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The suspected spy who loved me
7:00am Saturday 6th October 2012 in AdXtra
Ex Bond girl Fiona Fullerton talks about the unlikely friendship she formed with suspected Soviet spy Anthony 'Alex' Alexandrowicz, through letters they exchanged while he was serving life imprisonment for a crime he has long claimed he did not commit. Released after 22 years, Fullerton finally met her erstwhile pen pal face-to-face last year. Their friendship has continued and the letters are published in her new book, Dear Fiona.
By Hannah Stephenson
What could a young, sexy British actress possibly have in common with a prisoner suspected of being a Soviet spy?
Enough, it seems, to fuel a long friendship which stemmed from one fan letter to which she personally replied, leading to a 12-year correspondence and final meeting.
Former Bond girl Fiona Fullerton was a glamorous 19-year-old actress when she received a letter from one Anthony 'Alex' Alexandrowicz, who was serving a life term for aggravated burglary and GBH in Parkhurst Prison.
The letter was written in the tiniest, most perfectly-formed handwriting and made her laugh, so she returned a photo of herself and a letter, which started the long correspondence.
She never suspected he wanted a romantic relationship.
"There was never anything in the letters that made me feel uncomfortable, nothing suggestive, nothing lascivious. It was all quite charming and chivalrous," she says.
Fullerton is now 55, and the letters have been published in a book, Dear Fiona, which reveals their friendship (she describes Alex as the brother she never had) and is interspersed with her own recollections of her life at the time, highlighting the contrast between the glamorous life of a young actress and the darkness of her penpal's incarceration.
Alex's letters were a welcome diversion from the stress and sadness Fullerton was feeling behind her smiles, as her marriage to her cheating husband, the late actor Simon MacCorkindale, crumbled.
"The letters provided enormous solace and comfort," she says. "I was very lonely because Simon was away a great deal, which is a fact of life when you marry an actor. I'd never experienced being on my own."
Born in Lancashire in 1953, Alex had been taken into care at 12, began stealing, then house-breaking, serving time in jail.
When he was 18, at the height of the Cold War, police arrested him in connection with an incident 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.
The police questioned him, and allegedly put pressure on him to admit to the burglary or they would deport his father, who was from the Ukraine and had KGB connections.
Two years earlier, Alex had visited the Soviet embassy in London to try to trace his grandparents. It seems the British intelligence services took photographs of him talking to a Russian official.
That official was expelled from the UK on spying charges four days before Alex was arrested for the aggravated burglary and GBH.
Faced with the alleged threat that his father would be deported, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
"In 1971 we were at the height of the Cold War and a few days prior to his arrest, 104 diplomats had been expelled," Fullerton - who ironically starred as a Russian double agent in A View To A Kill - explains.
The former Bond girl, who gave up acting in 1995 shortly after her marriage to businessman Neil Shackell, and went on to forge a career as a property guru, hopes the book may go some way to clearing Alex's name. All the proceeds will go to his cause.
"I want to highlight the miscarriage of justice. Even if he had committed the crime, he still shouldn't have served 22 years. I'm not alone in thinking he's innocent and that there's something spurious about the length of his sentence."
Fullerton never met Alex while he was in prison - he was moved on many occasions, often spending time in solitary confinement, where desperation set in. They lost touch in the late Eighties and he was released in 1993.
Fullerton eventually packed the letters away in her under-stairs cupboard, and stumbled across them again last year and, with the help of a national newspaper, tracked Alex down to a flat in Milton Keynes. Having become a recluse, he'd lost contact with the outside world.
She recalls meeting him face-to-face for the first time.
"I was unbelievably nervous. My husband was with me and we drove to this hotel in Buckinghamshire. I was very aware that I'm a middle-aged woman now, not the bright young thing Alex was writing to, and I was concerned that in his mind he still had this image of Fiona as she used to be. I didn't want to be a disappointment to him.
"Then, as soon as I saw him the nervousness disappeared. He looked exactly how I'd imagined him to be. It was like meeting a member of one's family and we just talked and talked, as if we'd known each other all our lives."
But life as a free man hasn't been easy for him.
"He's completely institutionalised and even though he's been out of prison for 19 years he still behaves as if it was only yesterday he came out.
"In a way, this makes our friendship even more poignant. It makes me feel very protective towards him.
"I want to look after him as if he were my child, or sometimes as if he were my brother."
Fullerton pulled strings with the council to have him relocated closer to her home in the Cotswolds and she now sees Alex once a week, taking him to hospital appointments, helping him with paperwork and going on outings.
"We love chatting and laughing and feel incredibly comfortable with each other. He always wears a three-piece suit and a tie and he has this big beard, and looks as if he's from another era. He's only 59 but he has the demeanour of somebody older."
Alex hasn't read his old letters because he finds it difficult to return to the past, Fullerton explains. But he is still struggling to move on, as he feels the legal issues are unresolved.
"He just wants an apology or explanation from the Home Office," says Fullerton Her life, however, is much happier than it was in her acting days.
"In the Eighties when I became very famous, I found that unbelievably difficult. I was leading this glamorous life but it was incredibly shallow and meaningless.
"I knew I wasn't happy but I felt such a fraud. I was this glamorous person in magazines, but all I wanted to do was go and hide in the country and put my wellies on and be an anonymous person.
"I had it all too young. One of the reasons I gave up acting was that I married a man who knew exactly where I was coming from and together we were able to build the kind of life that I've always wanted, which is being in the country with the dogs and a rusty old Land Rover."
They have a son, James, 22, (from Shackell's first marriage) and daughter, Lucy, 16, and live in rural bliss. On Twitter she describes herself as a 'domestic goddess'.
"I'm at my happiest being at home with the children and also writing. Once a week Alex and I go on little trips and that makes me happy.
"He's admitted there were times when he was close to ending it himself and when we met in May, 2011, he said, 'You always have the knack of turning up at the right moment'."
:: Dear Fiona: Letters From A Suspected Soviet Spy by Fiona Fullerton is published by Waterside Press, priced £19.95. Available now