Former Bond girl Fiona Fullerton, who lives in the Cotswolds, is campaigning to help her former prison penpal find justice. She tells WEEKEND about her unlikely 30-year friendship with a suspected Soviet spy
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.
“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.
Fiona, who lives near Cirencester, 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.
Alex’s letters were a welcome diversion as Fiona’s marriage to the late actor Simon MacCorkindale, crumbled.
“The letters provided enormous solace and comfort,” she says.
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,” said Fiona, who ironically starred as a Russian double agent in A View To A Kill.
The former Bond girl, who gave up acting in 1995 shortly after her marriage to businessman Neil Shackell, went on to forge a career as a property guru and now 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. I’m not alone in thinking he’s innocent,” she says.
Fiona never met Alex while he was in prison. They lost touch in the late Eighties and he was released in 1993.
Last year, with the help of a national newspaper, she tracked him down to a flat in Milton Keynes. Having become a recluse, he’d lost contact with the outside world.
“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,” she says.
“Then, as soon as I saw him the nervousness disappeared. But it was like meeting a member of one’s family and we just talked as if we’d known each other all our lives.
“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.”
Alex moved closer to Fiona’s home in the Cotswolds and she now sees him 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,” she says.
“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,” she adds.
Alex 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 Fiona.
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.
“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 Fiona 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 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.