Every community has its dark side. In Murdertown, a major new true crime series, Katherine Kelly will be investigating the shadowy side of different locations across the country. Police officers, journalists and relatives of victims all have their say on killings that shook their worlds.
In Huddersfield, we explore the mystery of Robert Hind – a convicted sex offender who went missing while staying at a bail hostel. The police naturally assumed he’d done a runner, warning the public that he presented a "risk to the public, particularly children". But the truth was, Hind hadn’t deliberately broken the conditions of his release – something far more sinister had happened.
This episode also looks at another Huddersfield case, involving Polish student Tobiasz Minski – a young man who mysteriously vanished after an ordinary night out. As alarm bells went off in the minds of his loved ones, the grim truth soon began to emerge.
These were startling stories for a place better known for more innocuous reasons, such as its stately Victorian architecture and being the birthplace of former prime minister Harold Wilson. But what other crimes, both real and possibly imaginary, have taken place here?
When is a serial killer not a serial killer? It’s an unusual question that’s been pondered by Huddersfield locals for a few years now. The phantom “murderer” in question is someone who may or may not be pushing people randomly into rivers and canals within a 10-mile area of Huddersfield. He’s even been given a sensational media nickname… The Yorkshire Dipper.
Why would such different types of men all be found dead in such similar circumstances, in the same general area?
The stories of an alleged “Dipper” began to swirl in 2016 when several bodies were discovered in the waterways in the surrounding region. They ranged from a healthy teenager to a pensioner, and the disparate nature of the corpses began to arouse suspicion. Why would such different types of men all be found dead in such similar circumstances, in the same general area?
Police officers haven’t seemed overly concerned about foul play, officially announcing the deaths were isolated incidents, and were either “non-suspicious” or, at worst, simply “unexplained”. And certainly, there seemed to be extenuating circumstances for some of the dead men. One, for example, was revealed to have been a known alcohol and drug abuser with mobility issues, making it likely he died as a result of a nasty accident, rather than the actions of a sadistic “Dipper”.
Interestingly, a very similar story has unfolded just an hour away in Manchester, where a so-called “Pusher” has been suspected of shoving dozens of men to their deaths in the city’s canals. Again, police have denied the deaths are linked, despite the press attention around the cases.
Could the Pusher and Huddersfield’s Yorkshire Dipper be real? It seems more likely these are fascinating examples of how urban myths can accelerate in the digital age. What once would take years to become part of contemporary folklore can now become firmly implanted in pop culture within months, thanks to the feeding frenzy of social media.
Rumours and gossip about Huddersfield’s Yorkshire Dipper pale into insignificance when set beside the cold truth that the very real Yorkshire Ripper once stalked the streets of the area. On one fateful night during his years of terror, he chose to visit the local red light district. As Peter Sutcliffe himself put it in a confession, 'The urge inside me to kill girls was now practically uncontrollable, I drove to Huddersfield in my red Corsair one evening.'
It was here that he chanced upon Helen Rytka, a teenage prostitute who worked the streets alongside her twin sister Rita. Despite their vow to keep an eye out for each other while meeting kerb crawlers, fate tragically led Helen into the Ripper’s path without Rita realising what had happened. He drove her away to a timber yard and began his assault. Poignantly, she realised what was happening and tried to reason with him, saying 'There’s no need for that, you don’t even have to pay' as he attacked her.
What marks out the Rytka killing in the Yorkshire Ripper case, aside from its location, is that she was the only one of his many victims he had sex with prior to the killing. That grim night has been a stain on the history of Huddersfield ever since.
One of the most horrifying crimes in Huddersfield’s history took place far more recently than the Ripper’s outrages. In 2013, a couple – Subhan Anwar and Zahbeena Navsarka – were caged for killing the latter’s infant daughter. But the word 'killing' doesn’t quite cover the level of prolonged brutality the child had to endure. There were more than 100 injuries inflicted on her, and the helpless girl was even bundled into a tumble dryer. Incredibly, social services were completely unaware of the torture, despite repeated visits during the period of her ordeal.
As the judge said of young Sanam Navsarka, “humanity has let her down”. Yet the story didn’t end there. Having been sent down for the girl’s murder, Subhan Anwar was himself slain in his own prison cell, by two fellow inmates he’d naively considered his friends. Gary Smith and Lee Newell, both serving time for previous murders, calmed his cell and throttled him to death with a pair of tracksuit bottoms. Then, with eerie serenity, they sat and had a hot chocolate. Later, one explained it by saying 'I’m bored, it was something to do'. Though, as the judge in their ensuing trial noted, it’s more likely this was a case of prison 'justice' being meted out to a despised child murderer. Both men have been handed whole-life sentences and will die in jail.