Downward spiral into violence and murder

Kate O'Hara Crime Correspondent and Mark Branagan THE BREAKDOWN of Mark Hobson's marriage and the death of the coal miner father he loved were the key elements in turning him from a quiet child into a drink and drug-fuelled quadruple killer.

There was nothing in his childhood that gave any indication that Hobson would become Britain's most wanted man.

Born in Wakefield on September 2, 1969, he is remembered as being a quiet yet happy boy. Fellow pupils from Heath View Primary School in Eastmoor can recall little about him other than that he was polite and friendly.

His childhood appears to have been happy and stable, growing up in a series of houses and flats with his two sisters.

His father, Peter, was a well-respected figure who had risen to become a deputy and over-manager at Park Hill Colliery until its closure in 1982, while his mother Sandra worked as a machinist.

Those who knew Hobson from the early days in Norton Street say they could hardly recognise the happy boy with the bushy blond hair as the scar-faced hardman staring out from the television, who murdered four times.

One teacher who remembers him from Staynor High School, said: "He had no cheek, no malice about him and was very well behaved.

"Don't get me wrong, he was no brain of Britain, but he was so average and ordinary that he was almost anonymous."

That quiet and settled childhood was to become a distant memory, as Hobson became increasingly reliant on drink and his marriage broke down.

His downward spiral led into crime. Hobson stole his sister's engagement and wedding rings and pawned them to pay for his alcohol addiction, which saw him drinking 20 cans of beer a day.

He was given 50 hours' community service when he appeared at Selby magistrates' court in February last year.

His old bouncer boss Stuart Stevenson said: "All I could say is that at first he was sound, a really nice lad.

"But then once his wife left him he really changed.

"I've seen him kicking around town since then and he lost a lot of weight and got into drink and drugs. He was hanging around with wrong-uns, we all knew that."

Life appeared to pick up for Hobson when he moved in with his 27-year-old girlfriend Claire Sanderson, whom he had been dating for about 18 months.

They moved into a small flat in the village of Camblesforth in April last year, but the couple's stormy relationship was marred with blazing public rows, which often descended into wild fights and beatings.

A friend of the couple's also remembers how their rows exploded into terrifying violence.

Maxine Firth, 36, said: "One time our friend caught Mark about to hit Claire with a dumbbell. He ended up having to separate them.

"Another time Mark pushed Claire down a flight of stairs."

Others recall how Hobson poured bleach over his girlfriend, pulled her down the stairs by her hair and hit her over the head with a wine bottle.

He even pushed and punched his girlfriend in public during drink-fuelled rages. A horrified onlooker smashed Hobson over the head with a pool cue after one attack in a pub in Selby.

But friends said Ms Sanderson always seemed to forgive him.

Kelly Williams – whose friendship with Ms Sanderson broke down after she refused to leave her violent boyfriend – said: "I was worried something bad would happen.

"I was one of many friends who tried everything to persuade Claire to give him up – but it was no good.

"She loved him and when he was sober, he loved her."

Ian Lazenby, 39, who knew Hobson for more than four years, said he was prone to sudden mood swings and once even threatened to stab his teenage son.

"He was a strange type of person. He would be laughing and joking one moment and then totally different the next. He threatened to kill my son, to stab him, I can't even remember what it was about.

"He liked to portray himself as a local hardman but he was the kind of guy who would pick on easy targets."

kate.o'hara@ypn.co.uk

string of assaults over years

– but was never sent to jail

MARK Hobson has been responsible for a catalogue of horrifying assaults spanning many years – yet never received a prison sentence for any of them.

Almost a year to the day before last year's killing spree, police found Claire Sanderson, bloodied and beaten, stumbling behind her boyfriend as he mindlessly swore and hollered for somebody to take him on in the middle of a deserted street.

That time Hobson escaped jail because Ms Sanderson made the fatal error of refusing to press charges and magistrates believed his tale that he was full of remorse. He was fined just 50 for a breach of the peace.

It was not the only attack on his girlfriend, who was said to be comp-letely "smitten" with him.

One friend, Joseph Spence, recalled that in August or September 2003 he saw her following Hobson "like a lapdog". He said he nicknamed her "eight-ball" because of the black bruising on her face.

Another witness who gave a statement to police, Michael Roberts, said he had to disarm Hobson after he saw him standing on her chest holding a 12-inch butcher's knife to her neck.

And Nina Candis told officers how she once saw Hobson standing over Ms Sanderson on a bedroom floor holding on to her neck before punching her in the face twice.

Hobson's violence was by no means reserved for her.

