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The Albert Dryden shooting 30 years later – the North East crime that rocked Britain UK News

It was one of the Northeast’s most notorious crimes – the fatal shooting of planning officer Harry Collinson by Albert Dryden.

The infamous event was made all the more remarkable because it was filmed live, long before social media and smartphones turned the world into a 24/7 movie studio.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the shooting on a sunny June 1991 day at Butsfield near Consett in County Durham. Despite the passage of time, its evocation will stir many memories.

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As a young Chronicle reporter at the time, I was working on another story at the Newcastle headquarters. We had two reporters – Garry Willey and Bruce Unwin – and a photographer on site.

We were all vaguely aware of the story they were covering about an eccentric who had built a bungalow without a building permit somewhere in the sticks, an argument that had been brewing for months but today was the ” D-day ”, the day of the demolition.

Albert Dryden and the bungalow
Albert Dryden and the bungalow

Dryden had actually built two greenhouses, a shed, parked a trailer on the grounds, and built an arch at the gated entrance, then dug a huge hole and built a dilapidated, partially sunken-looking bungalow.

Apparently he was inspired by a man who circumvented town planning laws by building a house completely underground.

Dryden lost his planning call to keep the bungalow, although the government inspector who chaired the hearing said some of the other buildings could stay because of their time there.

The quarrel lasted for several months, with the council trying to reach a compromise that would avoid having to bulldoze the bungalow.

The last suggestion was that Dryden modify the building and use it for herding cattle, but he rejected it.

Eventually the councilors had had enough and decided there was no choice but demolition, as the law provided for, and it was up to Mr Collinson, working for what was then council. of Derwentside District, to apply it.

Which brings us back to around 9 a.m. on June 20, 1991.

Albert Dryden brandishing his Webley revolver
Albert Dryden brandishing his Webley revolver

A call came in from one of our reporters, I think it was Bruce, at the news desk. There was something about the editor’s tone and reaction that made the newsroom quickly go quiet and everyone listened. Something bad had happened.

During the confrontation, Dryden, who had amassed an arsenal of guns in his cabin, went to his trailer and picked up a WWI “Webley” revolver.

When he returned he pointed the gun at Mr. Collinson, then 46, whose last words – “Can you take a picture of this?” – were filmed.

Dryden shot him in the chest at close range, killing him, then fired savagely at the fleeing crowd, apparently hoping to get counsel for counsel, Michael Dunstan, but instead punching TV reporter Tony Belmont in the arm and the PC Stephen Campbell on the back.

We’ll find out later that Bruce dodged Dryden’s bullets by crouching behind a car with the rear window shot down. A Northern Echo photographer was caught on camera begging Dryden not to shoot him.

One press photographer was so traumatized that he disappeared for hours and was later found wandering down an alley. He eventually had to give up the job.

At his trial, Dryden was convicted of murdering Mr. Collinson, the attempted murder of Mr. Dunstan and injuring Mr. Belmont and Mr. Campbell, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Harry Collinson murder victim
Harry Collinson murder victim

In a bizarre twist, ‘Free Albert Dryden’ posters were not uncommon in the Derwentside area during the days and weeks after the killer was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder.

Some of Dryden’s supporters later suggested that the presence of reporters and a television camera may have pressured Dryden to take the ultimate step in defending his property.

But the council, already concerned about threats Dryden had made and an earlier alleged assault on a council official, hoped their reaction could be contained by the situation.

Harry’s brother Roy Collinson has always insisted the tragedy could have been avoided, as a planning officer should never have been required to deal with the killer who was known to be armed and dangerous.

On the 20th anniversary of his brother’s death, he said: “It never should have happened. Albert Dryden was an eccentric and dangerous man who was fascinated by guns and explosives.

“Harry shouldn’t have done this job. He was a local planning officer. He shouldn’t have been dealing with armed lunatics. This is the boring part of it.

“People who knew Dryden, and he was quite famous, always knew he would do something like that. He said he would and he did. It was incompetence and the authorities hadn’t realized how dangerous he was.

Albert Dryden who was imprisoned for life
Albert Dryden who was imprisoned for life

In 2017, Dryden suffered a serious stroke and was released from prison on compassionate grounds, …

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This notice was published: 2021-06-20 10:20:36

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