Murder suspect deceived parents of victim in phone call

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The Independent Online

The man wanted in connection with two double murders in North Yorkshire "span a tissue of spurious stories" which delayed the discovery of one victim and put him within walking distance of two others, police said yesterday.

The man wanted in connection with two double murders in North Yorkshire "span a tissue of spurious stories" which delayed the discovery of one victim and put him within walking distance of two others, police said yesterday.

Twin sisters Claire and Diane Sanderson were beaten to death with a hammer within days of each other in a flat in the village of Camblesforth, North Yorkshire Police said yesterday. They added that elderly couple James and Joan Britton were stabbed with a kitchen knife in their home 25 miles away. All four bodies were discovered on Sunday.

Police piecing together the movements of Mark Hobson, their prime suspect for the murders, told yesterday how he had delayed the discovery of Claire - his girlfriend - by deceiving her parents in a telephone call.

The call from a mobile phone or call box some time after Claire's death last week appears to have satisfied the Sandersons that Claire's failure to keep an agreement to make contact with them last Thursday was not suspicious. But her twin Diane was less convinced and paid a visit on Saturday evening to the flat that Claire shared with Mr Hobson.

When Diane did not return, her father and her boyfriend went to look for her on Sunday morning. They found both women dead and naked on the bedroom floor. Claire was covered with bin-liners and beginning to decompose, having lain in the flat for several days. Diane had been sexually assaulted before she was beaten with a hammer and strangled to death.

Police revealed that hours after Diane set off to visit her sister's flat on Saturday, Mr Hobson arrived at his mother's house 200 yards away, and told her a spurious story - about his need for hospital treatment.

Mr Hobson was clearly not injured, but his mother, 61, drove him to the accident and emergency department of a local York district hospital. He waited for her to leave and entered the grounds, but not the hospital. CCTV images captured him there at 2am.

Police said that that journey placed him three miles from the £400,000 detached home of James Britton, 82, a Second World War spitfire pilot, and his wife Joan, 80, who were both found stabbed to death with a kitchen knife seven hours later. The couple appear to have offered no defence before being beaten and stabbed in the back.

There are still no apparent links between the Brittons and the Sandersons, who lived 25 miles apart, despite inquiries to establish whether Mr Hobson may have worked for the Brittons as a handyman.

Robbery may have been a motive for the Brittons' killer, who appears to have conducted a search of their home in Strensall, north York. There are also now "positive" forensic links between the two murder scenes, according to police.

Det Supt Javed Ali, who is leading the investigation, said yesterday that he was convinced Mr Hobson's mother had been genuinely duped into driving him to the York hospital, despite the absence of injuries. "His mother was taken in by it," he said.

Claire Sanderson's employers said yesterday that they, too, had received a mobile phonecall from Mr Hobson about Claire on 2 July. He explained she would not be at work that day. She never showed up again, prompting a letter to her parents from the packaging firm, Rigid Containers. "She was a great timekeeper. That is why we were so concerned," said the firm's site director Stephen Roche.

Mr Hobson, a former dustman, has not been seen since the bodies were discovered, despite 300 sightings and a total of 22 house searches.

A close friend said yesterday that Mr Hobson had recently lost his job as a binman after two weeks' sick leave suffering from depression. He was on anti-depressants.