A British pensioner who became friends with some of the world’s most dangerous death row rapists and murderers has decided to display a collection of their artwork in the UK.
Winchester resident Maggie Allder, 60, has spent nine years exchanging letters and visiting the convicts in Texas and Arizona during summer holidays, even attending one of their executions.
The retired school teacher says she counts the murderers, rapists and robbers amongst her friends and has built up a collection of their artwork created behind bars.
She is so proud of their art that she will exhibit them near her home this weekend.
Going on display is paintings and sketches by four murderers, as well as pictures of her and her friends including Karl Chamberlain, who was killed by lethal injection in 2008 for murdering and raping a woman.
Mrs Allder attended his execution and had visited him several times in the United States.
Death row art: Frank McCray (top left) raped and killed a woman in 1987 but in jail has created art of American Indians by melting down crayons (right and below)
‘I struck up a friendship with Karl Chamberlain, who had been convicted of the rape and murder of a young woman and had been on death row in Texas since 1997.
‘Karl turned out to be a self-educated but intelligent man. He used his time to read and had many pen friends and was a very interesting man.’
After exchanging several letters, Maggie began visiting Karl during the summer holidays from her teaching job.
She said: ‘My first visit was the most frightening thing I have ever done.
Scott Nordstrom (left) was put on death row for his involvement in the killing of six people and his art will be displayed in the UK this weekend
‘Now I do it every year and it is fine but at the time I didn’t sleep because I was so nervous.’
Maggie continued to visit Karl up until his execution, aged 37, in 2008, which she attended.
‘It was very traumatic. I was OK for a couple of weeks afterwards and then I had a bit of post-traumatic stress and I couldn’t sleep,’ she said.
‘But everyone at home was very supportive.
‘I am not in favour of the death penalty as you cannot always be certain you have the right man or woman.’
Murray Hooper (left) was part of a gang that robbed and killed two people and has since developed a talent for sketching
The paintings and sketches are all the more remarkable as they must be made using crudely fashioned objects as prisoners are not allowed certain materials in case they use them as weapons.
The killers and sex offenders are only allowed to use the ink taken from the plastic casing of biros and paint is made by melting coloured pencils.
Frank McCray who paints American Indians, murdered Chestene Cummins in 1987 after breaking into her home as she was packing for a holiday to California. When the victim’s boyfriend arrived home from work he found lying in the bedroom raped, beaten and strangled to death.
He evaded capture for 13 years until he was caught using DNA evidence.
John Sansing, who sketched an angel looking to the heavens, rang a church and requested a charitable food delivery, intending to rob the delivery person so he could purchase cocaine for himself and his wife.
Trudy Calabrese delivered the food and Sansing, while his wife and four children were in the home, bound her arms and legs before raping and killing her by beating her over the head and stabbing her.
John Sansing (left) killed a woman with his wife and four children in the house, and is one of the people befriended by Maggie Allder since being put on death row
In 1980 Murray Hooper, whose art shows a woman with her two children, went into a Phoenix home of Patrick Redmond to rob him, his wife, and his mother-in-law, Helen Phelps, at gunpoint.
After taking jewellery and money, the intruders bound and gagged the victims they shot each victim in the head and also slashed Mr Redmond’s throat, but he survived and later identified all three killers.
Scott Nordstrom, who drew a railway track, was convicted in 1996 for killing 6 people in two separate armed robberies, which included executing one man who refused to open a safe.
Ms Allder is responsible for correspondence for humanitarian group Human Writes.
‘Every human being deserves friendship, concern and care, whether they are prisoners or victims,’ she said.
‘I discovered that quite a lot of the Arizona prisoners were talented at art. They are locked up all day and don’t have much to do.
‘They are not allowed things like biros, in case they use them as knives, so they are just given the ink and have to improvise.
‘One prisoner, Frank McCray, gets round the fact he doesn’t have paint by melting coloured pencils.
‘Their work often has themes of freedom or religion. It shows that even people who may have committed acts can achieve extraordinary things if given the chance.’
The exhibition is being held at the Quaker Meeting House in Colebrook Street, Winchester, from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday and Sunday.