Friends of Janet Harvey say husband Russell was ‘heartless’

Former friends of Janet Harvey, whose husband didn’t report her death for three months, painted a damning picture of an abusive husband

Friends of Janet Harvey, the woman who was found in her apartment three months after her death described her husband Russell as a heartless thief
Friends of Janet Harvey, the woman who was found in her apartment three months after her death described her husband Russell as a heartless thief

It’s not because he couldn’t let go of his wife that he didn’t report her death. It’s because he was a “heartless thief”, former friends of Russell Harvey – who did not report his wife’s death to the police for three months – told MaltaToday.

Harvey, 55, did not report the natural death of his wife Janet, 14 years his senior, even as her body had been decomposing in her sitting room in the couple’s St Paul’s Bay apartment, for three months.

Former friends Karen Scott and Maggie Marshall came forward and claimed to have known the couple for a long time. Marshall, 70, was Janet’s old pal since they were in their 20s, while Scott used to be the couple’s neighbour before she moved back to Scotland.

“He had a dual personality,” Scott said, referring to Harvey’s cross-dressing antics. “It’s just a fetish of his,” Marshall added, who said Harvey enjoyed dressing up as ‘Lola'.

“We didn’t know at first but then one day we asked if Russell was coming out that evening to one of the pubs. He winked and said that he himself wasn’t but Lola was because she was getting bored,” Scott said.

She claimed that she saw him later that night, clad in fishnets and a skimpy crop top, a wig and make-up. “He wouldn’t answer to Russell, only Lola.”

Photos of Harvey dressed up in drag appear on his own Facebook profile. Harvey used to mostly frequent Ziggies Pub, the Euro Bar and Big Mamma’s, all pubs in St Paul’s Bay, where he used to sing karaoke and drink heavily as Lola.

“Janet knew about Lola,” Scott said, “but she tolerated it because she loved him too much to make a fuss. He used to take her clothes or get her to buy him things from a charity shop. He couldn’t find shoes that were big enough so he would wear cowboy boots.”

But Harvey was more imposing than that, Marshall and Scott insisted.

“There are not enough damning adjectives to describe Russ: alcoholic, workshy, lazy, aggressive, liar and thief,” Marshall told MaltaToday.

She explained how Harvey, a one-time time-share salesman with the Radisson Hotel, enjoyed drinking absinthe, and that at one point the couple fell out over the alleged theft of some €6,000 in savings.

“Janet had put aside some money for legal fees since she was hit by a car on Mosta Road in St Paul’s Bay and was waiting for a pay-out through the Maltese courts. He used to say things about that possible compensation, telling Janet that as soon as that comes in he’d be off and she would snuff it soon,” Scott said, recalling the conversations she had had with the man.

Both Marshall and Scott say that they had been asking him through Facebook whether Janet was OK, since they were both abroad and couldn’t make direct contact with her. “When pushed he started to get angry and told us that Janet didn’t want to see anyone,” they said.

Janet Harvey had succumbed to cancer in the months preceding her death and one of her feet had to be amputated. Her friends fear that Harvey could have neglected her by leaving her all alone at home, where she had to face her imminent fate in loneliness.

“I remember him saying horrid things to her, lying to her about her money and throwing temper tantrums if she said she couldn’t afford another drink,” Scott said, adding that she never believed Janet would have chosen not to see anyone in her last days. “She’d be making the most of them, chatting to people and making them laugh, which is what she loved to do.”

Scott said that while Russell Harvey was out drinking, Janet used to ask for her friends’ help to get her pets’ food all in one go before Harvey spent all her pension.

One dog was found dead under Janet’s bed when the Police discovered her body in the St Paul’s Bay apartment.

Marshall and Scott said that Harvey also took several loans from people, loans that he never paid back. “For him, who had not been married before despite fathering several kids, Janet was a catch. She owned her own house, had a good pension and was financially sound. I don’t believe he brought anything into the marriage. Certainly during my last conversations with her she wanted to be free of him but was scared,” Marshall said. “Lola was no personality. Russell was a scam artist, lazy, lying bum.”

Another former friend of the couple, Richard Coppard, who had loaned Harvey some €200, alleged that Russell once disappeared for a week or two with his wife’s bank cards, “isolating her and leaving her with nothing.”

Coppard said a friend of his had even mentioned physical abuse. That friend, Debbie Ellul Kerr, confirmed it. “I witnessed it at their house one night when we all went back there to have Chinese. He dragged her from the armchair by her hair and threatened to throw her down the stairs,” she said.

She also mentioned other instances where Harvey pinned Janet down or “slammed her head against the wall.”

Marshall said that she and friends persuaded Janet to write her will in favour of her niece and nephew and cut Harvey out. She said that she understood from a mutual friend that she had carried this out and left a copy with a Maltese neighbour.

“Jan was a sweet, intelligent lady with a heart of gold,” Scott said. “She had worked at Eton Hall College as a receptionist, in the Careers Office in Retford and in a big nightclub somewhere – she met a lot of pop stars and had autographs and signed records,” Scott said.

Despite everything, Janet loved Harvey, even though he “dragged her down” when he came into her life.

Even when her body was rotting in the living room, Marshall and Scott believe he could have still been claiming her pension money. “I wonder what he had in mind for the remains,” Marshall added.