Matthew Hardy's roots as a stalker date to his socially isolated high school days, when he opened his first Facebook account. One of his earliest victims tells Sirin Kale for the Guardian that starting in 2009 "a random person would … start messaging me. They’d say my boyfriend was cheating on me and they just wanted to let me know." Eventually, she and 25 other classmates managed to identify the perpetrator and joined forces. "Every time he messaged us, we'd say: 'You’re Matthew Hardy, go away.'" He didn’t. Another victim says that in 2011, when she was 16, Hardy called her 50 times daily and texted comments in real time about things she was doing and wearing. When she reported him to Cheshire police, they suggested she block his number. It was one of more than 100 complaints that department got about Hardy from 62 victims over 11 years.
Hardy reached deep into social networks, impersonating victims and harassing their families, colleagues, and friends around the globe. He told a woman, on her wedding day, that she was being cheated on; pretended to be one woman's dead grandmother; and threatened to tell another woman's father that his dead wife had cheated on him. Police often ignored complaints or claimed they were powerless to act. When they did arrest Hardy (10 times in 10 years), he was slapped with suspended sentences or restraining orders, which he readily ignored. One officer finally built a case, and in October 2021, Hardy pleaded guilty to five stalking charges and got 9 years, "believed to be the longest sentence handed out in a British court for a stalking offense." (Read more about Hardy’s crimes here.)