Murderer 'could have struck before'

A SENIOR detective has refused to rule out the possibility that brutal killer Michael Harvey had murdered before.Detective Superintendent Stewart Gull, of Suffolk police, was speaking after a judge ordered the 51-year-old to serve a minimum life sentence of 29 years for the "macabre" killing of his uncle, Ian Halls, 63.

By Danielle Nuttall

A SENIOR detective has refused to rule out the possibility that brutal killer Michael Harvey had murdered before.

Detective Superintendent Stewart Gull, of Suffolk police, was speaking after a judge ordered the 51-year-old to serve a minimum life sentence of 29 years for the "macabre" killing of his uncle, Ian Halls, 63.

Norwich Crown Court heard yesterday how police discovered a list containing the names of at least 13 potential victims – including retired librarian Mr Halls – among documents in Harvey's van.

Speaking after the case last night, Det Supt Gull said: "We have obviously conducted a huge number of enquiries. It would appear that Michael Harvey had identified a number of other potential victims.

"We believe we have traced all of those individuals and have found them to be alive and well. At this stage, it does not appear Michael Harvey is a serial killer.

Most Read

"I cannot stand here and say he has not murdered before, but we have not uncovered any evidence he is responsible for killing other individuals."

Harvey, of North Down Avenue, Manchester, made a last-minute confession to the murder of Mr Halls, of Tower Mill Road, Ipswich, on Thursday just minutes before his trial was due to begin.

Sentencing the former Northampton City Council worker yesterday, deputy High Court Judge Sir John Blofeld ordered the defendant to serve no less than 29 years behind bars.

He told Harvey: "You murdered Ian Halls, who was your uncle, for gain. You had clearly thought about it long and hard before you did so.

"It may have started as a fantasy project. You went through the gruesome task of dismembering.

"You scattered the parts of the body in different places. It was all precisely planned and pre-meditated."

As his sentence was passed Harvey, who was dressed in the previous day's clothes of a blue T-shirt with a grey sweatshirt draped around his shoulders, tutted and rolled his eyes before mumbling: "It's about time."

Present during the long hearing were Mr Halls' sister Diana Doyle, 56, and also Harvey's elderly mother, who has not seen her son for more than 30 years.

Speaking after the hearing, Mrs Doyle, who lives in London, said: "Ian was a gentle man who is profoundly missed by his family and many friends.

"In the year prior to his death, he had been the happiest anyone had ever seen him, delighted with his new house and relishing the time retirement had given to pursue his many interests.

"His murderer maliciously exploited Ian's character for his own gain. He betrayed Ian's welcome, his openness and his trust. Ian was a sociable, knowledgeable, humorous man. He was excellent company."

Mrs Doyle added: "We will cherish forever memories of the time spent with him filled with jokes and laughter. We would like to thank the Suffolk police team who worked on this case for their much valued support, dedication and meticulous investigations."

In presenting the facts of the case yesterday, prosecuting barrister Patricia Lynch QC told the court Mr Halls had had no contact with his nephew until 1989, when Mr Halls' mother had died.

Mr Halls had then decided to trace Harvey to hand over a small amount of money that had been left to him and the pair exchanged addresses with a view to keeping in touch.

During a telephone conversation with her brother in November 2003, Mrs Doyle said Mr Halls had mentioned how Harvey had visited him in Ipswich and stayed for a few days before returning home.

Mr Halls went missing after returning from a trip to France during Christmas and New Year in 2003, during which he visited friends.

A police search began when Mrs Doyle became worried and reported him missing on January 29.

In the days following his disappearance, Mr Halls' neighbours noticed the same visitor coming and going from Mr Halls' home.

Mobile phone records showed Harvey had telephoned his uncle during early January and also showed he had been in the Ipswich area.

Police discovered Harvey had bought an open bus ticket between Manchester and Ipswich on January 21.

Ms Lynch said Harvey had assumed Mr Halls' identity and began living in his house, using all of his credit cards and bank accounts.

Receipts from January 24 showed the defendant had bought an angle grinder and sack barrow from Argos. Two days later he used Mr Halls' credit card to buy gaffer tape, tarpaulin, rubbish bags, and heavy-duty rubber gloves. On January 27, he hired a Vauxhall Vectra using Mr Hall's Visa card.

Three days later he filled out an application form to cash Mr Hall's premium bonds and cheques of £20,000 were later sent to the home. At this time, Harvey filled out various other forms to gain loans and withdrew cash from Mr Halls' bank accounts.

"Having left Mr Halls' body at Tower Mill Road while he went to Manchester, he returned on January 22 to set about dismembering it and placing the severed limbs in black plastic bags before disposing of them in the Vauxhall Vectra," added Ms Lynch.

The court heard how large areas of blood strains were discovered on the underlay beneath the carpet, on door handles and stairs throughout Mr Halls' home, which matched the victim's DNA profile. They were also discovered in the boot of the Vauxhall Vectra Harvey had hired.

Ms Lynch said the evidence indicated Mr Halls had been killed at the foot of the stairs and later cut up in the sitting room using, according to experts, a saw. However, a saw has never been recovered.

On February 5, Harvey had hired a Ford Transit van using Mr Halls' Visa card.

During a search of the van, police found bloodstained overalls, maps, a crossbow, gaffer tape and tarpaulin among other items.

One of the most important discoveries in the vehicle were two files, which contained meticulous plans and lists of how Harvey was planning to cut up Mr Halls' body and dispose of it and financial information relating to his uncle.

One of the files included a profile of potential victims, showing Harvey's intention to steal the identity of a single man, who lived alone and who had considerable assets.

There were also notes showing how Harvey had practised his uncle's signature and drafted letters to the police explaining how his uncle had decided to join a religious sect.

Two months after he was reported missing, the victim's head, left leg, and hands were discovered by a dog walker in Lincolnshire's River Witham.

Other body parts were found in Ransome Road Lake in Northampton.

When interviewed by police, Harvey denied knowing anything about Mr Halls' disappearance.

He claimed the notes found in his car referred to how he was going to cut up a sheep's carcass that had gone off in his fridge. He said Mr Halls had given him permission to live at his home and use his credit cards.

Ms Lynch said at the time Harvey killed his uncle, he was in more than £20,000 worth of debt.

Karim Khalil, Harvey's barrister, said he had been told by his client that the killing had not been carried out with a crossbow but with a single blow using a flick knife.

Death was instantaneous and at the foot of the stairs while the dismembering had taken place not in the sitting room but in an outbuilding, added Mr Khalil.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter