The Bond Girl and the 'spy' who won her heart from a jail cell: Actress Fiona Fullerton on the very unlikely friendship that helped her survive her cheating husband's affairs
00:03 GMT, 1 September 2012
00:13 GMT, 1 September 2012
As friendships go, it was a most unlikely one. I was a young actress in love with my handsome fianc, my life defined by the glamour and chaos of showbusiness.
Alex was a life-term prisoner in a high-security jail, protesting his innocence, surrounded by some of the most violent men in Britain, often living in isolation in the segregation block.
Yet he was to become a dear friend, almost like a brother, as we corresponded with each other regularly for 12 long years.
Together at last: Actress Fiona Fullerton with Alex, whom she became friends with while he was a life-term prisoner in a high-security jail
He first wrote me a fan letter, out of the blue, from prison in 1976 and something about it intrigued me enough to write back. When he responded, I kept on writing to him because I was lonely — and something about his situation resonated with mine.
In return, his letters to me were wise, humorous and comforting, and he wrote me poems full of pathos and beauty.
He could lift my spirits instantly with his witty descriptions of life in prison, or console me with his kind words.
Yet, over those 12 years in which we exchanged hundreds of letters, I had never met him or even seen a photograph of him. It was as if there was an invisible thread between us: he was a kindred spirit, someone who needed me just as I needed him. Perhaps it was that we both felt trapped — Alex in prison, me in the celebrity world.
I explore the unlikely and extraordinary connection we made in my new book, Dear Fiona, to highlight the injustice I believe Alex has suffered.
So how did I, a successful actress, end up corresponding with a man who was apparently a violent burglar
I had become an actress at the age of 11, and in 1975 made the leap into adult roles in a TV series about student nurses called Angels. The following year, when I was 19, we were filming the second series and, as usual, my fan mail was forwarded to me from my agent’s office.
Young stars: Fiona Fullerton with her first husband Simon MacCorkindale in 1977
One letter in particular caught my eye, written on prison-issue notepaper in immaculate handwriting from Anthony Alexandrowicz (always known as Alex), who said he was a fan of Angels and asked for a picture of me.
‘Your face could launch the U.S. Navy and a couple of submarines,’ he wrote. ‘But my pal says just the U.S. Navy.’
Anyone who pays you a massive compliment then gives it a twist is worth getting to know, I figured, so I wrote back, enclosing some photographs of myself.
Within days I received another letter, in which Alex informed me he was serving a life sentence. He’d already completed five years of it, and would go on to serve 17 more.
I was taken aback but, I have to admit, intrigued. Telling me this so early in our correspondence was such a huge risk to take. How did he know it wouldn’t bother me that much And, come to think of it, why didn’t it
I was young then, and I suppose I didn’t think about the enormity of what he was saying — I was more beguiled by the content of his letters than I was about whatever offences he might or might not have committed in the past.
So I wrote back, giving Alex a short precis of my life, including my comfortable upbringing as the only child of an Army officer and his wife.
I wrote: ‘I am going to be married on July 10 to a wonderful young man called Simon MacCorkindale — do think of us on that day’.
Alex wrote back: ‘I hope Simon is really going to look after you. He’s the luckiest guy on God’s Earth.’
Alex told me more about himself. He was British, three years older than me — I’m 55 now — grew up in Lancashire, and had a difficult childhood.
It was in his third or fourth letter to me that he explained he had been taken into care at 12, and began stealing, then house-breaking, serving time in jail.
He explained that there had been an incident some years earlier in which a man armed with a knife broke into a house and one of the occupants, a woman, was stabbed in the ensuing scuffle. Alex is adamant he played no part in the burglary.
Some hours later, the police found Alex sleeping rough, questioned him, and put pressure on him to admit to the burglary, allegedly telling him that if he didn’t, his Ukrainian father might be deported.
Alex was so afraid, he naively confessed to aggravated burglary and grievous bodily harm, and was sentenced to life imprisonment on each count.
It is very rare indeed for these offences to attract life terms — which brings us to the strangest part of Alex’s story.
Some years earlier, he had visited the Soviet embassy in London to try to trace his father’s relatives. It seems the British intelligence services, monitoring the embassy, took photographs of Alex talking to a Russian official.
Simon and Fiona in 1981: Fiona said they spent long periods apart because of their work, a separation she found difficult
Alex believes he was suspected of being a ‘sleeper’ spy about to be activated by his Russian controllers — and that this lay behind his arrest over the burglary. It may sound an outlandish theory but it’s supported by David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University, who was one of Alex’s prison governors and came to know his case well.
‘/09/01/article-2196606-0C434A1A00000578-978_634x428.jpg” width=”634″ height=”428″ alt=”Bond Girl: Fiona with Roger Moore in A View To A Kill in 1985″ class=”blkBorder” />
Bond Girl: Fiona with Roger Moore in A View To A Kill in 1985
Alex urged me to save my marriage if I could, but added: ‘If it wasn’t for the fact you were married to Simon, and obviously dearly in love with him, I would have asked you to marry me.’
His letter gave me strength at a time when my self-esteem was at rock-bottom, and in his next letter Alex advised me to get out of my marriage if there was another woman involved.
There was. It transpired that Simon had fallen in love with one of his co-stars, the American actress Linda Purl.
In my loneliness, Alex’s adoring letters became a lifeline, seeing me through the worst of my misery. In one particularly emotional letter, Alex told me our correspondence had changed his life. ‘There was this girl, this beautiful, wonderful girl who provided a balance between outside values and the savage values of the prison system,’ he wrote.
‘You are beautiful from the heart outwards — a rare thing in this day and age.’
In response, I told him I loved him as a sister loves a brother. Alex made me feel needed at a time when I was being rejected. After six years of marriage, Simon and I were divorced in 1982. But as I emerged from my crisis, Alex was in his own despair.
He had gone into voluntary solitary confinement to get away from a prisoner who’d been threatening him, but loneliness was overwhelming him.
In March 1981, Alex abruptly ended our
correspondence. He wrote: ‘Forget me, my friend . . . no more writing
to an old lag in prison . . . May God go with you, Green Eyes, I shall
always be with you.’
I was devastated, then relieved when he wrote again soon after, urging me to disregard his last letter.
my career was going well. In 1984, I co-starred in the James Bond movie
A View To A Kill as Pola Ivanova — a Russian KGB double-agent and
As a youngster: Fiona with her mother Pamela
The following year, Alex was transferred to Dartmoor Prison, where he went on hunger strike for two months and smuggled out a letter to the local newspaper protesting his innocence. In total, he was moved to 19 prisons.
In 1986, when I was 30, I was starring in the TV series, The Charmer, and my career was going well. But since my divorce, I hadn’t found a lasting relationship, and I felt lonely at times.
While Alex is a proud and intelligent man who always refused to accept the injustice of his incarceration, I found celebrity crushingly debilitating.
At around this time, I could sense that Alex’s fighting spirit was impaired by the medication he was given, and his letters became increasingly sporadic as he sank into depression.
Sadly, our correspondence petered out. With no end to his sentence in sight, Alex felt unable to continue writing because he didn’t want to burden me with his troubles. He wrote: ‘I had no business writing largely depressive letters . . . I felt it was wrong to burden you with my own black cynicism and despair.’
He wrote me one more letter, in 1988, but by then I could feel him slipping away as tiredness, medication and desolation overwhelmed him.
I didn’t hear from him again. . To order a copy for 16.99 (p&p free), call 0843 382 0000.