This is a story of unbelievable evil and how three generations of the same family were held hostage when a remand prisoner goes on the run having seriously injured two prison officers to facilitate his escape.
The questions that you are already asking are; who was this prisoner? Why was he on remand? What were the circumstances of his offending that led him to be a remand prisoner? How did he plan his escape? How did he physically escape from those charged with his escort? Who was the family he took hostage? How long did he keep them captive? How did it all end?
William Thomas HUGHES was born on 8th August 1946 to Thomas Edward HUGHES and Mary ‘May’ HUGHES (nee MIDDLETON). William, known as ‘Billy’, was to be the eldest of six children. After some time spent abroad because of their father’s army service the family returned to their native Preston, Lancashire, England.
By February, 1961 Billy was in the juvenile courts in Preston for stealing. He left school at 15 years of age and tried a number of jobs but nothing lasted. He was in and out of the courts for the next few years for dishonesty offences such as housebreaking, theft, damage but also for violence. And as a result he was in and out of custody attending Home Office approved schools and Borstal Training Centres.
Billy was of small stature and when the opportunity arose, such as periods of detention, he would weightlift and work out. This made him an immensely strong young man and it was not advisable to tackle him. He was good looking and physically powerful.
Hughes: "Good looking and physically powerful"
By the time Jean NADIN met Billy in 1971, she was divorced from her first husband and had a young daughter, Tracey. Jean was a year older than Billy and had already served a number of prison sentences. Within weeks of meeting, Jean was pregnant. Billy continued to commit crime and subsequently appeared before the courts. In 1972 he was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for assaulting Tracey. He appealed his sentence and Jean, despite the victim being her own daughter, gave evidence supporting Billy.
On 6th August 1972, a daughter was born to Jean and Billy, they called her Nichola Jayne.
Jean and Nichola Jayne
Life was not easy or, one would suspect, happy for the young HUGHES family. Billy started to look elsewhere for female company. He subsequently met Theresa DOHERTY in Blackpool and they moved out of Lancashire and went to live in Boythorpe, Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Billy had only been in Chesterfield a matter of months, when the police came knocking on the door of the house where he was staying.
The Offences that led to Billy’s arrest and subsequent remand in custody:
On the evening of Friday 20th August 1976, a young couple, a 20 year old shop assistant and her 21 year old boyfriend, a labourer, were on a night out in Chesterfield in Jingles Nightclub, a popular spot at the time. They left the nightclub.
The early hours of the next morning, the young man staggers into New Beetwell Street Police Station, Chesterfield. The Officer on duty is a uniformed constable, PC Chris McCarthy. The young man, covered in blood and suffering from a severe head injury, stated he and his girlfriend were kissing near the Queen’s Park Leisure Centre when they were approached and he was hit on the head with a brick, he was knocked unconscious. By the time he regained consciousness, his girlfriend was missing and so he had gone to the police station to report the assault on himself and the fact that the young lady could not be found.
The police set out to search the area and very quickly found her in the toilets near Queen's Park. The account that she gave was, after her partner was hit with a brick she was dragged off by the young man who had perpetrated the assault. She had been raped by him and her ordeal had been terrifying.
So started the investigation into who had committed these serious offences. As part of the extensive enquiries, the young female victim put together a photofit and this was circulated as part of the investigation. An article in the ‘Derbyshire Times’ on the front page dated 27th August 1976 carried the headline, ‘Massive Hunt for Vicious Rapist’.
Some days later the Police received a tip off that there was someone living at an address in Boythorpe, Chesterfield, that looked like the photofit and he was called Billy.
A young officer, DC John FIELD and his partner DC Brian BUNTING were tasked with visiting the address, with only that limited information available to them and a copy of the photofit in hand, they knocked on the door of the address they had been given. The occupant came to the door and the officers asked about Billy. William Thomas HUGHES came to the door to see the officers without any problems and left with them to ‘help with their enquiries’. The officers were amazed at how much Billy resembled the photofit. Whilst Billy remained at the Police station under the watch of DC Field, officers feverishly carried on with more enquiries.
