Chilling threats of a killer...

Mark Rowntree was locked up indefinitely 28 years ago for killing four people chosen at random in crimes that shocked the nation. Yesterday he appeared in court to admit making threats to kill again. Crime Correspondent Kate O'Hara reports.

THE highly intelligent teenager had shown signs of disturbed behaviour before – but nothing that suggested he would carry out the savage attacks that left four people dead and shattered the lives of many others.

Mark Rowntree was adopted by wealthy parents soon after his birth in 1956 and lived with them in Guiseley, near Leeds.

He was expelled from one public school in Leeds, completing his studies at Rishworth School, near Halifax, and showed bouts of violence as a boy, but only in hindsight was it realised that these were indications of the slide into severe mental illness that had such catastrophic consequences.

Aged 19, he was waiting to begin university when he knocked on the door of 85-year-old widow Grace Adamson's home in Bingley on New Year's Eve 1975.

She suffered multiple wounds in a frenzied attack that horrified detectives.It was followed three days later by the stabbing of Stephen Wilson, of Keighley, as he waited at a bus stop in Eastburn, Keighley.

Rowntree then struck in Leeds, where he stabbed model Barbara Booth to death before going on to kill her three-year-old son Alan at their home in Burley.

Rowntree denied four counts of murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility when he appeared at Leeds Crown Court in 1976.

He was detained indefinitely after the court heard he had "insatiable desire to kill" and had been motivated by voices in his head.

He had chosen his victims at random as he attempted to beat the body count of Donald Neilson, the Black Panther from Bradford, who killed five people.

He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and has since spent time in the high-security Broadmoor, Rampton and Ashworth hospitals before being moved a dozen years ago to the secure unit at St Luke's Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Yesterday at Teesside Crown Court, Rowntree, who has since changed his name to Evans, admitted three charges of making threats to kill his social worker Kath Cogley.

In a chilling letter sent to the Yorkshire Post ahead of his court appearance, he warned he was prepared to kill again.

And in further telephone calls he said his threats to Ms Cogley were real.

He said he had threatened to kill her for telling a mental health tribunal that he showed no remorse whatsoever for the killings.

He said he would never be able to forgive the social worker because her comments had "hurt and wounded" his mother, who was sitting in the tribunal at the time.

In his letter to the Yorkshire Post, Rowntree claimed he did have a "terrible inner turmoil" about his offences and referred to the period as "that hideous first week of 1976".

He added that anyone who dared speak about him in the way his social worker did would be "walking continually on very thin ice".

"Now, I am not at all angry, nor am I disturbed or mad; I feel quite rational, balanced in mind and calm. You don't need to be insane or evil in order to end life," he said.

He said he was able to "transcend any moral feelings of responsibility or obligations" and could "so easily" carry out another stabbing.

Rowntree will now be assessed and is likely to be sent back to St Luke's. He is detained under the Mental Health Act and can only be discharged, given leave or transferred with Home Office approval.

Ten years ago there was outrage when he was released for five days to go on a holiday. The then Home Secretary Michael Howard admitted it was wrong for Rowntree and two other killers to be allowed to go to a Northumberland beauty spot on an adventure park holiday at taxpayers' expense.

He remains at St Luke's to this day.