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Can I tell you a secret? Episode six: the winding clock | Society

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In this new six-episode podcast, Guardian journalist Sirin Kale investigates the story of Matthew Hardy, a cyberstalker who terrified people in his hometown and beyond for over a decade.

His harassment would often start in the same way, with a fake profile posing as a young woman asking a simple question: “Hey hun, can I tell you a secret?”

Over this series, we’ve followed the impact of Matthew Hardy through 10 years of his stalking – a decade that culminated in what is believed by the police to be the longest sentence handed out to a cyberstalker in a UK court. But Matthew being behind bars is not the end of this story.

In the final episode, Sirin talks to Jill Greenwood, a woman with a unique perspective of Matthew. She is a victim of his cyberstalking, but she is also a probation officer. She tells Sirin why understanding Matthew’s motivation for his actions is key to breaking the cycle of offending.

We also hear from Clare Hughes, the criminal justice coordinator at the National Autistic Society, who discusses what the experience of prison can be like for autistic people and how effectively the institutions are set up to help autistic prisoners rehabilitate.

Matthew is not the only person doing time. His victims feel they are in a prison too. Dr. Emma Short, an associate professor in psychology at De Montfort University, and an expert in cyberstalking and trauma, tells Sirin about the long-term impact stalking can have on victims’ lives.

Sirin hears how Abby Furness, Lia Hambly and Amy Bailey have coped since being stalked by Matthew. “You just feel so alone,” Amy tells Sirin. “People don’t understand what it does to you until it actually happens to them.”

Since making this podcast, Matthew has been granted permission to appeal against his sentence.

  • Subscribe to Can I Tell You a Secret? on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts
  • If you need any support around stalking and harassment, you can get in touch with the Suzy Lamplugh Trust or call the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300
  • We’d like to thank the National Autistic Society and Autism Rights Group Highland for their help and advice on this series

Photograph: Design/The Guardian

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