A “middle-class housewife” found her soulmate in a Thai prison and after seven years invited him as a pen pal to share her home.
Victoria Oak, 62, of Putney, London, began writing to Andy Hawke, 63, a convicted drug smuggler who spent 40 years in Bang Kwang Prison in Thailand.
Their daughter Samantha, 35, met him while visiting British nationals in 2006 for a gap year and they exchanged letters.
A “middle-class housewife” found her soulmate in a Thai prison and invited him to share her home after seven years as a pen pal
Victoria Oak, 62, of Putney, London, began writing to Andy Hawke, 63, a convicted drug smuggler who spent 40 years in Bang Kwang Prison in Thailand
Victoria then went on a pilgrimage to pray for his release and she would write a book about her journey with the man she considers her “soul mate”.
Now a full-time writer, Victoria, who has four children, Samantha, Emma, 34, Tom, 31, and William, 28, said, “We both felt trapped. Me as I wasn’t happy in my marriage and Andy as he was in jail.
“My husband and I started breaking up since I was 40. I think I just felt very alone. It was a tough time. ‘
While unhappy for some time in their 28-year marriage, Victoria kept her feelings a secret until she started opening her heart to the intense pen-palship with Andy.
She said, “Andy’s letters gave me comfort from the hardship I was going through.
There was little chance the pen pals would ever be more, as Andy, who was incarcerated in 1999, served 40 years on drug smuggling charges, but she prayed for his release
“It’s so rare for things to get delivered through the mail and it was amazing to get a handwritten letter in the airmail. It became a real friendship and we talked about everything.
“Andy never told me what to do. He would never encourage me to leave my husband, he really isn’t the kind of person he is.
“But I think it helped to have someone to talk to. It was a form of escapism. ‘
But there was little prospect that the pen pals would ever be more, as Andy, who was incarcerated in 1999, served 40 years for drug smuggling.
Victoria continued, “Andy told me about his days in prison. I think strangely enough he adapted well to the rules and structures.
“But he had been through so much. When I heard his story, I had so much understanding of how he got into his situation.
As a committed Christian, after more than six years of correspondence, Victoria decided in May 2012 to go on a five-week pilgrimage to Galicia, Spain, to pray for his release
“He struggled so hard, his partner died and he just fell into a deep depression. I think in many ways it has been taken advantage of.
“He was asked to bring heroin across the Thai border into Copenhagen. I think he was in such a dark place that he would have said yes to anything. He just didn’t want to go on anymore. ‘
As a committed Christian, Victoria decided after more than six years of correspondence in May 2012 to undertake a five-week pilgrimage to Galicia, Spain.
She traveled to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela on the Camino de Santiago and prayed for Andy’s early release.
She said, “I decided to end the pilgrimage to pray for Andy’s release and try to find courage for my divorce.”
While their friendship remained purely platonic when Andy was released in March 2013, she invited him to share her home, where he stayed for 18 months
After two weeks of hiking, he was finally pardoned, and when she returned in June 2012, she filed for divorce.
“I stopped and prayed at every stone along the way,” Victoria said.
“It was truly a spiritual experience and within two weeks of my trip I received a call from Sam saying that Andy had been officially pardoned.
‘I was over the moon. I couldn’t believe that he was finally free and that my prayers were answered.
“I felt we were on the right track and after completing the hike, I found the courage to ask my husband for a divorce.”
While their friendship remained purely platonic, when Andy was released in March 2013, she invited him to share her home.
While the mother of four was unhappy in their 28-year marriage, she kept her feelings a secret until she began to open her heart to Andy’s intense pen pals
He stayed there for 18 months as he acclimated to the freedom before settling in Ceredigion, Wales.
The friends agreed to tell the world their story through Victoria’s book Sentenced.
She said, “We would get up together and read the chapters. The more we learned about each other’s life prior to our judgments, the more we bonded.
“But after 18 months I think we’ve had enough of each other. We’re both stubborn and I’m very confident while Andy can get pretty down.
“We didn’t always compliment each other so Andy moved out 18 months later, in August 2014, and finally found a place to stay in Wales.”
Victoria hopes that the book Sentenced, which the two wrote while living together, will give people who are going through difficult times both courage and strength to change their path
They split up as best friends, yet still visit each other as regularly as possible, and agree that they will always have an unbreakable bond.
“He really is one of my best friends. I really love him, ”said Victoria.
“We love to play Scrabble and whenever we get together we just play together for hours.
“We stayed so close. I think our lives are intertwined and we will always have a connection after writing these letters during the darkest times of our lives.
“We wrote Sentenced during the 18 months we lived together. However, it took me five years to process it. It was a real love affair, but we are so proud of it. ‘
Victoria hopes the book will give both courage and strength to people who are going through difficult times to change their path.
She added, “I just hope that other people who are trapped in their lives will find comfort in the book and realize that we don’t need to hold on to the life we have been given.
“We no longer write to each other, but write and speak at least once a week.”
Andy has nothing but praise for the woman who helped him change his life.
He said, “She insisted in her letters that she was a middle-class, middle-aged housewife from Putney and yet what middle-aged and middle-class woman would write to an old con man in a Southeast Asian prison for seven years and” then his offer to release her Share the house with him until he’s back on his feet?
“It wasn’t until I met this extraordinary ‘Putney Housewife’ that I realized how much she means to me.”