Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A Welsh Vampire

A/N: I wrote this back in 2009 for a 'true crime' group I used to be a member of on Livejournal. It's a summary of the 2001 murder of a 90-year-old pensioner in Llanfair PG (i.e. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch) by a 17-year-old boy who believed the act would transform him into a vampire...

Presumably this wasn't what he was going for.



The Victim: 

Mabel Leyshon; a 90-year-old widow who lived alone in a bungalow, her husband, a former soldier, having died 14 years previously. She had lived in the village for over 30 years, and had previously been one of her attacker’s customers when he was the local paperboy. She was described by neighbours as a very private person who did not mingle much in the local community. One neighbour, Frank Jones, told the BBC: “I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t know her name was Mabel – that’s how private a lady she was.”

Her cousin, Beatrice Williams, told the court that, although physically weak, Mabel was relatively independent and had a “keen and lively” mind. Beatrice said that Mabel generally rose at 7:00am and “the first thing she would do in the mornings is put lipstick on and she would like to have her hair done regularly.”

Mabel Leyshon.


The Perpetrator:    

Matthew Hardman; a 17-year-old art and design student at Coleg Menai in Bangor. Friends from college and his former school, David Huws School, claimed that Hardman was “remarkably normal”. After the trial a family friend told the press: "He wasn't a weirdo. He didn't wear black, and neither was he a village bad lad. He was just a normal kid who wore jeans and trainers. That's what makes it all the more shocking."

Born in Amlwch, on the North coast of Anglesey, Hardman moved to Llanfair in 1998, aged 13, with his mother Julia (a nurse) and her partner Alan Benneyworth, a former Ministry of Defence fireman. His father died the same year from an asthma attack. Former schoolteachers claimed that Hardman was “a well behaved boy with a good sense of humour” who struggled somewhat academically as a result of dyslexia, but was a talented artist. Friends said his art portfolio was full of “morbid” and “depressing” images, although one claimed: “I don’t think anyone thought much of it before this happened.”

Hardman had completed one term of college, and was holding down a part-time job as a kitchen-porter at a local hotel when he was arrested in January 2002. Hardman has always denied any involvement.

Matthew Hardman.


Early Signs: 

On September 23rd 2001 Hardman was arrested for assaulting a 16-year-old German exchange student. The pair were in the girl’s bedroom smoking cannabis and talking when the subject of vampires arose. Hardman claimed that Llanfair was the “perfect” location for vampires - because most residents were elderly it could be made to appear that victims had died of natural causes. Hardman then accused the girl of being a vampire, pushing his neck against her mouth and begging her to bite him. Thinking it to be a joke the girl refused.

She began to scream when he then pinned her to the bed and again demanded that she bite him. Her landlady and an 18-year-old Chinese student who shared the accommodation rushed to her aid, to find Hardman holding her down and protesting, “But she’s a vampire”. She told the court: “I was really afraid because he had this lunatic look in his eye... I felt responsible because I had told him so many things about vampires before and he got it messed up in his head.”

The Chinese student, a friend of Hardman’s who had actually introduced the pair, said: “I saw the defendant, he appeared to be crazy and shouting. The girl looked scared. I tried to stop him and I slapped him on the face once. He kept on asking the girl to bite him. He was not scared of anyone. I tried to slap him again but it didn’t really work.” Hardman continued to shout and punched himself in the nose, hoping the scent of blood would prove irresistible to the ‘vampire’. “He told the girl and the landlady to smell his blood. He wiped his face and wiped his nose and then raised his palm.”

The police were called and Hardman was arrested at 1:30am by Sergeant Peter Nicholson who told the court: “I attempted to speak to him to get him to leave peacefully. He didn’t make any sort of coherent response. All he could say was ‘bite my neck’.” Hardman was taken, handcuffed, to the police station for breach of the peace, but no charges were brought.

Hardman however claimed he could not remember the attack, his use of cannabis having impaired his recollection. Furthermore, he denied having ever referred to killing elderly people. When told he had said vampires normally killed old women he replied: “Did I say that? That is news to me.”

Llanfair PG is best known for having the longest official place name in Europe.


The Attack: 

On Saturday November 24th 2001, with his mother and her partner away and under the influence of cannabis, Hardman broke into Mabel Leyshon’s bungalow by throwing a slate through the bottom glass panel of the back door and then crawling through it. He crept up on the pensioner from behind – being hard of hearing, she could not hear him over the sound of the television in the front room. She struggled and Hardman proceeded to stab her 22 times with a knife he had brought from his own home.

“He then arranged her dead body on an armchair with her legs propped up on a stool. Two brass pokers were placed on the floor below her feet in the form of an inverted cross, two candlesticks were placed by her body and a red candle was placed on the mantelpiece. Hardman then proceeded to slice her chest open, ripped out her heart, wrapped it in newspaper and placed it in a saucepan on top of a silver platter. He then made three deep gashes in the back of Mrs Leyshon’s leg and drained the blood into the pan before drinking it.” (Source: Vampire Criminals)

In court it was claimed: "This is an incident that a person has taken some time over and possibly enjoyed because the blood in the saucepan has dried out before the newspaper [containing the heart] is put into it."

