After committing their crimes, some murderers behave in an eerily normal way – going shopping, ordering a takeaway, hanging out with friends and family, all while the corpse of their victims go cold. But in some cases, things escalate very quickly, with the desperate culprit going on the run.
In new true crime series What the Killer Did Next, host Philip Glenister looks into one example of a murder which triggered a manhunt: the sorry case of John Heald, who booked a room in a Bridlington guest house in 2015, only to turn on the owner, Bei Carter. The murder was sudden, swift and seemingly without motive, and Heald was soon the subject of a massive police search. As it turned out, Heald had already been a fugitive from justice, facing rape charges from less than a week prior to the Bei Carter killing.
The dark, doomed saga of John Heald gripped the local headlines, recalling previous manhunts that galvanized police forces in Britain. Here are three of the most shocking.
Wakefield-born Mark Hobson was an ordinary, happy child who grew up to become an ordinary, seemingly happy family man – until the day he abruptly left his wife and went down a spiral of drink and drugs. It was a bizarre switch in personality that became progressively worse when he hooked up with new partner Claire Sanderson and moved to the village of Camblesforth near Selby. Mark’s rages were violent and horrifying. He poured bleach over Claire, he hit her with a wine bottle, and a friend once had to stop him attacking her with a dumbbell.
But that was all a prelude to the true horror to come. In July 2004, he murdered Claire with a hammer and lured her twin sister Diane to the flat. Once the unsuspecting Diane arrived, Hobson tortured and sexually assaulted her before killing her too. Hobson’s savage frenzy continued 25 miles away in Strensall, where he burst into the home of an elderly couple, James and Joan Britton, and slaughtered them
Having apparently exhausted his rabid impulses, Hobson basically spent the following days living in a ditch. Meanwhile, North Yorkshire police worked alongside no fewer than eight other forces in an epic effort to track down the deranged murderer. In daily press conferences, detectives asked people in the region to be vigilant in pubs and off-licenses.
The media barrage worked: the scruffy, bleary Hobson was recognized when he went to buy cigarette papers from a garage, and police swooped in. He is now in prison and will likely never be released.
In 2010, police in Northumberland and Tyne and Wear were embroiled in one of the most sensational manhunts in British history. The fugitive was Raoul Moat, a former bouncer who’d embarked on a series of shootings just hours after being released from a short spell in prison.
He wasn’t some random spree killer, though. Moat was crazed by bitterness and a need for revenge, after his girlfriend Samantha Stobbart told him she’d left him for a police officer called Chris Brown. Actually, Brown wasn’t a copper at all – she’d just said that to keep Moat off her back. It was a catastrophic miscalculation. Moat attacked the couple with a shotgun: Samantha was injured, Brown was killed.
The public need not fear me, but the police should as I won't stop till I am dead.
On the run and fuelled by a hatred for the law, Moat then shot at police officer David Rathband, who thankfully survived but was permanently blinded. Helicopters, sniper teams and anti-terror vehicles from Northern Ireland were brought in to sweep through the region in the following days. Police even enlisted the help of survival expert Ray Mears in a bid to follow Moat’s movements.
'The public need not fear me, but the police should as I won't stop till I am dead,' Moat wrote in a letter that was given to the cops by a friend. But the public was terrified when police imposed an exclusion zone around a village in Northumberland, believing Moat was somewhere in the countryside. A stand-off soon ensued with the armed and desperate Moat, and things became farcical when football legend Paul Gascoigne turned up at the scene, saying he was friends with the fugitive and offering to bring 'Moaty' some lager and chicken. Gazza’s intervention aside, the saga had an ugly end, with Moat committing suicide.
The Moat manhunt brought a sense of déjà vu to those who remembered the desperate quest to find Barry Prudom, an embittered cop-killer who went on the run in 1982 in North Yorkshire. Dubbed the 'Phantom of the Forest; for the way he vanished into the rural surroundings, Prudom had the significant advantage of having had SAS training.
Prudom, an oil rig worker whose life had started going off the rails when his wife left him for another man, had gone on the run after being charged with an assault on a motorist. It was a serious crime that was immediately dwarfed when Prudom shot and killed PC David Haigh at a picnic spot near Harrogate.
Days later, he broke into a house in Nottinghamshire, killing George Luckett and seriously injuring his wife Sylvia. Three different police forces started working together, but Prudom’s spree was far from over: he shot and almost killed PC Ken Oliver when the latter stopped him for a routine check outside Scarborough, and murdered Sergeant David Winter when the latter tried to apprehend him in a North Yorkshire village.
Hundreds of officers were on the elusive Prudom’s tail. They had, in the words of one senior officer, 'the largest arsenal of weapons ever issued to a British police force'. They also with SAS legend Eddie McGee, who’d written the definitive book on survival training, called No Need to Die. Prudom himself did die. After a bizarre interlude, in which he invaded a house and kept the family hostage, even having an affable dinner with them and giving them a gift of a US paratrooper’s ring, Prudom was cornered in a makeshift shelter near a tennis club, where he committed suicide.