Former binman pleads guilty to killing twins and couple

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A former refuse collector with a history of violence who became the focus last year of Britain's biggest manhunt pleaded guilty yesterday to murdering his girlfriend, her twin sister and an elderly couple.

Mark Hobson's preparations for murder included writing a "shopping list" of items needed to hide a body, which was scribbled on the back of a bus ticket found at his flat where he left the bodies of his girlfriend, Claire Sanderson, 27, and her sister, Diane.

Other notes found at his flat in Camblesforth, near Selby, North Yorkshire, suggested that Hobson - who told a fellow binman that he had picked the "wrong sister" to go out with - was trying to persuade Diane to visit his flat two weeks before she died. But she failed to turn up so he killed Claire with a hammer and kept her body in an attempt to lure Diane to his flat.

He also compiled what police believe was a "hitlist" of individuals he knew, including the girls' parents. Another note, referring to another couple, included the words "disable all!". "Disable" was underlined. Hobson, 35, who is divorced and has three children, murdered Claire on 11 July last year at the flat they had shared for three months. He killed and sexually mutilated Diane when she came looking for her sister seven days later.

Within hours of Diane's murder, James Britton, 80, and his wife, Joan, 82, were stabbed to death by Hobson at their home in Strensall, near York, in a motiveless attack which Hobson says he can neither remember or explain.

Hobson bowed his head at Leeds Crown Court and appeared close to tears as he "muttered" guilty four times to the four murder charges. He had admitted the killings at an earlier hearing, but only entered the formal plea at his trial yesterday.

Relatives of the sisters also wept as Paul Worsley QC, for the prosecution, described how their father had come across their bodies, wrapped in binbags.

"At some point I touched Diane on the leg," Mr Sanderson told police. "She lay there with no clothes and covered in bruises. Diane was lifeless. I knew she was dead."

The horror of the deaths led Mr Sanderson to take an overdose last December, the court heard.

Mr and Mrs Britton were so frail it would have taken "someone to have hit them with a feather to have knocked them over,'' their GP told police.

The senior investigating officer, Detective Superintendent Javad Ali, said it was unclear what Hobson's motives were. "He was interviewed at length, but gave no explanation for his actions," he said.

Hobson's violence was accentuated by drink and drugs. He had been prescribed antidepressants after access to his three children was limited by his former wife, who feared for their safety.

Hobson, who was sacked from his binman's job after being convicted in 2002 of stabbing a love rival, he also sought comfort in cocaine, cannabis, ecstasy and lager - drinking up to 20 pints a day and at least eight pints in the hours before he murdered Diane. He also used gay and straight sex chatlines, ringing them 68 times between 1 June and 13 July.

Shortly before killing Claire, he rang one line and left a message advertising himself. "I like a laugh in life. I'm living on my own at the moment," he said. "I'm single in life but know I just want to meet somebody to have a laugh." Five women replied to it.

In a statement, the twins' parents said: "Losing our beautiful twin girls ... is something we will never get over. They were our life, the reason we lived and worked. Now they are gone, we have nothing."

Hobson will be sentenced by Mr Justice Grigson on 27 May. He accepts the only issue to be decided by the judge is whether he should spend the rest of his life behind bars.