A violent relationship that ended in shocking brutality

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The Independent Online

Claire Sanderson was smitten with Mark Hobson, the former binman who had worked at the same packaging factory as her in Selby, North Yorkshire, in 2003. They shared a mutual appreciation of Tracey Chapman records, both enjoyed a drink and, by April last year, she had persuaded her parents to put down rent and a deposit on a flat for them both at Camblesforth, near Selby.

On one neighbour's account, she followed him around like "like a lapdog".

Hobson's violence towards her was undisguised. A local man dragged him off her as he stood on her chest holding a 12-inch butcher's knife to her neck; another found him punching her in the face while holding her by the neck at their flat.

It was the same pattern of behaviour that had seen Hobson convicted of slashing a love rival with a butterfly knife and puncturing his lung in March 2002, and caused him to attack a former girlfriend "like a madman" in 1990.

Police had been called to Hobson's flat several times to deal with violent rows in which Claire often gave as good as she got.

Although Claire persisted with the relationship, the depths of Hobson's antagonism towards her became disturbing. "Hobo" ­ as friends knew him ­ told a fellow refuse collector that he had "picked the wrong sister" and was determined to "have" Diane.

By 4 July last year, he appeared to be making plans to do just that. While scribbling a takeaway order in his flat, he made a note to ring Diane, who lived with the girls' parents.

Relations with Claire appeared civil on the night of Sunday 11 July, when they spent an evening in the Comus Inn at Camblesforth. Back at the flat, Hobson hit her 17 times on the head with a hammer, wrapped her in a bin bag and put the body out of sight in their bedroom.

He kept her family at bay for six days, ringing her parents to explain why she would not be making contact, as planned, on Thursday the 15th. He began reading survival manuals, possibly in anticipation of an escape and, on Saturday the 17th, he scribbled a misspelt list of items needed to stow bodies ­ "big bin liners, tape, tie wraps, fly spay [sic] and Nutrodol."

Hobson told Diane that her sister had glandular fever and, at 7.30pm, she showed up at the flat. Hobson submitted her to sexual mutilation, strangled her and tied her up in bags just like her sister. Within an hour, he was almost found out. Diane's boyfriend ­ coincidentally an old friend of Hobson's ­ rang her mobile to find why she had not turned up at a pub. Hobson answered and was forced to make up a story about the twins' father, George, having suffered a heart attack.

He calmly arranged to meet the boyfriend, Ian Harrison, at the Cricketers' Arms in Selby and, within two hours of Diane's death, they were drinking together. Astonishingly, Hobson then invited him back to the flat.

Mr Harrison immediately noticed an unpleasant smell ­ that of a decomposing body ­ but Hobson fobbed him off with an excuse about the drains. He also noticed bloodstains on the sofa, which Hobson explained as Claire's "women's problems".

Hobson even offered to let his friend sleep on the sofa for the night, despite the twins' bodies being in a bedroom. When Mr Harrison visited the lavatory, Hobson stood directly behind him, to ensure he did not enter the bedroom.

Mr Harrison left, still concerned about his girlfriend but it was not until he visited the Sandersons shortly after 7am the next morning and George Sanderson opened the door that reality dawned on him.

After Mr Harrison's departure, Hobson ran to his mother's. He told her that Claire and Diane had been injured in a road accident in York and he needed to see them at the city's district hospital.

She drove him to the hospital­ a 15-mile journey that placed him within three miles of the home in Strensall of James and Joan Britton, who were to be his next victims ­ and waited in the car park. By now it was 2am and, after going inside the hospital, Hobson returned to the car park to tell his mother that Diane had been admitted and Claire was still awaiting treatment. Mrs Hobson returned home, believing her son would get a lift home with the Sandersons.

After the departure of his mother, Hobson travelled to the village of Huntington where he broke into a bungalow by smashing a window.

In nearby Strensall, the Brittons were alive at 8.55am on Sunday 18th, when a neighbour checked on them. Mr Britton suffered from a condition similar to Parkinson's and was deaf. His wife was even more frail.

At 11.15am, the neighbour's wife found Mrs Britton dead in the hallway ­ stabbed in the back so viciously that the handle of the weapon had broken off off­ and beaten over the head. Mr Britton was dead in the living room with similar injuries.

Initially, the two double murders were dealt with separately. But Hobson's fingerprints were found at the Brittons' home, confirming him as the prime suspect in both.

The police strategy was to keep Hobson's picture in the public eye. They received 1,800 "sightings" of him as far afield as New Zealand and California.

But, in fact, he had taken refuge in a field just five miles from Strensall at Shipton, where he emerged on Sunday 25 July, to buy water, matches and cigarette papers from a garage. The owner recognised him and alerted police.

Hobson, who slashed himself six times before his arrest, went quietly, even thanking police for the way they dealt with him.

"I'm a fucking murderer aren't I?" he said, as he was taken away.

