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Last Updated: Monday, 18 April 2005, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Four deaths and a week on the run
Mark Hobson
Mark Hobson killed four people and went on the run for a week
It was a killing spree that shocked the country.

Twin sisters and an elderly couple had been savagely beaten and stabbed to death in incidents 25 miles apart in North Yorkshire over the course of one weekend last July.

The gruesome discoveries sparked one of the biggest manhunts in the country for many years.

Detectives in the largely rural county moved quickly to name Mark Hobson as the murder suspect.

Severely beaten

The bodies of Hobson's 27-year-old girlfriend Claire Sanderson and her sister Diane were found in the killer's flat at Camblesforth, near Selby, by Diane's boyfriend and the girls' father on the morning of Sunday 18 July.

Police said the two women had died several days apart and Diane had been sexually abused and strangled. Both had been stripped naked and Claire's body had been wrapped in bin liners.

Around three hours after the girls' bodies were discovered an elderly couple, Joan and James Britton, were found dead at their detached house at Strensall on the outskirts of York.

Diane (left) and Claire Sanderson
Twins Diane and Claire Sanderson were killed days apart by Hobson.
They had been severely beaten and stabbed in the back.

Det Supt Javad Ali, who was leading the murder hunt, revealed Hobson had visited his mother Sandra in the early hours of Sunday and asked to be driven to York District Hospital. The hospital is only a few miles from the village of Strensall.

Sandra Hobson made a plea for her 34-year-old son to give himself up to police or contact a solicitor. "I know things are difficult and you might be thinking about what to do next," she said.

By now the case had received national publicity and police were deluged with hundreds of "sightings" of the shaven-headed ex-bin man.

In one day North Yorkshire Police recorded 175 reported sightings, one coming from as far away as New Zealand.

'Liked a drink'

The killer had in fact barely travelled more than a handful of miles from the site of the elderly couple's home and was hiding out in the countryside.

Detectives were now looking carefully at reports of petty thefts from washing lines, burglaries and reports of missing persons in an effort to pinpoint where food or extra clothing may have been taken by the fugitive.

For a week hundreds of officers and dog handlers scoured vast tracts of North Yorkshire's rolling countryside looking for signs of anyone living rough.

Joan Britton and her husband, James
Joan and James Britton had been viciously assaulted
Off-licences, pubs and shops selling alcohol were urged to keep an eye out for Hobson, who, Mr Ali said, "was known to like a drink".

As police turned up the pressure and intensified their searches, Hobson's ex-wife Kay pleaded with him through a Sunday newspaper to give himself up.

After six days and seven nights of moving around fields and hedges, Mark Hobson was driven out into the open to buy matches, cigarette papers and a bottle of water at a roadside garage on the A19 road at Shipton-by-Beningbrough, north of York.

The garage owner, 81-year-old Derek North recognised him immediately.

"It was roughly 1430 BST (on Sunday) and this chap came into the shop. I recognised him straight away with is earring, his hair, his nose and scar," he explained.

"He bought a box of matches, a bottle of water and some cigarette papers. He paid in change and just went.

"We watched him and by that time the laddie from the furniture place came in and we decided between us that it was him (Hobson) so he ran down to his place and rang the police."

Officers arrived to find the man they had been scouring the country for sitting in a field close to the garage.

In pictures: Yorkshire manhunt ends
26 Jul 04 |  In Pictures

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