'Camden ripper' given three life sentences

A man who became known as the Camden Ripper has been given three life sentences for murdering the women to "satisfy his depraved and perverted needs". Earlier today, he dramatically changed his plea and admitted murdering three women when he appeared at the Old Bailey.

Anthony Hardy, 53, of Royal College Street, Camden, north London, admitted murdering Sally White, 31, Elizabeth Valad, 29, and Bridgette MacClennan, 34, who all died last year.

Hardy had previously denied their murders but changed his plea within minutes of appearing in dock.

His counsel, Malcolm Swift QC, asked the judge to allow three charges to be read to him again. Grey-haired and bespectacled Hardy replied "guilty" as each was read out.

Parts of the dismembered remains of Miss MacClennan and Miss Valad, who both lived in London, were found in bin bags and rubbish bins in north London in the early hours of December 30, 2002.

The body of Miss White, who also lived in London, was found in January last year.

Flanked by dock officers, Hardy was led back to cells after admitting the murders. Details of the case are due to be opened later today.

Hardy, who was wearing a dark blue sweatshirt, sat between dock officers after

entering his pleas.

He looked around the court as Mr Swift asked the judge for more time to make submissions on his behalf.

Mr Swift said: "We would like to prepare carefully any remarks that we make before sentencing."

He also said he would consider submitting a written basis of plea which would outline Hardy's reasons for pleading guilty.

Mr Swift added: "We would be most grateful if the case could be disposed of again."

But junior prosecutor Crispin Aylett said he would have to consult chief prosecution counsel Richard Horwell who was not available this morning.

Mr Justice Keith adjourned the case until this afternoon.

None of the victims' families were in court this morning.

Police would not comment officially on the dramatic turn of events, but a senior detective said: "He had nowhere else to go."

Anthony Hardy is a larger-than-life character who would stand out in a crowd - but for three days last year, he disappeared as he became Britain's most wanted man. A huge police hunt was launched after the dismembered remains of two of the victims were found by a tramp in bin bags near his home.

But after shaving his beard and leaving his flat in Camden, he went unnoticed to the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead on December 30 last year, where he pinned a note up in the chapel.

It said: "Please pray for Tony Hardy's immortal soul. 30/12/02. Happy New Year."

Two days later, 6ft 3ins Hardy was caught on CCTV cameras in the casualty department of the University College Hospital, central London, where he tried to get treatment for diabetes.

He was arrested the next day at Great Ormond Street Hospital, after making another trip to the Royal Free, praying in the chapel.