Claire Sanderson was smitten with Mark Hobson, the former binman who had worked at the same packaging factory as her in Selby, North Yorkshire, in 2003. They shared a mutual appreciation of Tracey Chapman records, both enjoyed a drink and, by April last year, she had persuaded her parents to put down rent and a deposit on a flat for them both at Camblesforth, near Selby.

On one neighbour's account, she followed him around like "like a lapdog".

Hobson's violence towards her was undisguised. A local man dragged him off her as he stood on her chest holding a 12-inch butcher's knife to her neck; another found him punching her in the face while holding her by the neck at their flat.

It was the same pattern of behaviour that had seen Hobson convicted of slashing a love rival with a butterfly knife and puncturing his lung in March 2002, and caused him to attack a former girlfriend "like a madman" in 1990.

Police had been called to Hobson's flat several times to deal with violent rows in which Claire often gave as good as she got.

Although Claire persisted with the relationship, the depths of Hobson's antagonism towards her became disturbing. "Hobo" ­ as friends knew him ­ told a fellow refuse collector that he had "picked the wrong sister" and was determined to "have" Diane.

By 4 July last year, he appeared to be making plans to do just that. While scribbling a takeaway order in his flat, he made a note to ring Diane, who lived with the girls' parents.

Relations with Claire appeared civil on the night of Sunday 11 July, when they spent an evening in the Comus Inn at Camblesforth. Back at the flat, Hobson hit her 17 times on the head with a hammer, wrapped her in a bin bag and put the body out of sight in their bedroom.

He kept her family at bay for six days, ringing her parents to explain why she would not be making contact, as planned, on Thursday the 15th. He began reading survival manuals, possibly in anticipation of an escape and, on Saturday the 17th, he scribbled a misspelt list of items needed to stow bodies ­ "big bin liners, tape, tie wraps, fly spay [sic] and Nutrodol."

Hobson told Diane that her sister had glandular fever and, at 7.30pm, she showed up at the flat. Hobson submitted her to sexual mutilation, strangled her and tied her up in bags just like her sister. Within an hour, he was almost found out. Diane's boyfriend ­ coincidentally an old friend of Hobson's ­ rang her mobile to find why she had not turned up at a pub. Hobson answered and was forced to make up a story about the twins' father, George, having suffered a heart attack.

He calmly arranged to meet the boyfriend, Ian Harrison, at the Cricketers' Arms in Selby and, within two hours of Diane's death, they were drinking together. Astonishingly, Hobson then invited him back to the flat.

Mr Harrison immediately noticed an unpleasant smell ­ that of a decomposing body ­ but Hobson fobbed him off with an excuse about the drains. He also noticed bloodstains on the sofa, which Hobson explained as Claire's "women's problems".

Hobson even offered to let his friend sleep on the sofa for the night, despite the twins' bodies being in a bedroom. When Mr Harrison visited the lavatory, Hobson stood directly behind him, to ensure he did not enter the bedroom.

Mr Harrison left, still concerned about his girlfriend but it was not until he visited the Sandersons shortly after 7am the next morning and George Sanderson opened the door that reality dawned on him.

After Mr Harrison's departure, Hobson ran to his mother's. He told her that Claire and Diane had been injured in a road accident in York and he needed to see them at the city's district hospital.

She drove him to the hospital­ a 15-mile journey that placed him within three miles of the home in Strensall of James and Joan Britton, who were to be his next victims ­ and waited in the car park. By now it was 2am and, after going inside the hospital, Hobson returned to the car park to tell his mother that Diane had been admitted and Claire was still awaiting treatment. Mrs Hobson returned home, believing her son would get a lift home with the Sandersons.

After the departure of his mother, Hobson travelled to the village of Huntington where he broke into a bungalow by smashing a window.

In nearby Strensall, the Brittons were alive at 8.55am on Sunday 18th, when a neighbour checked on them. Mr Britton suffered from a condition similar to Parkinson's and was deaf. His wife was even more frail.

At 11.15am, the neighbour's wife found Mrs Britton dead in the hallway ­ stabbed in the back so viciously that the handle of the weapon had broken off off­ and beaten over the head. Mr Britton was dead in the living room with similar injuries.

Initially, the two double murders were dealt with separately. But Hobson's fingerprints were found at the Brittons' home, confirming him as the prime suspect in both.

The police strategy was to keep Hobson's picture in the public eye. They received 1,800 "sightings" of him as far afield as New Zealand and California.

But, in fact, he had taken refuge in a field just five miles from Strensall at Shipton, where he emerged on Sunday 25 July, to buy water, matches and cigarette papers from a garage. The owner recognised him and alerted police.

Hobson, who slashed himself six times before his arrest, went quietly, even thanking police for the way they dealt with him.

"I'm a fucking murderer aren't I?" he said, as he was taken away.