|Putney Woman Tells How She Moved Drug Smuggler into Her Home|
Victoria Oak had been sending letters to him while he was in Thai jail
A 62-year-old woman from Putney has told how an exchange of letters with a man serving a 40 year sentence for smuggling heroin in Thailand ended with her inviting him to live with her.
In an interview with the Press Association 'middle-class housewife' Victoria Oak describes 63-year-old Andy Hawke as her ‘soul mate’ after their relationship developed through an exchange of handwritten letters.
Mr Hawke was incarcerated in the notorious Bang Kwang Prison until he received his release in 2013. For seven years during his sentence he had been in correspondence with Victoria Oak after she had been alerted to his plight by her daughter Samantha.
She decided to start writing to him and in 2012 went on a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago to pray for his release and two weeks into her trek she learned that he was to be pardoned.
Victoria, who has four children Samantha, Emma, 34, Tom, 31, and William, 28, told the Press Association, 'We were both feeling trapped. Me, as I was not happy in my marriage and Andy as he was in prison.
'From the time I was 40, my husband and I started to grow apart. I think I just felt very alone. It was a hard time.'
She went onto say that Andy’s letters provided her with some solace.
She said, “It's so rare to get things in the mail anymore and it was amazing to receive a handwritten letter sent by Air Mail. It became a real friendship and we talked about everything.
'Andy never told me what to do. He would never encourage me to leave my husband, it's really not the kind of person he is.
'But I think just having someone I could talk to helped. It was a form of escapism.'
But there was little prospect of the pen pals ever being more than that because Andy, who was locked up in 1999, was serving 40 years for smuggling drugs. Victoria says he agreed to take the heroin over the Thai border as he was ‘in a dark place’ at the time following the recent death of his partner.
Victoria had asked for a divorce after her pilgrimage and when Andy returned to the UK in March 2013 he came to live with her on a platonic basis for 18 months as he got used to having his freedom and they worked on a book. He has since settled in Ceredigion, Wales.
She said, 'We'd stay up writing together and reading the chapters over. The more we learnt about each other's lives before our sentences, the more we bonded.
'But after 18 months, I think we'd had enough of each other. We're both stubborn and I'm very positive, while Andy can get quite down.”
Andy said, 'She insisted in her letters that she was a middle-aged, middle-class housewife from Putney and yet what woman middle-aged and middle class would write to an old con in a South-East Asian prison for seven years and then on his release offer to share her home with him until he got back on his feet?
'Only when I actually met this extraordinary "Putney housewife" did I come to realise how much she meant to me.'
The pair, who remain best friends, have now published a book about their experiences called Sentenced which can be purchased here.
July 16, 2021