Search icon


26th Feb 2024

Should our social media be private? I think maybe it should after watching Netflix cyberstalker-doc, ‘Can I Tell You A Secret?’

Jody Coffey


*This article contains spoilers about Can I Tell You A Secret?*

Earlier this month, the cyberstalker documentary, Can I Tell You A Secret?, dropped on Netflix and put the fear of God into social media users everywhere – particularly women.

The series followed the account of three young women – Zoe Hallam, Abby Furness and Lia Hambly – who were the victims of cyberstalking online.

The three women not only shared the same terrifying experience, but they shared the same attacker, Matthew Hardy.

Credit: Netflix

Who is Matthew Hardy?

Before his incarceration, Hardy was an unemployed man living in Northwich, Cheshire, United Kingdom.

During his younger years, he was described by his classmates as isolated, quiet, and different.

Hardy also lived with undiagnosed autism for much of his younger life.

Today he is known as the UK’s most prolific cyberstalker.

Matthew Hardy. Credit: Chesire Police

What did Hardy do?

Hardy began his online cyberstalking in 2019 and it took 11 years – and multiple pleas for help from the police by the women involved – for him to be brought to justice.

The beginning of his online torment would begin when the words ‘Can I tell you a secret?’ would pop up on the screen of his victims. 

He would create fake social media profiles of his victims, pretend to be them and send hateful, false, confrontational, and sexually explicit messages to their loved ones and followers.

Zoe Hallam. Credit: Netflix

Over the span of ten years, Hardy causes irreparable damage to over 60 women’s relationships with family members, employers, and partners.

Despite many victim’s coming forward to their local police about Hardy’s cyberstalking, just two had some action taken on their behalf.

In May 2011, he received a warning for harassment and later that year pleaded guilty to hacking and harassment for taking over the Facebook account of Samantha Boniface, as reported by the Northwich Guardian.

Despite being sentenced to an unserved suspended term, 250 hours of community service, £300 in damages to Boniface and £120 in court cases, he continued his online rampagne against his victims.

Per The Guardian, Hardy was arrested nine other times, including once in 2013 when he pleaded guilty to harassment and hacking another victim of the name Amy Bailey via social media.

He received another suspended sentence for the offences.

Bailey sought a restraining order against Hardy, which he had violated by 2014.

Many of his victims reported feeling frustrated by he lack of action from law enforcement, with many saying they were not taken seriously when they reported Hardy.

That was until 2019.

Abby Furness. Credit: Netflix

How did his victims suffer?

The victims of Matthew Hardy were subjected to relentless stalking and lived in a constant state of fear, paranoia, worry, and anxiety.

Many of his victims had relationships and friendships destroyed due to false information sent from the account’s Hardy handled.

In some instances, such as Abby Furness, Hardy leaked nude imagery to personal contacts.

For Lia Hambly, he sent sexually explicit messages to multiple contacts in her life, even going as far to invite older men to her home.

Zoe Hallam reported feeling afraid that she slept with a samurai sword.

Some of Hardy’s victims, over the 10 years, relied on social media to make money, which was impacted by their fear of being public online.

Lia Hambly. Credit: Netflix

How was Hardy caught?

In 2019, Cheshire police constable Kevin Anderson was assigned to a stalking case in which Hardy was a suspect.

During his investigation, he found dozens of other victims of cyberstalking and began reaching out to several victims, whose reports of the stalking had been unresolved.

Anderson began compiling a case against Hardy, using the victim Lia Hambly’s evidence. As a former paralegal, she had filed and organised more than 700 pages of screenshots from every single one of her interactions with Hardy across all of her social media accounts.

Using Hambly’s data, as well as screenshots and evidence from 61 other victims, totalling more than 100 incidents to present to prosecutors, Hardy was arrested in February 2020.

He denied all the allegations him and continued to harass his victims for over a year.

However, in January 2022, he pled guilty to five counts of stalking involving dear of violence and was also charged with harassment after breaching a restraining order.

He was sentenced to nine years for stalking, with one year reduced due to a technicality from a 2017 law on stalker sentences.