This year marks the thirty-year anniversary of the Laitner murders, in Dore, Sheffield. The murders shocked the country because they were done by a man who was miles away from home and three people lost their lives. A Sheffield solicitor and his doctor wife, a rich, stable family from Dore tragically died along with their son. The murders took place on their daughter’s wedding day and the happy occasion turned into tragedy.
On the 23rd October 1983, Arthur Hutchinson intruded into a family home, just hours after they had celebrated their daughter’s wedding. He killed three people and raped one. The father of the family, Basil and his wife, Avril lost their lives along with their son, Richard. Their 18-year-old daughter was raped at knife point.
Hutchinson was 42-years-old at the time he committed the murders and had no connections with the family. Infact, they had never met. He is now serving a life sentence.
The Laitner’s elder daughter; Suzanne (24) had just celebrated her wedding at the family home in Dore. She and her husband Mr Ivor Woolfe left the home, as did the wedding guests, just hours before the murders. This left her brother Richard, sister Nichola, mother Avril and father Basil in the home.
Hutchinson entered the family’s home and went upstairs where he was confronted by 28-year-old Richard Laitner, Suzanne’s brother, who he stabbed in the back and neck while he lay in bed. His father, solicitor Basil (59) had come upstairs to investigate the noise and was subsequently also stabbed to death. Hartlepool-born Hutchinson then went downstairs and stabbed Basil’s doctor wife Avril (55), 26 times.
He then returned upstairs and held 18-year-old Nichola, commonly known as Nicky, hostage for three hours, he then raped her at knife point. He then took her downstairs, past her dead father’s blood soaked body, and handcuffed her to the marquee used at the wedding and raped her. It was later revealed that as dawn approached she had said she was cold and Hutchinson had led her back to her bed where he tied her with her deceased brother’s ties and raped her again before fleeing. She was discovered by two workmen who were coming to take down the marquee.
Just three days after the attack, lone survivor, Nichola, gave such a detailed description to a newspaper artist, detectives immediately knew who her attacker was. Suzanne returned home from her honeymoon and was contacted by police.
Murderer, Hutchinson was already a wanted man as he had escaped Selby court less than a month before the ‘Dore Wedding Day Massacre’ on a rape charge. He was also previously connected with petty crime and violence. The rapist was quickly identified by Detective Sergeant Leonard Andrew through a handprint found on the side of a champagne bottle, which led police to launch a search for the 42-year-old.
Ten police forces were briefed to search for him in the north and midlands, even though he was expected to have returned to his native north-east. Just days after the murders The Times released a short bulletin describing him as “extremely dangerous”. Two hundred police officers searched for Hutchinson within a five-mile radius of the horrific scene. Hutchinson hid out for ten days and was hiding out in Barnsley, Nottinghamshire, Manchester, York and Scarborough.
While the hunt was on, Sergeant Tom Walton, who was assisting the manhunt, told the Gazette Live: “This man is on the run and we believe he is quite clearly capable of killing if cornered.” The hunt spanned three countries but ended close to his home.
Ten days after he escaped the murder scene he was arrested. He was seen trying to call his mother close to where he was found in a turnip field near Hartlepool, County Durham following a local man saying he had seen him. At his arrest Hutchinson tried and failed to stab himself. He was taken to hospital for treatment on a leg wound, sustained when he fled Selby court, before been taken into custody for questioning and later being sent to prison.
Hutchinson was dubbed “The Fox” because he said he had lived like one during his time on the run and he said it was because of his cunning nature. On a tape found by police he boasted about being on the run and walking past police yet never being discovered due to his disguises. “However crackers I might be, I’ve walked past them several times and they haven’t even noticed me. Like I say, I’m a master of disguise,” he says on the tape, laughing.
The Gazette described him as: “a dangerous loner who committed the most horrendous crime known to man – but ended up sacrificing his freedom just to see his mother.” A forensic scientist, Mr. Alfred Faragher, discovered that Hutchinson’s blood type was found on Nichola’s bed sheets. A forensic dental advisor, Dr Geoffrey Craig found Hutchinson’s teeth marks in a piece of Gouda cheese, which again gave another piece of evidence for police.
He was found guilty on 14th September 1984. His mother, Louise Reardon, stood by her son until the guilty verdict where she said “I never could believe before now that Arthur could be so violent and thought that everything about the case was a pack of lies. I believed him.” On one occurrence, she had once spent £125 in taxi fares to visit him in prison.
In court Hutchinson claimed that a journalist was in on the murders and rape of Nichola.
In 2008, Hutchinson was told by Mr. Justice Tugendhat he would die in prison. Nearly 14 years after his arrest, aged 67, he pleaded against the ruling saying it was against his human rights.
Nichola and Suzanne have both since changed their names to protect themselves. On October 29th, 1983, The Times said that police were keeping a close eye on Nicky Laitner. At one point that she was accused of inviting Hutchinson into the family home. She denied the claims and they were proven false.
In 2012 The Mirror revealed that Hutchinson, along with 44 other murderers, will never leave jail. His human rights appeal was declined and for him, along with other notorious murderers, life means life.