How the fatal stabbing of a husband, wife and son in their Sheffield home shocked the city

It was a crime that shook the city when a wealthy husband, wife and son were stabbed to death at their home in Dore in 1983 by an on-the-run criminal.

By Andy Done-Johnson
Friday, 3rd July 2020, 5:00 pm

Arthur Hutchinson had escaped from a police station in Selby where he faced charges of theft, burglary and rape by climbing through a toilet window and committed the murders.

After three and a half weeks on the run, Hutchinson - who had already served five years in prison for attempting to murder his brother-in-law - broke into the home of Basil Laitner, 59, in Dore, which he shared with his wife Avril, 55, and their son Richard, 28, on October 23.

He had entered the property through a patio window hours after the family had hosted a wedding reception for their daughter and went on to stab the three family members.

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Arthur Hutchinson will never be released from prison

Nicknamed ‘The Fox’, Hutchinson’s motives were unclear, but it is believed that he carried out the raid planning to commit an armed robbery.

He then fled the scene and went on the run, assuming a number of disguises, and travelled to locations around the country - including Barnsley, Nottinghamshire, York and Scarborough.

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Originally from Hartlepool, police realised he was behind the killings after Nicola Laitner was able to describe her attacker, and he was finally apprehended at a farmhouse close to where he grew up on November 5, 1983.

Basil and Avril were murdered by Hutchinson, along with their son Richard

But Hutchinson’s 39-days on the run left families terrified, with many refusing to go out at night, and he made regular calls to the police, taunting them to find him.

In one conversation to officers, he reportedly said: "I'm living rough like the police have said...stealing out of people's back gardens, cabbages and things like that.

“I sleep by day and I travel at night. So what do you want to ask me then? You definitely know who I am, don't you?

"I'm not a hoax. So I'm not going to give myself up."

But the game was up and Hurchinson was found guilty of triple murder and rape at his trial in September 1984 and sentenced to life with a minimum term of 18 years - meaning he could have been released in 2002.

However, the then Home Secretary Leon Brittan intervened and made Hutchinson subject to a whole life order, meaning he will never be set free.

Realising that he would more than likely never see the light of day again, Hutchinson launched an appeal against his sentence in 2008 - after the responsibility for managing whole life orders was transferred from the Home Secretary to the High Court, arguing that the sentence was a breach of his human rights.

But his claims were rejected and, following numerous appeals to the European Court of Human Rights, the case was finally heard by its Grand Chamber, which ruled in 2017 that the courts were within their rights to keep Hutchinson caged until his dying day.

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