The corpse was found at lunchtime the following day by a meals-on-wheels volunteer who rang the police upon noticing a broken window.

The case was dealt with by North Wales Police.


The Search: 

Initially the police had no idea where to look for the perpetrator of such a vicious and macabre crime, and local residents were in a state of panic. Crime was unusual in the area – there had only been one reported incident of burglary so far that year! At a news conference in Caernarfon on the following Tuesday, police appealed for information on the driver of a blue transit van seen in Mabel’s driveway the preceding Wednesday. Enquiries were made into the movements of 37-year-old David Glyn Griffiths who came to the attention of police when he committed suicide by setting himself alight and jumping from the local Britannia Bridge on December 4th. His involvement was soon ruled out. A man who was seen loitering outside Mabel’s home on the afternoon of the incident was also eliminated; he came forward on December 9th to tell police he had simply been waiting for a lift to work. 

There was also investigation into a possible link between Mabel’s murder and that of 79-year-old Joan Albert in Capel St Mary, Ispwich. Ms Albert had also been stabbed repeatedly, however any connection had been ruled out by December 19th. Police made the decision to tell the press details of the crime, for example the fact that her heart had been removed and that more than 100 people had already given DNA samples for elimination purposes.

On December 20th a BBC Crimewatch reconstruction was aired in the hope of it leading to new leads. This was the first time Crimewatch had made an appeal in Welsh, the aim being to attract more attention from Anglesey where over 90% of residents are Welsh speakers. Detective Superintendent Alan Jones, who was leading the investigation, told the programme: “The thoughts are he’s local, may well have a mental illness… is socially isolated and will have demonstrated some extremely strange behaviour.” The show generated 200 phone calls.

Following the Crimewatch appeal the details of Hardman’s earlier arrest were pointed out to investigating officers and a warrant was eventually issued after Hardman's answers were inconsistent with an earlier statement. A search of Hardman’s bedroom revealed his interest in vampires. He was found to have accessed websites such as The Vampire Rights Movement and the Vampire/Donor Alliance; Hardman claimed he had visited them “just to have a look”. He also had a copy of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, a library book entitled “The Devil: An Autobiography”, and two copies of “Bizarre” magazine (a popular soft porn / alternative lifestyle title) – one of which included an article on how to perform a black mass.

This was used against Hardman in court although he claimed that his supposed obsession with vampires was only a “subtle interest”. Richard N. Kocsis mentions the case in his 2007 book, “Serial Murder and the Psychology of Violent Crimes”, as evidence of how a “weird” hobby in fact proves very little and is comparable, for example, to the connection between high-school shootings in the USA with metal music.

There was more conclusive evidence however. DNA found at the murder scene matched blood found within a knife handle in the pocket of a coat in Hardman’s bedroom. In addition a pair of his Levi shoes (which had been recently laundered) matched footprints at the scene, and some of his DNA was mixed with blood on the windowsill from which he left the house. The chance of the latter belonging to someone else was said to be one in 73 million.

When arrested just before 8am on Tuesday January 8th 2002, DC Dewi Harding Jones said: “He (the defendant) turned round to his mother and said, don’t worry, it’s alright, mum. I didn’t do anything.” At 6:12pm on Thursday 10th January Det Sup Alan Jones emerged from Caernarfon police station to announce that Hardman had been charged with murder. A judge at Caernarfon court ordered Hardman to be remanded in custody until trial, and also placed a prohibition on his being named in the press. This was not to be lifted until almost the very end of his trial in August 2002.

A team of 60 officers worked on the case; described at the time as “the most callous and brutal” North Wales Police had ever seen. The five team leaders were presented with commendations for their “professionalism” and “determination” from North Wales Police Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom in May 2003.

A Town and Country Murder featured the case in S2:EP2 in 2014.



The Trial:  

Held at Mold Crown Court the fourteen-day trial was held over July and August 2002. Roger Thomas QC, for the prosecution argued that Hardman was obsessed with vampires: “This was a murder carried out to satisfy the defendant's own sadistic and selfish ends. He may now deny it or seek to play it down but we submit that in November 2001 he was fascinated by and believed in vampires. He believed they existed, believed they drank human blood, and believed most importantly that they could achieve immortality."

Mr. Thomas went on to say: “These are not the views of a mentally unstable defendant – he is perfectly sane and there is no medical issue whatsoever for you [i.e. the jury] to consider.” 

