For many, this was the year that signalled the end the Second World War, ending the turmoil and suffering that had reverberated across the world. For three families in Manchester, however, the war didn’t end there; it simply had a new face.
This time, it was the face of ‘Britain’s Forgotten Serial Killer’, or as terrified Mancunians would come to know him, ‘The Beast of Manchester’.
On New Year’s Eve 1974, 15-year-old Lesley Jane Stewart was stabbed and mutilated before being buried in a shallow grave in Newton Heath, Manchester.
For weeks after her murder, sadistic Hardy kept returning to her grave to savagely rip apart her body using his ‘bare hands,’ before scattering the parts around the city, in a depraved attempt to hide his crime. It would be two years before Stewart’s family learned of her tragic fate.
The following year, July 1975, another body was discovered in Moston. 18- year- old Wanda Skala had been walking home from a hotel where she worked as a barmaid when she was hit o with a brick, sexually assaulted and strangled with her own tights.
Hardy, bit off one of her nipples and kept this, together with her blood-stained handbag as a trophy. On this occasion, Hardy was apprehended for her murder but was later released due to the fake alibi was given by his girlfriend at the time. He was free to kill again- and he did just that.
18-year-old Sharon Mosoph became victim number 3. This poor girl was stripped, stabbed and dumped in the Rochdale Canal in March 1976, after she witnessed him trying to burgle a shopping centre at night. Once again, he bit off one of her nipples.
Searching for the answers to a serial killer’s actions is like starting a puzzle that will always have one piece missing; you get a good idea of what you’re looking at, but you never see the full picture.
In order to find the important corner pieces of the puzzle, we must first venture back to the fragility of his childhood.
Though details of his childhood are limited, it is understood that Hardy was subjected to the violent hands of an alcoholic father and a mother who was unable to protect her son from the relentless mental and physical abuse.
From a young age, Hardy was described as a ‘bully’ who was feared by children and even his own family. There is evidence as to the beginnings of Hardy’s criminal career when he was caught stealing at the tender age of 8.
Theft was a compulsion that would later manifest into assault when he was sentenced to five years in jail for wounding a man with a pick-axe when he was just 27-years-old. It was shortly after his early release from the Isle of Wight’s Albany Jail in November 1974 that Hardy went on to commit his ‘first’ murder.
Following a vicious attack on 21-year-old Christian Campbell, who was able to provide the Police with crucial clues following her miraculous escape, Hardy was arrested in August 1976 and charged for the murders of Skala and Mosoph.
It was in this moment that he willingly revealed details of Stewart’s murder (who at that time was still a ‘missing person’) and eventually led Police to the site where he heartlessly disposed of her severed head.
Despite pleading guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, the jury found him guilty of three murders and sentenced him to life imprisonment in Wakefield Jail, to serve a minimum of 30 years.
He would remain there until his death on 25th September 2012, where he suffered from a heart attack in his cell, two days earlier. Having spent 35 years in prison, Hardy was known as one of the longest-serving prisoners ever, in England and Wales- a small consolation for the families of the victims.
Nature VS Nurture
One of the most prevalent arguments discussed by criminologists is whether killers are born or made bad. In this instance, I would argue that Hardy’s exposure to violence from a young age sculpted his perception of what was ‘normal behaviour’; in this case, physical violence towards ‘vulnerable’ people.
Whilst Hardy’s apparent ‘hatred’ towards women could have stemmed from his mother’s lack of affection and failure to protect him from his father, I don’t believe that this alone is the root of his behaviour. How could it be? It is my opinion that Trevor Joseph Hardy’s upbringing stunned his ability to feel empathy which, in turn, allowed him to kill without remorse.
Furthermore, I also believe that killing, sexually assaulting and mutilating his victims gave him a sense of ‘power’ that was taken away from him at the hands of his father when he was a child. But does this answer the crucial question as to why? No. After all, there are children who endure the same on a daily basis and don’t become murderers.
Is there such a thing as closure when it comes to murder? It really is a challenging thing to comprehend; I do think that just retribution can certainly ease the pain.
Sadly, this isn’t, and may never be, the case for the family of Dorothy Layden, the suspected first victim of Hardy. Her body was found on the 25th April 1971, dumped behind the Spread Eagle Pub on Rochdale Road, where she had been sexually assaulted and severely beaten.
Despite being the prime suspect, Hardy was cleared of this murder when DNA found near the scene did not match his own. Manchester Police have determined that the DNA found at the crime scene was undoubtedly that of the killer, despite being picked up close to the body, not on it.
This, therefore, implies that the DNA could have been deposited prior to the murder and could be completely unrelated- something which has been explained by countless leading experts.
Personally, I find the modus operandi to be eerily similar, and I also struggle to believe that Hardy’s sadistic mutilation of Lesley Jane Stewart’s body could be the work of a first-time-killer. After all, it takes a lot of confidence and self-assurance to return to a crime scene, time and time again.
For now, Dorothy’s family continues to campaign to have the investigation re-opened because they too believe that Hardy is the monster they’ve been searching for.
Whether the case will be reopened, we can only speculate. But whether Hardy is the missing piece of this puzzle or not, what we can know for certain is that the streets of Manchester are a safer place without him.