Abby got a strange text asking if she 'wanted to know a secret'. Then her ex-boss received a photo.

It happened once. It happened again and again. 

A woman would receive a text from someone presenting themselves as a mysterious woman. The DM would simply read "Can I tell you a secret?" from a friendly enough person on the opposite end of the phone. 

But then came the secrets. Someone has leaked your intimate photos. Your best friend is spreading hateful sentiments about you. Your boyfriend is cheating on you. 

Things would escalate. The text messages kept coming. If you didn't respond, they would incessantly call. If the number was blocked, a new number would start texting in its place. Friends and family would receive messages about you. Sometimes, fake accounts would be created to imitate you. 

Victims started to suspect and accuse their friends and family.

This would go on for years. 

This happened to more than 100 women in the UK.

The person behind the online presence was Matthew Hardy, a 31-year-old cyber-stalker, whose crimes are now the subject of a new Netflix true crime documentary, Can I Tell You A Secret? — which is based on Guardian journalist Sirin Kale's podcast of the same name.

Watch the trailer for Netflix's Can I Tell You a Secret. Post continues after video.

Video via Netflix.

Matthew Hardy destroyed the lives of the women he targeted. He didn't just contact these women; he would infiltrate every aspect of their lives.

In one of countless examples, he told one woman's fiancé on their wedding day that she had cheated on him.

In another chilling instance, he pretended to be a woman’s father-in-law and sent explicit messages to teenage girls.

Matthew's victims were so traumatised that many slept with weapons by their beds.

Zoe Jade Hallam was one of his victims. Matthew contacted 50 of Zoe's friends and family members during the time he was cyberstalking her. She shares on the Netflix doco that slept with a samurai sword beside her bed thanks to his actions.

Abby Furness is another woman whose experience is featured in the documentary, and her story is especially harrowing. Abby was first contacted by Matthew in 2019. He harassed her family members and in some cases, these loved ones blocked Abby to distance themselves from the trolling.

"He ruined so many relationships," she told The Guardian in 2022. "Because people would associate me with drama. They thought I was causing it. It wasn't me. But my name was on everything."


Matthew sabotaged Abby's relationship claiming she had cheated on her partner. "My boyfriend got a message from a fake Instagram account saying that they knew I'd been cheating on him," she recalled.

"It gave our relationship trust issues. We ended up breaking up a month later."

Matthew impersonated her and started sexual conversations with Abby's colleagues. He then stole intimate photos of her and forwarded the images to her former boss.

"I felt sick," Abby told The Sun in 2022. "I'd never flirt with my boss, let alone send him nude photos."

"I kept thinking it would stop," she told The Guardian. "But it kept getting worse and worse. He'd contacted more people. I'd lost more friends over it. More work." 

As if Abby's nightmare couldn't get any worse, she embarked on a holiday to Ibiza in 2020. As she was packing, she received a message that read, "You need to be very careful. Beware."

This terrifying message prompted Abby to contact her local police station, but her concerns were dismissed. 

"They said: 'Do you really think you are in danger? Because we're 20 minutes away from you and something might happen over here.' 

"I said 'Okay, I guess it’s fine then.' I felt really silly."Abby Furness being interviewed in Can You Keep A Secret? Image: Netflix. 


In another incident, Abby was hosting an Instagram Live in Ibiza when an account using the name Matthew Hardy started sending questions. Then Matthew messaged Abby on Facebook revealing himself as her stalker.

But the messages didn't stop. Until 2021, Matthew continued to bombard Abby and her family and friends. 

"Nearly every day, I’d get a message from someone I hadn't spoken to in years saying, 'Abby, I got your WhatsApp message, has your account been hacked?'" she remembered.


She didn't see any point in seeking help from the police. "When I phoned them [the first time], they made me feel like I was wasting police time," she says. "[They thought] I was this blonde, naive girl who had loads of followers on Instagram, posted where she was all the time and wanted attention."

Abby was diagnosed with depression and anxiety because of the mental toll that the stalking took on her. And sadly, her story is one of more than a hundred, dating all the way back to when Matthew was just 17, when he started messaging girls in sixth form at college in his hometown of Cheshire.

Matthew Hardy — who is is considered the most prolific cyber-stalker in Britain's history — was arrested many times without being charged before he was eventually arrested and prosecuted in 2022. He was sentenced to nine years in prison for five counts of stalking — the longest custodial sentence in the country's history for such a crime.

Through interviews with victims and Cheshire police officer Kevin Anderson, who was integral to cracking the case, the two-part Netflix documentary will piece together exactly how the stalker was finally brought to justice.

Can I Tell You A Secret? is available to stream on Netflix.

Feature image: Netflix. 

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