Mark Hobson: Britain's most wanted man?
Strensall (UK), July 25. (Observer News
Service): It should have been a beautiful sunny afternoon in the
picturesque village of Strensall, in north Yorkshire.
Instead on Saturday it resembled a ghost
The local post office was eerily empty;
the common with its rolling fields was deathly silent.
"The school holidays have just started,
but people won't be letting the children out of their sight," said
mother-of-two Sarah Hutchinson. "It just isn't safe.'
The only people to be seen are lines of
grim-faced police officers in white forensic suits conducting
fingertip searches of the hedgerows and gardens along the main
They are part of a team of more than 300
officers involved in the hunt to track down Britain's most wanted
man, Mark Hobson.
It was here exactly a week ago that the
bodies of James and Joan Britton, a retired British Rail surveyor
and his wife, 80 and 82 respectively and in failing health, were
found in their pounds sterling 450,000 Strensall home.
Mr Britton had died from a stab wound in
his back and sustained other injuries consistent with a severe
The cause of Mrs Britton's death is yet
to be established, but she had also been severely beaten and stabbed
in the back. There were no obvious signs of a forced entry at the
house; it was confirmed that the door was unlocked when police
officers first arrived at the scene
Six hours earlier, the naked bodies of
the 27-year-old twin sisters Diane and Claire Sanderson were found
in a flat 25 miles away in Camblesforth which Claire, whose partly
decomposed body had been wrapped in bin liners, shared with her
boyfriend Hobson, now wanted in connection with all four killings.
Diane had been sexually "interfered
with" and a hammer recovered from the scene has been taken away for
Claire was last seen during 11 July, and
had been dead a number of days when the bodies were discovered in
the same room.
North Yorkshire Police believe that
Hobson may have killed Claire, then lain in wait for several days
for Diane, who went to the flat on Saturday night after receiving a
phone call from Hobson.
For those who knew Hobson as a child,
few can believe he was at the centre of an international manhunt as
well as extensive searches of the Yorkshire dales. It is a
remarkable transformation in fortunes for Hobson.
Born in Wakefield on 2 September, 1969
he is remembered as quiet yet popular. Fellow pupils from the Heath
View Primary School in Eastmoor can recall little about him other
than that he was polite and friendly.
Says another former classmate, who asked
not to be named: "He used to look so angelic and now he looks so
hard, almost demented."
There are few clues about just what
turned the young Hobson into an adult portrayed as a monster in the
media who has now become Britain's most wanted man.
His childhood appears to have been happy
and stable, growing up in a series of houses and flats with his two
His father, Peter, was a well-respected
figure in the local mines, and there are no accounts of him being a
violent man. Hobson's mother, Sandra, found work as a machinist and
between the two of them they managed to earn enough to bring up Mark
and his sisters.
He spent much of his teenage years
hanging around as part of a small gang on the Flaxley Road in Selby,
though locals say they were rarely involved in any trouble, and
certainly nothing criminal.
At the age of 18 Hobson met a local girl
called Kay. They began living together in Selby and quickly had
three children, two girls and a boy, the eldest of whom is now 16.
The death of Hobson's father, from
cancer, appears to have been a turning point.
A hard-working, ethical man, Peter
Hobson had tried to instill the same values in his son. But after
his father's death, Hobson started drinking heavily.
He was spending every day in the pub,
his drinking becoming increasingly worse and he became moody and
hot-tempered, according to friends.
After his relationship with Kay started
to fall apart, he started drinking even more heavily and left the
The spiral continued.
Because of his drinking, the time he was
allowed to spend with his children was cut back. Over time, his
access to them was reduced to virtually nothing because his wife
feared for their safety.
Hobson is believed to have been working
at the Drax power station near Selby, but left there to work at
local cardboard factory Rigid Containers, where he met Claire who
was a process line worker.
A conviction, two years ago, over an
alleged affair with a friend's girlfriend, revealed a darker side of
Hobson, who pulled out a knife and stabbed the friend five times.
Hobson was given two years' probation
and 160 hours' community service. As soon as details of the attack
emerged, Hobson was sacked.
Hobson's relationship with Claire too
was stormy from the beginning. Friends of Claire tried to persuade
her to end the relationship, but she refused, claiming she loved him
with all her heart.
Hobson appears to have gone downhill
then. His heavy drinking and increasing bouts of depression caused
by the break-up of his relationship with his wife and the lack of
access to his children made it difficult for him to keep the job.
His life began to fall apart.
In April, despite their stormy
relationship, Hobson moved in with Claire, much to the horror of her
friends and family.
Last month he left his job at Onyx "by
mutual agreement'. He was suffering from depression and had taken
two weeks' sick leave.
Hobson was prescribed anti-depressants
by his GP in the period just before the murders.
He was last seen at 9.15 am on Sunday,
18 July, near Strensall, close to the Brittons' home.
And though alleged sightings have been
made in every part of Britain, as well as New Zealand, Canada and
Dublin, police believe that he remains closer to home.
They recovered his passport and believe
he has insufficient funds to get out of the country.
Knowing that Hobson is desperate for
money, food and shelter, police are prioritising cases of burglary,
shoplifting and theft from washing lines.
They are warning locals to be extremely
vigilant and not to approach Hobson under any circumstances.
Says Detective Supt. Javed Ali, who is
leading the murder hunt: "We are certain that he is out there and it
is only a matter of time before we track him down."
For the people of Strensall, the nights
hold the most fear until the killer is tracked down.
Police continue scouring the dales and
the families of the dead battle to come to terms with their loss.
But the talk among drinkers who were
willing to venture out last night was still incredulous. In small
huddles at the bar, they spoke of death, locked doors and the horror
of what happened to the four people who were murdered in their
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