ajar. The light was on but the flat empty.
“The door to the bedroom was locked and a cloth had been put along the bottom of the door.
“Police were aware of a resulting smell coming from behind the door. They waited for a search warrant which was executed at 7pm when they forced open the door. A torso was found belonging to Miss Valad.”
Mr Horwell said a post-mortem examination was conducted on the various body parts discovered.
“It is of some significance that neither the head nor hands were found, the means by which almost immediate identification could be made.”
He said from Miss Valad’s body parts the pathologist concluded that the mutilation of her body had been conducted after death with a sharp instrument.
An internal examination revealed a fractured voice box.
“In the absence of her head and upper neck the pathologist could not establish the precise cause of death but concluded that because of the fractured voice box it was consistent with strangulation.”
Judge Mr Justice Keith told Hardy he would have to decide later whether he could ever be released on licence by recommending a minimum term.
He said: “Only you know for sure how your victims met their deaths but the unspeakable indignities to which you subjected the bodies of your last two victims in order to satisfy your depraved and perverted needs are in no doubt.”
None of the victims’ families was in court. A statement from Miss White’s family said she had come from a large and loving family and had remained in contact with them.
“She was always aware of her importance to us.”
DCI Ken Bell said outside court: “This was a particularly harrowing case . Hardy is a manipulative, evil individual and, as the judge said a badly depraved character.”
Mental health charity Sane said questions would be raised concerning the decision to release Hardy from the psychiatric unit.
The Camden and Islington Mental Health and Social Care Trust – which covers St Luke’s – Camden Council, the North Central London Strategic Health Authority and the Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust issued a joint statement.
It read: “Anthony Hardy has admitted he was responsible for three dreadful murders that took place in Camden.
“He had contact with several public agencies in Camden including the local mental health and social care trust, the police and the local council.
“All the agencies involved join together to express their deepest condolences to the families of his victims and their sympathy to local people.
“Several agencies have already conducted internal management reviews of their involvement with Mr Hardy.
“In accordance with current guidance and normal NHS procedures, the Strategic Health Authority has decided to commission an independent review.
“The internal appraisal conducted by the various agencies will be available to the review panel.”