In 1990 a woman comp-lained that he had grabbed her around the throat after having sex with her and began hitting her about the face "like a mad man" before suddenly stopping.

In 2003 Hobson was seen putting a knife to a man's eye and threatening to pull his eyeball out.

And a woman called Emma Hobson told how he lost his temper with her on Boxing Day 2003 and lashed out at her five times with a clenched fist.

A prison term for stabbing my son might have saved four victims' lives

Kate O'Hara

THE MOTHER of a man stabbed five times by Mark Hobson in a daylight attack three years ago believes the killer's four victims might still be alive had Hobson been jailed back in 2002.

Instead, Hobson walked free from court in March that year – receiving just 100 hours community service for repeatedly stabbing his former colleague William Brace in the middle of a busy high street.

Margaret Brace said that as her son lay wounded on the ground Hobson coolly called police and told them: "I've just tried to kill someone" – but even that was not enough to see him jailed.

Speaking from her home in Denison Road, Selby, Mrs Brace told the Yorkshire Post: "I'm absolutely sure that if he had received a custodial sentence for what he did to my son, then this whole, dreadful thing would not have happened.

"Maybe he would still have been in prison, or even if he wasn't he might have received some help for his problems. He is obviously unbalanced because what he did to my son came completely out of the blue."

Shaking her head in disbelief, she spoke of the day she heard her son had been almost fatally wounded. "It was a market day and I ran into William and told him I'd picked up some meat if he wanted to drop in for a sandwich. But almost as soon as I walked through the door a lady phoned – a nurse who was at the scene – who said 'There's no easy way to tell you this but your son has been stabbed and is in a very bad way'.

"I didn't believe it at first because I had only left him literally five minutes earlier."

Her son – who has since been jailed for assault – has told her that on the day of the stabbing he noticed Hobson on the other side of the street, and then watched as he crossed the road to approach him. When he felt a sharp blow to his body he thought he had been punched, but then looked looked down and saw blood seeping through his clothes. It is believed Hobson had managed to smuggle a knife out from his workplace, Rigid Containers, instead of handing it in at the end of his shift as he was supposed to.

The two men had been friends for years, Mrs Brace said, after working together at Drax power station, but things had turned unpleasant when Hobson began dating Brace's teenage girlfriend.

She said: "I don't think William will ever fully recover physically from what happened, and I know he was traumatised by it. But at the end of the day it is the families of those four people who I feel for. I feel really, really sorry about what happened to those two girls, they were so pretty and in the prime of their lives.

"It broke my heart when I saw how that old couple had died too. They looked like a really sweet old couple. They didn't deserve to die like that."

Stopped from seeing his children

Kate O'Hara.

MARK Hobson's drinking, and the violence it fuelled, led to the breakdown of his marriage – and his terrifying rages alienated him from the woman who had loved him.

Hobson was 18 when he began dating local girl Kay Ramsey and they were married at Selby register office on July 9, 1994 when Hobson was 24 and Kay a 25-year-old divorcee.

The couple moved into a terrace council house in the town and Hobson adopted her two children and they later had a daughter together.

But Hobson walked out on his family five years later, claiming he had had enough of married life. It was to prove a turning point in his life.

Concerned at his drink and drug binges and a brutal street attack on William Brace in 2002, his wife denied him access to his children.

She said: "I shudder to think I could have married such a man.

"He was like a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode.

"He turned to drink and drugs but all they've done is rot his brain. His life just went completely off the rails.

"It was after the attack that Mark changed for the worse. He turned to pot and drinking heavily. He never drank when we were married but he got out of his face.

"He became like a zombie. He knew he had these demons inside. I had to stop him seeing the children."

Bouncer worked only yards away from Bieber

Kate O'Hara

FORMER bouncer Mark Hobson manned the doors only yards away from the Selby club where police killer David Bieber worked.

The two men – responsible for different murders which shocked the whole country – were both well-known figures on Selby's nightclub scene in the late 1990s.

Bieber is serving a life sentence for gunning down Leeds police officer Ian Broadhurst.

Those who worked with Hobson and Bieber remember them from their time on the doors, and say both were known for their calm manners and dislike of trouble.

Police licensing officers say Hobson – who was at that time far broader and stockier than he is today – registered with York's Doorsafe Scheme in 1998, and began working at Kans nightclub in Selby's Market Place.

Just a couple of hundred yards down the road, ex-US Marine Bieber worked on the door of Carina's nightclub on Ousegate, which has since changed its name to Club SeVen.

Bieber had arrived in Britain and taken up lodgings in York in 1996, before moving to Selby in 1997 and setting up home with divorced mother-of-two Denise Horsley, who he met while working at Carina's.