Subsequently, Billy was arrested. When interviewed by DC BUNTING and WDC Ann WAIN, Billy denied committing the offences but stated the attack on the young man was in self defence and the act of sexual intercourse with the young lady was consensual.
Parts from a photofit kit
Billy was charged with the offences of Grievous Bodily Harm and Rape.
On the morning after his arrest, 3rd September 1976, Billy appeared before Chesterfield Magistrates Court and he was remanded in custody and sent to HMP Leicester.
The threat or risk that Billy posed was not, according to the Prison Service, passed on to them, an issue disputed by the Police. Billy, so say the Police was identified as being an escape risk, a violent offender and a suicide risk. Subsequently, Billy appeared at Chesterfield Magistrates Court regularly. Before the introduction of video hearings became commonplace, it was usual for prisoners to be brought from the prison, where they were held on remand, to the relevant court, who then made the decision whether to remand them further.
During his incarceration at Leicester, Billy worked in the kitchens. He appeared to be a compliant prisoner and caused little or no problems. He regularly attended the Magistrates Court at Chesterfield and became familiar with the route.
On 3rd December 1976, the prison reported that a knife had gone missing from the prison kitchens. Billy had already left to attend court and was therefore questioned and searched on his arrival at the court building in Chesterfield. The knife was not found either with Billy or back at the prison.
There was to be a committal of the serious assault and the rape, from the Magistrates Court to the Crown Court in Derby. There were two ways of achieving this, either the committal was presented as a ‘paper committal' and the Magistrates decided if there was sufficient evidence to commit the matter to the Crown Court based on the written evidence or there was an ‘old style committal’. In this type of procedure there would be a hearing at the Magistrates Court and live evidence heard i.e. the witnesses had to attend to give their evidence in person. At first Billy agreed to a ‘paper committal' but then changed his mind and wanted an ‘old style’ instead. On the day of the ‘old style committal’, the witnesses, in particular the young couple who had been so seriously offended against, were in attendance. Billy changed his mind again, he would accept a paper committal after all. This had caused a delay in committing Billy to the Crown Court but it had given him the opportunity to become very familiar with the route from Leicester to Chesterfield.
After a few more appearances at the Magistrates Court the matter was ready for that paper committal. Billy’s last appearance at Chesterfield Magistrates Court was to be on Wednesday 12th January 1977.
1970's : Chesterfield Magistrates Court
The Mintons and The Morans
In 1969 Northend Farm, Eastmoor just outside Chesterfield in Derbyshire, was purchased and occupied by the MINTONs and the MORANs. Amy and Arthur MINTON, an elderly couple, had been married since 1932. Their daughter, Gill MORAN, lived there too with her husband, Richard and their 10 year old daughter, Sarah. Richard and Gill were overjoyed when they adopted Sarah when she was very young. She made their family complete.
They were a close family and were happy in each other's company and seemed settled in their home on the moors. The farm was renamed, the metal sign outside said ‘Pottery Cottage’. The building had two living areas, allowing Arthur and Amy some privacy but the close knit family were, in effect, all under the same roof and they all enjoyed being together.
They were friends with the neighbours, Len and Joyce NEWMAN. They helped each other out with simple things, like Amy taking in the milk for the NEWMANs so it wasn’t on the doorstep all day whilst they were at work.
In 1977, Arthur and Amy were retired, Richard worked at Brett Plastics in Staveley, a small town north east of Chesterfield. Gill worked as a secretary in an accountant’s office, whilst Sarah attended a local school.
The date was Wednesday 12th January 1977, William Thomas HUGHES was being conveyed from HMP Leicester, where he was on remand for offences of rape and grievous bodily harm, to Chesterfield Magistrates Court in Derbyshire, England. HUGHES was being taken by taxi, a regular occurrence in those days, particularly if there was only one prisoner that needed to be transported from prison to court.
The taxi driver was David REYNOLDS, a married man with children and in his 30’s.
There were 2 prison officers acting as escorts, Don SPRINTALL, was responsible for the handcuffs, the keys and the paperwork pertaining to HUGHES transfer. Handcuffed to HUGHES was Ken SIMMONDS. Both officers were family men in their 40’s.
