'Ordinary' van driver planned to kill for profit as business idea

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The Independent Online
THREE YEARS ago Benjamin Laing 'set his heart on murder' and began plotting how to profit from killing people. He accomplished this 'business idea' with such cold precision that senior police officers believe he had the potential to become a serial killer.

Detective Superintendent Michael Morgan, who led the murder inquiry, said Laing was tested twice for insanity before his trial. 'The ease with which he dismembered the bodies of these two innocent victims was particularly horrific. He is an arrogant and calculating killer and I am convinced he would have struck again,' he said.

Laing, 25, from East Ham, east London, a van driver for Selfridges, began writing his 'masterplan for murder' while serving a six- year prison sentence for armed robbery. The blue exercise book was later found by the police in his bedroom.

After his release from prison in October 1990, Laing attempted to live an ordinary life. However this facade crumbled when he decided to adapt his 'masterplan' and resolve his financial problems. He began selecting 'potential victims' from car advertisements in trade magazines and wrote a 'shopping list' of items he needed to commit the murder. It included handcuffs, a gun and plastic bags.

In April last year Laing approached three 'unsuitable' people selling expensive cars, before duping his way into Matthew Manwaring's home in Barking, east London, by posing as 'Mr Sinclair', a prospective buyer for his son's red Ford Cabriolet. Laing immediately realised that Mr Manwaring, 62, a retired bank messenger and blind in one eye, was a 'suitable victim'.

Police believe Laing carried his 'implements of murder and torture' in a guitar case. He shot Mr Manwaring and then waited for his daughter Alison to return home. An hour later Ms Manwaring, 24, arrived home after measuring curtains for her new house with her fiance. Laing forced her to strip naked, gagged her, tied her ankles together and handcuffed her to a radiator. 'Laing subjected her to all manners of degradation. He repeatedly beat Alison around the head and face, he tortured and raped her to satisfy his needs for power and control. He enjoyed having someone's life in his hands,' Det Supt Morgan said.

Before strangling Ms Manwaring, Laing forced her to sign two receipts of sale for the Cabriolet, several blank cheques, to disclose banking information and 'perhaps in a plea for mercy' she revealed intimate details about her life. This was all in accordance with his 'masterplan' and Laing used this information to write hoax letters to the Manwaring family.

After dismembering both bodies with a selection of knives, Laing washed away all the signs of blood and 'crudely' repaired a smashed door. He left a note to Gordon Healis, Ms Manwaring's fiance, saying: 'I have had to go away with father for a few days.' The house appeared normal.

Laing initially tried to hire a mechanical digger for the graves, but to save money he borrowed a shovel from Mark Leslie, his best friend. After burying the bodies in his girlfriend's garden, Laing went to the police and admitted buying the Manwaring's car but insisted that when he left they were both in 'good health'. However, the day after the murder Laing was photographed attempting to withdraw money from the building society account of Mark Manwaring, Alison's brother.

Detective Inspector Philip Burrows, who interviewed Laing, believes he was 'so sure of his superiority' that he deliberately left a clue to his identity on a hoax letter he sent to Mark, a week after the murder. Purporting to be from Ms Manwaring, it claimed she had taken her father on holiday to recover from depression. 'He signs the letter, Love Always In God: he's spelling his name, taunting us. It is the signature of a potential serial killer,' he said. (Photograph omitted)