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4 manhunts that gripped the media

Some killers are remembered not just for the savagery of their crimes, but for the immense, desperate effort to hunt them down…
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Some killers are remembered not just for the savagery of their crimes, but for the immense, desperate effort to hunt them down…

Andrew Cunanan

Andrew Cunanan’s name will always be synonymous with his most notorious crime: the murder of Gianni Versace in July 1997. But the manhunt had actually begun long before the fateful day he shot the fashion icon down, with Cunanan having killed several men before setting his sights on Versace. The charismatic and chameleonic Cunanan began his lethal rampage in April of that year by turning on his own close friend, Jeff Trail, whom he bludgeoned to death in the Minneapolis apartment of Cunanan’s ex-lover David Madson.

Then came the most mysterious and hotly debated aspect of the Cunanan case, as the killer went on the run with David Madson, whom authorities initially assumed was somehow in cahoots with Cunanan. Cops staked out Madson’s parents’ house, while sightings of Madson’s Jeep were relayed by witnesses. Madson himself was eventually shot dead by Cunanan, and it’s now generally assumed he had been coerced or threatened into going along with Cunanan on his bizarre, blood-soaked odyssey.

Cunanan went on to torture and murder elderly property magnate Lee Miglin in his own home. He also killed cemetery caretaker William Reese before eventually ending up in Miami, where – even though he was on the FBI’s most wanted list – he was able to live undetected for months before assassinating Versace outside the designer’s beach-side mansion. Despite the frenzy of police activity in the wake of the sensational shooting, it took more than a week before Cunanan was finally cornered on a houseboat in Miami Beach, where he shot himself rather than be taken in.

Andrew Cunnanan
Andrew Phillip Cunanan Image – Image Credit: A photograph of Andrew Phillip Cunanan taken in 1987 in California, USA

Ted Bundy

Serial killer Ted Bundy was the subject of not one but two separate manhunts, both the result of audacious escapes from the authorities. The first escape occurred in Aspen, Colorado in June 1977. On trial for murder, Bundy had been given unfettered access to the law library in the local courthouse. One day he simply leapt from a second-floor window and vanished into the woods. While police set up roadblocks in a frantic attempt to contain the area, Bundy managed to stay at large for almost a week before hunger and sleep deprivation forced him to return to custody.

Later that same year Bundy managed to get out again – deliberately losing weight so he could pull himself up through a hole he’d sawn in the ceiling of his cell. The consequences of this escape would be catastrophic. Bundy managed to make his way all the way to Florida, where he went berserk all over again, killing three females (including a schoolgirl) in quick succession, and seriously injuring others. He was finally being apprehended for driving a stolen car and assaulting a police officer. Incredibly, for days officials in Florida had no idea who they had on their hands. Bundy refused to identify himself, and the lack of national news coverage or any centralised police database meant that he was simply known as the 'mystery man' while in jail. It was only when the killer decided to own up that detectives realised he was one of the most wanted men in the country.

Raoul Moat

In July 2010, Britain was gripped by the strange saga of Raoul Moat, the Newcastle bouncer who went on a vengeful rampage after serving a short sentence for assault. Emerging from Durham Prison, he homed in on his ex-girlfriend Samantha Stobbart and her new boyfriend Chris Brown. He attacked them with a shotgun, killing Brown and seriously injuring Stobbart. A few days later, he attacked PC David Rathband while the police officer was sitting in his car at a roundabout. Rathband survived the horrific shooting, but was blinded in both eyes (he would take his own life a few years later).

Moat was no random spree shooter. He had targeted Samantha Stobbart out of jealous, bitter fury, while the attempted killing of Rathband was down to Moat’s vendetta against the police. Moat had in fact written a letter waging war on cops, saying 'the public need not fear me but the police should as I won’t stop till I am dead.'

One of the biggest manhunts in British history ensued, with more than 160 armed officers dispatched to track Moat down. The famed survival expert Ray Mears was even consulted by officers desperate to find the killer. At points, the pursuit took on elements of farce – Moat was seen to emerge from under a manhole cover in the Northumberland town of Rothbury, looking sheepish and fleeing from locals. Later, when Moat was cornered by police in a long stand-off, footballer Paul Gascoigne turned up with 'a can of lager' and 'some chicken', claiming he knew Moat and could talk him into a peaceful resolution.

It wasn’t to be – Raoul Moat shot himself dead, ending the surreal and tragic debacle.

Mark Hobson

Unfolding in 2004, the horrific crimes of Mark Hobson still baffle people now, all these years later. How was it that a seemingly ordinary man, who’d had a comfortable happy upbringing and was described as a 'perfect husband', could abruptly go off the rails and become a sexually sadistic multiple murderer? As his wife put it, Hobson had simply discarded his family in 1999 and embraced a new existence of drinking and drugs. 'He just didn't want married life anymore,' she later said. 'It was bizarre.'

In July 2004, after years of this new dissolute existence, Hobson snapped, killing his girlfriend Claire Sanderson with a hammer at their North Yorkshire home. He then lured her twin sister Diane, telling her Claire had come down with glandular fever. Concerned, Diane came to the house, where she was set upon by Hobson, who tortured, sexually assaulted and strangled her. He then continued his inexplicable rampage by murdering elderly couple James and Joan Britton in their home.

Police went into overdrive, with numerous different forces combining efforts and the public warned to keep their eyes open in pubs and off-licences. Fortunately, Hobson didn’t kill again – instead, he was discovered by an eagle-eyed local while loitering by a petrol station in a quiet village. The dishevelled, dazed Hobson, who’d literally been living in some bushes, was taken into custody. He has been behind bars ever since, and will never be released.