In the taxi SPRINTALL sat in the front nearside passenger seat, REYNOLDS was the driver. In the rear nearside seat was Billy and handcuffed by his right wrist to the left wrist of SIMMONDS, who sat in the rear offside seat. The journey commenced there was nothing unusual and they all chatted. Billy had never caused any problems before when being transported so why worry? They made their way north on the M1 motorway, the quickest route between the prison and the court. The weather was inclement, it was cold and snowing.
As the taxi approached the service area at Trowell, Nottinghamshire, Billy asked to stop and use the toilet. The officers said this wasn’t possible and he would have to wait until he arrived at court. But Billy said he couldn’t wait that long and if he wasn't allowed to stop at the services to use the facilities he would likely soil himself in the car. So the decision was made to stop and allow Billy to visit the toilets.
The services were quiet and SPRINTALL and SIMMONDS escorted Billy from the taxi to the toilets. The handcuffs were removed and Billy entered the cubicle keeping the door slightly ajar. The handcuffs were reapplied once Billy emerged and they returned to the taxi and sat in their original places. They set off from Trowell services pulled back onto the motorway and carried on with their journey, they had approximately 24 miles left to travel.
At junction 29 of the M1 motorway, the taxi moved on to the slip road to exit the motorway. As it did so, Billy rocked forward, produced a knife and slashed SPRINTALL’s neck, he then quickly turned on SIMMONDS and slit his throat and caused lacerations to his hand. He forced SIMMONDS to the floor in the rear of the taxi and ordered SPRINTALL to get into the rear on top of him. The keys were used to release Billy from the handcuffs and the officers were cuffed together. Billy climbed into the front passenger seat and told REYNOLDS to drive.
The vehicle made its way toward Chesterfield and drove through the town leaving on the A632 toward an area known as Stone Edge, high on the moors. Billy ordered REYNOLDS to pull over just prior to the turning onto the B5057 towards the area of Beeley Moor, one of the high points in the county and where the weather was even bleaker than down in the town. It was bitterly cold and the snow continued to fall. Billy demanded the taxi be stopped on the left hand side of the road and he compelled the three men to get out of the vehicle. The two prison officers were seriously wounded, they were helped by REYNOLDS. With Billy now alone in the taxi he abandoned them and drove off.
Billy’s journey driving the car was a short one, whether it was because of the appalling weather conditions or just that he was in such a heightened state of anxiety, he crashed the car. Finding that the vehicle was no longer driveable he made his way on to the moor, over the part of the moor known as Hell Bank Plantation. He was wearing a suit and shirt, his court attire, not suitable for walking in such wintry conditions.
The properties on Beeley Moor are few and far between but there are some dwellings and farms scattered across the vast unwelcoming moorland.
The Taxi Occupants Are Found.
REYNOLDS, being the only one of the three men that was uninjured and mobile drew the attention of passing motorists. Several cars stopped, the first was a sports car driven by Michael JILAVU, a chef from the Red Lion Public House, just a short drive from where the men had been ejected from the taxi. As Michael had a very small car he couldn’t take the three as passengers. He left the men by the road and drove the few hundred yards to his place of work where he raised the alarm. An emergency call was made from the pub and logged at 0956 alerting the authorities to what had happened. A GPO Land Rover also stopped and its occupants, George McCLYMONT and Mark FISHER, administered First Aid and cut the handcuffs from SPRINTALL and SIMMONDS. REYNOLDS and McCLYMONT left in the Land Rover to visit Chesterfield Police Station and tell them of the hijack and escape. A Hillman Hunter motor car and a Severn Trent van were amongst those that stopped on the snowy moor to offer assistance.
Once alerted the Police started to search the area, they found the crashed taxi at 1023. The ambulance came to take the seriously wounded prison officers to Chesterfield Royal Hospital where they both underwent emergency surgery.
Where is Billy?
So the question arose where was Billy heading to? Blackpool to his wife and family? As a precaution, Lancashire police took Jean and the children to a safe house for their own protection.
It was left to the Senior Officers to put together a strategy for searching the area and to deal with the media who by now were aware of the dangerous man on the run.
