Bail hostel that some of UK's most evil women from called home
The halfway house from HELL: The bail hostel that some of UK’s most evil women from Karen Matthews to Baby P killer Tracy Connelly called home
- EXCLUSIVE: Facility has provided them with first homes after their release
- It is one of nine ‘Approved Premises’ for women offenders in England and Wales
A property on a quiet residential street has been home to some of the most notorious women criminals in British history, MailOnline can reveal.
Baby P’s mother Tracey Connelly and Karen Matthews, who kidnapped her nine-year-old daughter Shannon and held her prisoner for 24 days, are among former residents of the ‘Monster Mansion’.
Mairead Philpott, who was jailed for 17 years for her role in the death of her six children in an horrific arson in June 2013, has also lived there.
So too has ‘Chucky’ killer Bernadette McNeilly, who spent 21 years in prison for the sadistic murder of 16-year-old Suzanne Capper.
The infamous rogue’s gallery all lived at the property in Reading, Berks – a probation hostel for high risk offenders.
Karen Matthews (pictured) kidnapped her nine-year-old daughter Shannon and held her prisoner for 24 day
Tracey Connelly, who earned the loathing of a nation after details emerged of the cruelty she inflicted on her toddler son Peter before his death
Mairead Philpott, who was jailed for 17 years for her role in the death of her six children in an horrific arson in June 2013
The independently-run facility has provided them with their first homes after being released from custody on licence.
The 24-bed hostel is one of just nine ‘Approved Premises’ for women offenders in England and Wales.
READ MORE: Baby P’s mother ‘becomes friends with child killer’ who smothered daughter, three, as she’s pictured on shopping trip
It comes amid reports Connolly, who earned the loathing of a nation after details emerged of the cruelty she inflicted on her toddler son Peter before his death in 2007, was recently pictured out shopping while wearing headphones.
She has reportedly grown close to fellow resident Helen Caudwell, 54, who throttled her three-year-old daughter Bethany with a pyjama case in October 2009
Tory MP Alberto Costa told MailOnline that reports of their friendship are ‘deeply disturbing’.
He said: ‘Similar to the case of the convicted child-rapist and killer Colin Pitchfork, whom I have been campaigning to see remain behind bars, it is clear to many of us that Tracey Connolly should not have been released by the Parole Board last year.
‘She inflicted horrific and cruel injuries against her poor child, and it is simply incomprehensible that she, and individuals such as Colin Pitchfork, should ever been cleared for release.
‘That fact that she is now reportedly befriending other heinous child killers is deeply insulting to the victims of her crimes and those of us who remain deeply disturbed by her horrific actions.’
Matthews, a mother-of-seven, was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2009 before she was released from jail in April 2012
McNeilly (pictured), 52, was freed in 2015 after serving her sentence for the horrific murder of Suzanne
One local resident added: ‘It’s scary to think of the horrendous crimes that some of these women have committed but they rarely give you any bother. You hardly notice they are there at all.’
The property nestles between large detached houses and converted flats and is little more than a 10 minute walk from the ‘chic boutiques and department stores’ of the town centre.
Estate agents describe properties for sale there as being set on a ‘tree lined avenue’ in a ‘sought after location’.
One said the area offered ‘beautiful riverside walks on the Thames and tow path ambles on the Kennet and Avon canals’.
They added: ‘With the nearby Berkshire Downs and Chilterns, beautiful countryside is never far away.’
The hostel is run by a charity which was set up by Quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry in 1817 after she witnessed the appalling conditions of women and children in London’s Newgate prison.
Fry – who featured on the back of £5 notes until 2017 – died in 1845 and a refuge was set up to commemorate her work.
It went on to become a probation hostel for women in 1949 and moved to its current site in 1962.
Beds cost around £30,000-a-year and residents stay at the hostel for between six and 12 months.
Tory MP Alberto Costa (pictured) told MailOnline that reports of their friendship are ‘deeply disturbing’
Tracey Connolly who earned the loathing of a nation after details emerged of the cruelty she inflicted on her toddler son Peter before his death in 2007, was recently pictured out shopping while wearing headphones
Residents, who are referred by the Probation Service, pay a weekly maintenance charge which covers their accommodation, utilities, breakfast, lunch and evening meal.