The former bodybuilding champion split with his wife in 1998 and left Selby for Leeds.

Those who worked on the doors at the time said the two would almost certainly have known of each other.

One doorman, who asked not to be named, said: "I never saw them together, but I knew both of them – Dave and Mark.

"They were both fairly quiet blokes and Dave in particular would always disappear if there was any trouble. It's obvious now why he wouldn't have wanted to draw too much attention to himself or get involved with the police."

Hobson's former boss, Stuart Stevenson, said: "Dave came over with a Pontefract agency and he worked at one of the clubs in Selby which used to be called Carina's, while our staff worked at a place 200 yards up the road."

Mr Stevenson added: "When Mark worked on the doors we would meet up every other week for a lads' night around Selby. He was as nice as pie on the door too – always polite. He gave a lot of leeway and would always prefer to talk it out rather than kick people out.

"I doubt Mark and Dave knew each other. But to be honest, people seem to think that working the doors is like some sort of big mafia thing and everybody knows everybody else, and it's not like that at all."

He tried to hide ...in our house

Kate O'Hara

THE victims of a failed break-in by Mark Hobson just hours before he murdered James and Joan Britton last summer have spoken of their horror that the quadruple murderer tried unsuccessfully to hide out in their home.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said she felt "sickened" that Hobson tried to break into the bungalow she shares with her husband on New Lane, Huntington, as he searched frantically for a place to hide during his killing spree.

"We've tried not to think about it but it plays on your mind and it has been such a shock," she said.

"You try not to, but you can't help thinking – what if we had been here?

"We have no idea why he chose this house, I suppose it was just random because we don't know him – we'd never heard of him before last summer."

Fortunately the couple were away when Hobson, armed with a kitchen

knife from his Camblesforth flat, came across the house after tricking his mother into taking him to nearby York District Hospital.

Officers discovered he had tried to get in the bungalow by removing the seal from the couple's double glazed bathroom window. Whenhe failed,he scattered the contents of their wheeled bin and fled.

But Hobson had left a

cigarette butt on the floor – evidence proving thekillercalledat Huntington before going on to Strensall.

Just hours later, Hobson stabbed elderly couple James and Joan Britton to death in their house on Strensall Road. The woman said: "I feel so sorry for the families and I can't imagine what they're going through."

A prison term for stabbing my son might have saved four victims' lives

Kate O'Hara

THE MOTHER of a man stabbed five times by Mark Hobson in a daylight attack three years ago believes the killer's four victims might still be alive had Hobson been jailed back in 2002.

Instead, Hobson walked free from court in March that year – receiving just 100 hours community service for repeatedly stabbing his former colleague William Brace in the middle of a busy high street.

Margaret Brace said that as her son lay wounded on the ground Hobson coolly called police and told them: "I've just tried to kill someone" – but even that was not enough to see him jailed.

Speaking from her home in Denison Road, Selby, Mrs Brace told the Yorkshire Post: "I'm absolutely sure that if he had received a custodial sentence for what he did to my son, then this whole, dreadful thing would not have happened.

"Maybe he would still have been in prison, or even if he wasn't he might have received some help for his problems. He is obviously unbalanced because what he did to my son came completely out of the blue."

Shaking her head in disbelief, she spoke of the day she heard her son had been almost fatally wounded. "It was a market day and I ran into William and told him I'd picked up some meat if he wanted to drop in for a sandwich. But almost as soon as I walked through the door a lady phoned – a nurse who was at the scene – who said 'There's no easy way to tell you this but your son has been stabbed and is in a very bad way'.

"I didn't believe it at first because I had only left him literally five minutes earlier."

Her son – who has since been jailed for assault – has told her that on the day of the stabbing he noticed Hobson on the other side of the street, and then watched as he crossed the road to approach him. When he felt a sharp blow to his body he thought he had been punched, but then looked looked down and saw blood seeping through his clothes. It is believed Hobson had managed to smuggle a knife out from his workplace, Rigid Containers, instead of handing it in at the end of his shift as he was supposed to.

The two men had been friends for years, Mrs Brace said, after working together at Drax power station, but things had turned unpleasant when Hobson began dating Brace's teenage girlfriend.

She said: "I don't think William will ever fully recover physically from what happened, and I know he was traumatised by it. But at the end of the day it is the families of those four people who I feel for. I feel really, really sorry about what happened to those two girls, they were so pretty and in the prime of their lives.

"It broke my heart when I saw how that old couple had died too. They looked like a really sweet old couple. They didn't deserve to die like that."