Billy walked across the moorland from Beeley Moor on to Eastmoor. The terrain and the weather conditions must have made this a difficult task. Some 3 miles away from where he crashed the taxi, he saw a row of cottages by the side of the road, the A619 Baslow Road. No doubt he was cold and weary. He entered the garden of the last cottage on the Baslow side of the row, he found two axes in the garden and took them as he made his way toward the end cottage, Pottery Cottage, the home of the MINTONs and the MORANs.
The scene: Pottery Cottage
The door to the cottage was closed but unlocked, in the kitchen Amy was preparing vegetables. Billy walked straight in. Arthur came into the kitchen and Billy knocked him to the floor. Billy demanded to be shown around the house and also that he be provided with dry, clean and warm clothes, He was given some of their son-in-law, Richard’s clothing. Eventually, Gill arrived home by car and she was added to the growing number of hostages. Shortly afterwards Sarah arrived home from school. So she wouldn’t be frightened or alarmed, her mother told her that Billy’s car had broken down and he was seeking help by using their telephone. Richard arrived home and now all the family were trapped in the house with Billy.
They were tied up to prevent their escape. Arthur and Sarah were taken by Billy into the MINTON’S part of the house. Arthur was placed in a room away from the rest of the family. Sarah was also taken alone to another room away from the comfort and reassurance of her parents. During those first hours, a number of telephone calls were made to the house by friends who were aware that a prisoner had escaped and may still be anywhere on the moors. Gill was taken by Billy to answer the phone and answer the calls but she never gave Billy away, no doubt too frightened for the safety of her family should she alert anyone.
During the rest of that Wednesday night and the following days, Thursday 13th and Friday 14th January, Billy held the family in the confines of Pottery Cottage. At times Gill was allowed to leave the house and drive to the shops to buy newspapers and cigarettes and find out what police activity there was. She did not raise the alarm, too frightened as to what may happen to her loved ones should she give Billy up.
There were visitors to the house, men to empty the septic tank but the Morans never let on what situation they were in. If they remained compliant, perhaps Billy would eventually leave them and go on his way, that would be such a relief. They lived in hope that this would be the outcome.
Arthur remained in one room, away from the rest of his family. He had had his right leg amputated in the 1930’s and wore a prosthetic limb. This was removed and taken from him. Young Sarah was also kept in another separate room, which was particularly difficult for Gill, Richard and Amy. But over those days Billy had Amy and Gill cook meals and make cups of tea for all of them, Billy would take the food and drink into the other rooms of the house so that its occupants could be fed and watered.
On the Thursday evening after a meal had been cooked and eaten by Richard, Gill, Amy and Billy, they drank whisky. Meals were taken by Billy to feed Arthur and Sarah who remained elsewhere in the house. Again there were phone calls from friends but they were not alerted to the family’s ordeal.
On Friday 14th January, Billy dictated a list of items he wanted, it included a camp stove, a saucepan, tinned food, a can opener, drinks and cigarettes. Richard and Gill left in their car after shovelling snow from the drive. They were allowed to leave and Billy remained at their home. They went to the shops to buy what Billy had requested, they talked about whether they should tell the Police where Billy was but decided against it as they feared such action would lead to serious consequences and their family would be hurt….or worse.
On Friday evening, Billy went with Richard and Gill to the company where Richard worked to steal money ready for when he fled. Richard was spotted by the security guard at the company and questioned but once again he kept his silence and Billy remained safe within their company. Billy now had money in his pocket, the three of them returned to Pottery Cottage.
Shortly after their return, Billy was going to the car but he insisted Gill go with him. Surely this was the end of the ordeal for the family, they would all be free to carry on with life. She agreed to accompany him. They got as far as the Queen’s Park traffic island in Chesterfield but then Billy said he had forgotten some maps that he needed and they had to return to Pottery Cottage. Gill pleaded with him to carry on, they could follow the road signs or buy a map. He ignored her and they returned to Pottery Cottage. Gill was told to stay in the car and Billy entered the house. He was quite some time so Gill turned the car around on the drive and switched off the engine perhaps to preserve the fuel.
