Derrick North

John Derrick North
John Derrick North
Have your say

DERRICK NORTH, who ran a landmark filling station near York for more than 50 years and gained national recognition when he helped to catch a serial killer on the run, has died aged 88.

He was a familiar sight to several generations of customers at his garage on the A19, at Shipton-by-Beningbrough who were always greeted with a cheerful welcome and sometimes one of his jokes.

But in July 2004 he became a reluctant hero hitting the national headlines after recognising murderer Mark Hobson as he walked into the petrol station and bought matches, cigarette papers and a bottle of water.

After serving him, Mr North rang North Yorkshire Police who arrested him in nearby fields ending an eight-day hunt for Hobson who had killed his girlfriend, her twin sister, and an elderly couple.

After pleading guilty in court to the murders, Hobson was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation that he should never be released.

Mr North later received an appreciation award from North Yorkshire Police but, although proud of it, denied he was a hero. He always insisted he only did what anyone would have done.

He was born John Derrick North, one of three brothers of Charles and Annie North who ran the village shop in Shipton-by-Beningbrough, although his father was also a mechanic at Clifton Garage.

After leaving the local school, Mr North worked firstly as an apprentice at Vickers Instruments, York, where he was a talented engineer.

It was as an engineer that he did his National Service, although he also trained with the Army at Catterick Garrison and served in the Home Guard.

He always wanted to run his own business and in 1958 bought the plot where the garage now stands which was a former wartime searchlight site. It has been said that before buying it he sat by the roadside for two days counting passing cars to make sure it would be busy enough. 

The family then lived in caravans on the site whilst the workshop, kiosk and house were being built, but once open his business grew over the years into a hub of village social life. Everyone knew him, or of him, and he was popular and well respected.

He was a familiar sight behind the counter of the shop in his checked shirt, tie, jumper and flat cap always greeting customers with a cheerful welcome and sometimes one of his jokes.  Mr North saw the garage as a service to the community, opening seven days a week and giving a personal service which is quite rare today.

He had numerous regular customers whom he knew well, and many became good friends enjoying a chat and cup of tea.

Many people who knew him first as children visiting the garage with their parents later became customers themselves, bringing their own children.

Children and dogs always enjoyed their visits. Children of regular customers were usually offered a lollypop or told to choose some sweets, while dogs would become excited as they approached the forecourt knowing he would go out to them with a dog biscuit.

He owned the site for 52 years running it alone, except for help at times from his family, until in 2010 at the age of 84 he realised he would have to retire and reluctantly sold it.

Mr North is survived by Sybil, his wife of more than 60 years, children Christine and Graham and grandson Rupert.