A British woman has spent more than £8,000 flying to the U.S to meet killers on death row.
Mary Hardiman, 54, has spent four years writing letters to three prisoner pen pals awaiting death.
She said husband Hughie, 55, who accompanies her on their yearly two-week holidays, and son Kieran, 20, are supportive.
Mary, of Stockport, Cheshire, who works as a counsellor, said: “It’s about looking past their crimes and finding out who these people really are.
“I have spent money out of my own pocket to visit the prisoners that I have become friends with.
“I would usually always opt for a sunny beach holiday but over the last year we have holidayed around notorious prisons.
“I started writing to these prisoners through a charity four years ago, after I heard about a lifelines charity through a Catholic conference.
“It’s fair to say that trips like these are not for everyone, but we come back with incredible stories and we think it’s a far more selfless way to spend our time.
“But we don’t just visit prisons, when we go away we treat it as out holiday and visit the area, so it’s also a holiday in Texas as well as visiting one of my pen pals.
Most recently, Mary, started writing to death row inmate Charles Mamou, who has been awaiting lethal injection for murdering a woman in 1999.
She’s also corresponding with a separate inmate in Louisiana who she has visited, and is also planning to fly across the pond to meet a third man in Arkansas.
Mary said: “I met a second death row inmate in Louisiana, and the man I’m about to go and meet is Arkansas killed his father and stabbed a female prison officer to death.
“It’s very easy to read what they have done and judge them solely on their crime but if we held everyone to their biggest mistake nobody would be seen as perfect.
“My husband and son are both very supportive, they understand why I do it.
“I never know what they’ve done and if they tell me that’s up to them, it starts with saying hello and the conversation grows from there.”
Earlier this year, Mary visited Charles “Chucky” Mamou in Texas, US, who has been on death row for 20 years.
“Chucky is a really funny man, he’s very literate and has educated himself whilst he’s been in prison.
“I always found him very inquisitive, he would ask hundreds of questions about me whenever I mentioned something new that he could learn about.
“Chucky is definitely more than his crime, he claims he is innocent, and I have visited him seven times.
“I asked him if he would want me to be in the room when he is due to be executed and if he wants me to be there I will be.”
Mary says that she would never do any of this without the approval of her family and that her husband and son are extremely supportive of what she does as they all have a strong faith.
She added: “It’s like a calling and my family understand that, my husband comes with me every time I go.
“I have spent money out of my own pocket meeting these convicts but it’s something that I feel I really need to do in order to give them a chance at having a normal conversation without judgement.
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Recently, Mary has been talking to a man in Arkansas who is on death row now, he murdered his father and later murdered a female prison officer over an argument about trainers.
Mary said: “He has always been very open about what he did and understands the consequences.
“I’m currently planning to meet him sometime next year.
“All I would say to anyone that is judging what I do is that I feel it’s the right thing to do, these men may have made some mistakes, but it doesn’t make them any less than the next man.
“For me it’s about finding the human side of these people and letting them express themselves beyond apologising for their mistakes.”
Mary’s husband, Hughie said: “It’s a bit different as we usually would go on Mediterranean holidays but I’m happy to support my wife and the inmates we meet and the amazing work she’s doing.
“To us it’s how we live out our faith, and I think she’s an incredible person to be able to see past what these men are convicted of and find out who they are inside.”