When Billy came out of the house he was cross that the car wasn’t still running and even more cross that he couldn’t get it started. He told Gill to get help from the NEWMANs at the neighbouring cottage. Initially, she refused as she didn’t want anyone else involved. But after trying to flag cars down on the road in an effort to get help, Gill went and knocked on their door. She spoke to Len, she then revealed that the ‘man from the moors’ as described in the media was with her. She explained he was in the car and they needed a tow off the drive. Len got ready to face the harsh winter weather outside but then he saw Amy staggering around in the garden, clearly injured. The NEWMAN’s decided to get help and they got in their car and drove off.
On returning to the car, Billy suspected that Gill had told the neighbours that he was there and that’s the reason they had left, she denied this. Gill then saw Amy as she staggered in the garden. Billy went to her and took her back to the house, out of sight. On his return, clearly Gill was distraught that she had seen her Mum who was obviously in need of help. Billy then took hold of Gill and started to walk towards The Highwayman pub just a few hundred yards up the road from the cottages. He pushed her to the frozen ground whenever they saw lights of an oncoming vehicle.
They passed the pub to the houses beyond and when asked about the residents of a particular house, Gill confirmed it was occupied by a mechanic and his wife. Billy decided to seek help from them. The mechanic’s wife answered the door when Gill knocked and called to her husband to help as Gill and her strange companion had broken down in the car and wanted a tow. Gill mouthed to her ‘Help me’ as they left to make their way to her husband’s tow truck.
Unnerved by the encounter, the mechanic’s wife went to her nearest neighbour. In the meantime, Billy and Gill sat in the truck with the mechanic as their driver and drove down to Pottery Cottage. After a number of attempts, the car was on the road and Billy and Gill drove off in the direction of Baslow. By now, the mechanic had put two and two together and knew that something was very wrong given the situation he had been faced with. As he drove home back along the Baslow Road he saw police officers and their cars all mustering in the car park at the Highwayman Public House. He stopped to tell them what had happened and the direction of travel of the car containing Gill and Billy.
By now a number of the MORAN’s nearest neighbours were aware that Gill and her family were in a dire situation and they had separately called the police resulting in the mustering at the pub.
The Police Pursuit of Billy.
Officers had arrived at The Highwayman public house and some officers were deployed to Pottery Cottage, obviously not knowing what they would find.
In the meantime Billy and Gill had left in the car driving towards Baslow.
The officer, now Dc Chris McCARTHY, who had taken the young man’s report of a serious injury to him and reported the fact his girlfriend was missing back in August 1976, was now at the Highwayman pub. A car with Regional Crime Squad officers, Detective Inspector Geoff COOPER, Detective Sergeant Brian SLACK and Detective Constable Bob Meek, also arrived at the pub. Chris jumped into the back seat and they all set off in the unmarked Morris Marina in the direction Billy had taken.
Billy was driving and a terrified Gill sat beside him drinking from a whisky bottle. The officers in the unmarked car were right behind them. They tried to stop the car but Billy drove on erratically. The officers were giving a commentary of their location and the manner of driving of the car they were pursuing but were not receiving any return communication. DI COOPER made the decision to drop off DC MEEK at ‘The Wanted’ public house in Sparrowpit to ring the Police Headquarters and tell them what was happening. Unbeknown to the officers in the car the commentary was indeed being received by those officers and staff back at the Headquarters. The Operations Room staff were indeed able to warn other officers of Billy’s location.
As the car headed along the A623 at high speed and took a turn towards the Manchester direction. The officers had overtaken Billy in their unmarked Marina and parked it across the road partly blocking Billy’s path. But Billy did not stop and forced the officers to get out of the roadway and Billy drove on.
Again they pursued Billy and some minutes later Billy lost control and crashed the car into a dry stone wall. DI COOPER tried to open the passenger door as Gill sat there in absolute terror, Billy holding a knife to her throat. Billy told the officer to back off. Knowing there was a police Range Rover nearby, COOPER told Billy to take the Marina, having disabled the radio so that Billy could not monitor police transmissions. Billy and Gill made their way to the unmarked police car and drove off. The Range Rover was summoned and the three officers got in and followed.
