Page last updated at 07:19 GMT, Friday, 14 May 2010 08:19 UK

Teesside hammer killer refused Guardian interview

Reginald Wilson
Wilson could use a live interview to romanticise his past, ruled the court

A psychopath who bludgeoned a Teesside doctor to death with a hammer has been refused the right to a face-to-face interview with a newspaper journalist.

Reginald Wilson, 44, is serving 30 years for the murder of Middlesbrough skin specialist David Birkett in 1990.

He was challenging a Prison Service decision not to allow the Guardian newspaper interview at HMP Wakefield.

But judges at the High Court upheld the ruling, saying he might use the meeting to "glorify" his violent past.

Wilson tricked his way into Dr Birkett's home by pretending to be a motorbike courier before killing his victim with 17 hammer blows to the head.

Police later found a cache of arms, including a sawn off shotgun and crossbows, at Wilson's home.

Scientific examination of an apparently blank piece of paper revealed a plan to kill police officers.

David Birkett
David Birkett was killed in 1990

Wilson's lawyers said he was suffering from an "untreatable psychopathic disorder" at the time.

He was jailed for life in 1991, and three years later he was told by the Home Secretary that "life should mean life" and that he would die in jail.

That sentence has since been scaled down to a 30-year minimum tariff, although Wilson will not be freed until the authorities are convinced he is safe to live in the community.

At the High Court on Thursday, Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Irwin heard his challenge to the refusal to allow him a face-to-face interview with journalist Simon Hattenstone.

Mr Justice Irwin, dismissing Wilson's challenge, said that throughout his incarceration, he had proved himself disruptive and highly dangerous, and had tried to stab a prison officer in 1999.

He is one of 27 acutely dangerous prisoners held in the Prison Service's "Close Supervision Centre" and among the eight hard-core inmates held within that unit's "Exceptional Risk Unit".

History of violence

Wilson was transferred there in December 2003 due to his history of violence.

Mr Hattenstone was described by the judge as a "responsible journalist" wishing to interview Wilson to gauge the impact of life sentences on prisoners.

But Mr Justice Irwin said the Prison Service had to carry out a delicate "balancing exercise", and he could not fault the decision to bar the interview.

He noted that Mr Hattenstone is permitted telephone and letter contact with Wilson, and that made his research "feasible" without face-to-face contact.

He said a live interview might give Wilson a platform on which to "romanticise, glorify or glamourise" his past.

"That's not mere speculation," said the judge, "it relates to the history of the way he has presented himself both before and after his conviction.

"It seems to us that's not a fanciful consideration."

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