Baby P: A timeline of the tragedy that shocked Britain
March 1, 2006: Peter Connelly (Baby P) is born
August 3, 2007: 17-month-old Baby P is found dead in cot
November 11, 2008: Peter’s mother, Tracey Connelly, boyfriend Steven Barker and brother Jason Owen are convicted of causing his death
November 13, 2008: Ed Balls orders an inquiry into the role of the council, health authority and police
December 1, 2008: An independent review declares Haringey’s child protection services ‘inadequate’
December 8, 2008: Haringey Children’s Services boss Sharon Shoesmith is sacked with immediate effect
May 22, 2009: Connelly is jailed indefinitely, Barker gets a life term and Owen is given an indeterminate sentence for public protection
October 7, 2009: Shoesmith launches a High Court case against Balls to seek compensation for her dismissal
September 15, 2010: Shoesmith tells MPs she is sorry about what happened but refuses to accept any blame, saying she had no involvement in the care of Baby P
May 27, 2011: The Court of Appeal rules in favour of Shoesmith, saying her dismissal was ‘tainted by unfairness’
October 8, 2013: Connelly is recommended for release by the Parole Board
February 14, 2015: Connelly is back behind bars after sending nude pictures to male fans
December 29, 2015: The Parole Board rejects Connelly’s first bid for freedom
November 28, 2017: The Parole Board rejects Connelly’s second bid for freedom
January 6, 2019: The Parole Board rejects Connelly’s third bid for freedom
March 30, 2022: Connelly is recommended for release by the Parole Board
They also make contributions to an activity fund with gardening and cookery classes thought to be among those offered as well as art and drama.
Volunteers help organise activities including helping out with open days, staging pantomimes and day outings.
Residents are subject to 10pm curfews and are required to be in their rooms from 11 pm until 7.00 am or 7.30 am at weekends.
They have to adhere to ’some rules’ so that ‘everybody can get along with each other and remain safe’ and to ensure they ‘don’t cause problems in the neighbourhood’.
Serious breaches of rules or any licence requirements, or increased concerns about risk of harm to others, will lead to residents being recalled to custody.
Visitors other than solicitors, probation officers and social workers are not allowed on the premises and residents are encouraged instead to meet friends and family in the town centre.
As well as accommodation, residents have their own offender supervisor and are offered ‘wide ranging support’ including attending programmes as well as being offered therapy and financial advice.
Support is aimed at tackling ‘identified challenges most likely to cause re-offending’ which include health issues, drug and alcohol problems, abuse and violence and prostitution.
Help is provided through training, education and employment as well as dealing with family issues.
The hostel, which is bristling with CCTV cameras, is staffed 24 hours a day and residents are thought to be subject to regular drug and alcohol testing, welfare checks and room searches.
One woman who lives near the hostel told how she was forced to complain to managers over residents ‘shouting and swearing’ while her children were trying to sleep in the evening.
She said: ‘They were out in the garden in the summertime. We spoke to the manager. She was very helpful and it stopped after that.
‘Once there was a lady lying unconscious in the road. It was the evening and she was drunk. I tried to help her and called an ambulance.’
But most locals insisted residents rarely posed problems in the neighbourhood.
One male neighbour who has lived on the street for 16 years said: ‘We knew that Karen Matthews was here at one point and she had a part-time job in town.
‘She is the only person that we had heard of. In general nobody knows anything about who is living there at any given time.
‘In fairness they’ve been alright. You do see the odd person walking into town showing off their ankle tag but there never been any problems.
‘The police station is just round the corner but you never see them at the property.
‘I think because it is a women’s place they all seem very well behaved. If it was a men’s hostel it might have been different.’
An elderly woman who lives on the road said: ‘We never have any hassle from them. We see the girls and we see their boyfriends but we don’t see very much more. It’s all very quiet.
Connolly has reportedly made friends with Helen Caudwell, who smothered her three-year-old daughter Bethany in 2006
‘We let them get on with their lives and we get on with ours. I’ve been here 37 years and I’ve never heard anyone complain.
‘You get a bit of litter from time to time but that’s the worst there is.’
Another resident who’s lived in the street for 20 years said: ‘There are no issues at all – they are fine. There has been nothing more noticeable than people sitting outside having a chat once in a blue moon.’
A woman who lives close to the property said: ‘We don’t have any problems with them. I think they need to be somewhere and I don’t mind them being on my road at all.’
In 2017 police were reportedly called after Karen Matthews, 47, became embroiled in an argument with another woman outside a Poundland shop in the town centre. No arrests were made.
The mother-of-seven who was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2009 – was released from jail in April 2012.
In 2020 she was reportedly living in the same block of flats as Bernadette McNeilly.
The pair are said to have become friends after meeting up at Foston Hall prison in Derbyshire.
McNeilly, 52, was freed in 2015 after serving her sentence for the horrific murder of Suzanne.
The teenager was stripped, plunged into a bath of disinfectant and forced to listen to recordings of McNeilly imitating Chucky, the demonic doll from horror film Child’s Play.
Mother-of-three McNeilly and her drug-crazed gang beat their helpless victim, shackled her to a bed, injected her with drugs and pulled out her front teeth with pliers at a house in Moston, Manchester in December 1992.
Suzanne was dumped in a wood, doused in petrol and set alight.
While behind bars at HMP Durham, McNeilly reportedly had a romance with Moors murderer Myra Hindley.
She was also ‘good friends’ with Gloucester House of Horrors monster Rose West.
Matthews – who has dyed her hair black – set up home in the south of England with her boyfriend Paul Saunders, 60, who is himself a convicted paedophile.
She no longer has any contact with Shannon or her six other children. Matthews also reportedly found God in 2020, went on a health kick and lost weight.
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