Chief Inspector Peter HOWSE, the Sub Divisional Commander of Buxton South division had previously taken a pivotal role in the search for HUGHES. He had been alerted to the pursuit and he was driven toward the action.
Rainow: Aerial view
Billy drove out of Derbyshire and into Cheshire, along narrow and winding country roads. Cheshire police had been made aware that the chase was headed in their direction. PC Eric Harris was in a small village, Rainow, just over the county border into Cheshire. The vehicle with its violent escaped prisoner and its terrified hostage were heading towards him. It was around 2200 by now and a bus had just pulled up on the main road through Rainow. PC Harris wasted no time, he got everyone off the bus and housed them in the Post Office. The bus was then parked across the carriageway blocking the road. As Billy entered Rainow, he saw the bus ahead of him, he swerved and the car carrying him and Gill crashed into the wall of Elmwood House.
For a moment there was silence then reality kicked in. Billy and Gill were still in the car, he threatened her with an axe, raising it above his head. C/Insp HOWSE was now on scene and tried to negotiate with Billy. Billy wanted a car, a police hat, cigarettes and a pair of size 8 shoes, amongst other things. Apparently, when Billy had crashed Gill’s car, his feet had been trapped under the pedals. He obviously managed to get out but left his shoes behind hence the request for a pair of shoes. So time went on, Billy and Gill remained in the car and HOWSE talked to Billy trying to persuade him to give up.
Recently arrived at the scene were two other officers DC Alan NICHOLLS and DS Frank PELL, both carrying handguns. They positioned themselves near the car without Billy seeing them, then as he raised the axe and wielded it over the head of Gill who was clearly petrified and crying, PELL fired a shot which broke the rear window, further shots rang out fired by both officers, first PELL and then NICHOLLS.
Billy was dead. Gill was taken from the car, placed in an ambulance and taken from the scene.
Escape vehicle: STOPPED!
Back at Pottery Cottage.
Whilst the police had been in pursuit of Billy, other officers had arrived at Pottery Cottage. They didn’t know what to expect. One of them broke a window and then let other officers into the house. There was music coming from upstairs, but a stillness about the place. The flexes from the kitchen items had been cut off, the kettle, the toaster and the like. As the officers slowly made their way around the house, they found the body of Richard on the first floor landing. He had been stabbed to death. A systematic search revealed the bodies of Arthur and Sarah, both stabbed and clearly they had been dead for some time. It was all a charade that Billy had repeatedly taken food and drink into Arthur and Sarah for them to consume. They were already dead. They had been bound with the flexes from the kitchen appliances.
A search outside the property revealed the bloodied body of Amy in the garden and covered in snow.
The siege at Pottery Cottage was over and from this close knit family only one member had survived, Gill who had been taken hostage by Billy on his dash for freedom. The case is heartbreaking and clearly the officers who spoke to us and contributed to the podcast series, were still, after all these years later, moved by the events of those days of terror in January 1977.
DC Nicholls: Commemorative plaque
After the siege of Pottery Cottage.
Billy HUGHES was to be buried in the cemetery in the last place he had called home, Boythorpe, Chesterfield. But there was a protest by local people who did not want him to be buried within their community. He was subsequently cremated in a ceremony attended by his wife Jean at a crematorium in Brimington, just a short drive from Chesterfield.
The house, Pottery Cottage, was eventually sold and renamed, future occupiers aware of it's history.
Gill remarried in December 1978 and she and her husband had a daughter born to them the following year.
The officers who were involved still reflect upon the time when Billy HUGHES came to the area they policed and have vivid recollections of events. As for DC Nicholls, now deceased, he is remembered by a commemorative plaque in the reception of the Derbyshire Police Headquarters, remembered for his bravery that night.
Sadly in 1998, Billy’s wife, Jean, took her own life.
Sequence of events:
1: Drives on the Chesterfield to Matlock road
2: Hughes kicks the 2 Prison officers and taxi driver out of the car
3: The Red Lion Public House (Now called Peak Edge Hotel)
4: Hughes loses control and crashes the car
5: Makes his way over the moor to Eastmoor and Pottery Cottage
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