Hardman’s defence barrister, Robin Spencer QC told the court the teenager was innocent. He claimed that there was no conclusive evidence that the blood in the saucepan had been drunk, and dismissed the link between the murder and the earlier assault on the German girl. The murder, he said, was the work of a cold and calculating killer, whereas the assault was sloppy, the result of someone out of control on cannabis. “Is this 17-year-old dyslexic, somewhat naive young man who lacks self-assurance the brutal, calculated evil, cold-blooded killer the prosecution suggest he must be?” He revealed that other suspects, such as a man who was preoccupied with the occult and had once nailed a bird to a crucifix, had not been properly eliminated from enquiries.

Hardman continued to insist he could not recall his whereabouts or actions. Child psychologist Gunars Grinaulds told the court that Hardman had a very poor concept of time and impaired short term memory, which could explain his apparent confusion. Norma Jones, 64, said she trusted Hardman completely following decorating work he had carried out for her. She went on to say that: “He was a very hard worker, neat and tidy.”

This need not mean he was not capable of the crime though. Top forensic-psychologist, Ian Stephen, told the BBC: "So many teenagers become obsessed with parts of culture like this young man. It’s very difficult for parents to pick up these changes from normal interests to something that can become quite scary... If someone had ridiculed him, he may have needed to compensate for this – something like vampirism may have given him what he was looking for.”

Hardman claimed he was with the Chinese student (who had slapped him to try and halt his assault on the German girl) at the time of the murder. His friend denied this however, saying that he would have been at work at the time. Detective Sergeant Iestyn Davies, Hardman’s interviewing officer, said that in spite of his story’s inconsistencies: "He was cool, unfazed and fairly laid back, even though we questioned him in a number of interviews over a three-day period. Not only that, but when he was charged with the murder, he showed absolutely no emotion. At no stage during the interview did he even cry. It is something that really brings it home to you, how a 17-year-old boy could be so cool."

In court Hardman attempted to appear, in the words of the Sun, “cocksure” and confident by answering the prosecution’s questions with “I don’t recall.” However his persistent hand-wringing and facial twitch betrayed his nervousness.

The jury, made up of seven women and five men, deliberated for four hours before returning a unanimous ‘guilty’ verdict. Mr. Justice Richards gave Hardman a life sentence, stipulating that he should serve a minimum of twelve years. He concluded: "I can make an allowance for a degree of confused thinking and immaturity, for some childish fantasising, but the fact remains this was an act of great wickedness and one that you have not faced up to and one for which you have not shown any remorse… Vampirism had indeed become a near obsession with you, that you really did believe that this myth may be true, that you did think that you would achieve immortality by the drinking of another person's blood and you found this an irresistible attraction."

Hardman burst into tears.

The trial was heard at Mold Crown Court.



What next?

Hardman immediately set about trying to appeal the conviction. In August 2002, whilst detained at a HMYOI Doncaster, his solicitor Michael Strain said: “We believe there are grounds for appeal and papers will be lodged with the Appeal Court before Friday. A single judge will now consider whether there are sufficient grounds for appeal. We are hopeful that a hearing will be held before Christmas. If the judge agrees, he will grant Mr Hardman legal aid and the matter will go to a full hearing in London. That hearing, if it goes ahead, could be held next spring." This application for appeal was turned down.

In October 2003 his second attempt at being granted the right to appeal was also turned down.


In the Media:  

In Spring 2004 a documentary, “Y Fampir” (lit. The Vampire), was broadcast as part of “Cwmni Drwg” on Welsh language channel, S4C. It examined the possible influence of the vampire phenomenon in the media on Hardman’s actions. Romanian academic and Count Dracula’s only living relative, Constantin Balaceanu-Stolnici told the programme: "Dracula never drank blood. It's irresponsible of people in Britain to transfer responsibility for Mabel Leyshon's murder to my ancestor; this is not his responsibility because his behaviour was not one of a Satanist."

Dyfed Edwards also included the case (Fampir Ynys Mon – the vampire of Anglesey) in his 2003 book, “Dynion Dieflig” (Diabolical Men).

In May 2008 Channel Five’s series “True CSI” aired a reconstruction of the police investigation; angering residents of Llanfair PG who accused the channel of insensitivity. County councillor John Penri Williams told the press: “The home help who discovered the break-in and found Mrs Leyshon used to give my mum her meals. It was particularly distressing for her, and to do this in the form of entertainment is quite distasteful. There are many older people here who were quite petrified and a number of them left the village.” Mrs Leyshon’s niece, Ann Williams, 60, said: “I don’t really want it to be shown, but I cannot do anything to stop it.”

Larry Bambrick, executive producer of True CSI, which was broadcast at 11pm on Saturday, said: “The episode that deals with the case of Mabel Leyshon concentrates on the painstaking forensic and detective work needed to catch her killer. By matching shoe prints and tiny pieces of DNA, police were able to solve a murder that shocked a small town. We interviewed a number of detectives and forensic experts involved in the case and it’s that story — of science and detection – that we wanted to tell.”

The case has also been featured in:






Finally, a cheery end to a gruesome post: The Vampire Craig. 


This is what a true Welsh vampire would be like!
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