Homeowner dies just months after being released from 25-yr sentence for shooting dead council worker on live TV

Albert Dryden shot dead Harry Collinson when his bungalow, which was illegally built, was scheduled to be demolished in Butsfield, County Durham


                            Homeowner dies just months after being released from 25-yr sentence for shooting dead council worker on live TV

A man, who fatally shot a council officer on live television in 1991, has died after he was released from prison in October last year. Albert Dryden shot dead Harry Collinson, with multiple journalists witnessing the crime when his bungalow, which was illegally built, was scheduled to be demolished in Butsfield, County Durham. The elderly man had been serving a life sentence till 2017 but had to be released early and admitted into a care home after he suffered a major stroke while in prison.

According to Alex Watson, his closest friend, he was 77-years-old when he died in County Durham on September 15. Watson also said that Dryden finally showed some guilt over the murder that he committed all those years ago.

The Chronicle interviewed Watson, who used to be the head of the now-inoperative Derwentside District Council, and he said: "I saw Albert a few weeks ago. he couldn't talk. The man was dying, he had no life. He could nod his head and shake his head. He was frustrated and very remorseful. Despite what people have said he was remorseful. It is just tragic all round. He never got a chance to say he was sorry, but you could see the remorse in his eyes."



 

Dryden was a former steelworker and had refused parole before because he did not show any remorse. Harry Collinson had been at the site of the illegally-built home because he was enforcing the demolition of it when Dryden suddenly pulled out a WWI gun and shot the man dead in front of local reporters on June 20, 1991. Aside from shooting 46-year-old Collinson, Dryden wounded Stephen Campbell, a police officer, in the butt and Tony Belmont, a reporter, in the arm. 

The final showdown happened after Dryden was caught up in a dispute with planning officials from the former Derwentside District Council that lasted for a few days before the incident. Dryden had built the home in a hollow, for which he thought he would not have to get planning permission from the council. The council refused to grant him the permission regardless. He spent all his redundancy money on the one-acre plot a few miles from the town of Consett. He named the bungalow Maryland Close.

Dryden had put up two greenhouses, a shed, an archway at the gated entrance, and also parked a caravan on the land. The elderly man had also hired a digger and dug out more than 2,000 tonnes of earth from close to the fence with the road. He built the bungalow into the hole and essentially made a screening mound around it with all the dirt. Dryden did not have planning permission for the home but all he wanted to do was restore American cars, grow vegetables, and keep livestock.

The Derwentside District Council, which was abolished in County Durham's local government reshuffle two years ago, refused to grant him the approval in a rural area that was predominantly made up of standard farms. The council had wanted to create a more tourist-friendly area and had been worried, for this reason, that Dryden's bungalow had represented a situation that would cause others in the area to also construct on land where they would normally not be allowed to.



 

Dryden lost the planning appeal to keep the home even though the Government inspector who had been the chair of the hearing said that buildings that had been in the area for a long time could remain as they were. The debate lasted for several months and the council finally tried to reach a compromise so that the bungalow would not have to be demolished. The final suggestion was that Dryden convert the building into a barn to keep his livestock but he rejected the idea. The council members finally decided that demolition was the only option and a date was set for June 20, 1991.

On the scheduled day, local media congregated on Dryden's land along with his friends and supporters from the area. He had a letter from the Planning Inspectorate which he had attached to the gate of his property. The letter indicated that no action could be taken against the property until an appeal had been heard in court. The letter gave Dryden the assumption that the council had been breaking the law even though he had no grounds for the appeal.

Collinson approached the gate, took one look at the letter, and told Dryden that it did not have anything significant in it to stop the demolition from taking place. Dryden then threateningly replied that "you might not be around to see the outcome of this disaster". The planning official then told Dryden that he would be given time to move his stuff out of the building and he then went and stood next to a point where the bulldozer was supposed to go through.

Dryden furiously went to his caravan, picked up the revolver, and went back to the fence where he aimed the weapon at Collinson whose last words were: "Can you get a shot of this gun?" to the TV crew present there. The disgruntled homeowner shot Collinson and then leaped over the fence before shooting him again. He then turned the weapon on the group of fleeing people. He had been hoping to shoot the council's solicitor, Mike Dunstan, but instead injured Belmont and PC Campbell.

  

Dryden went back to the ditch where Collinson was lying after being shot twice already and shot him in the chest and then the face. A search that was conducted on the property later found multiple weapons that included ten handguns, fifteen rifles, three shotguns, and two homemade mortars. An investigation that was conducted later revealed that Dryden and Collinson had initially been friends, with the planning official visiting Dryden regularly to give him advice.

Dryden, however, had started becoming increasingly more threatening towards council employees and this is what is said to have caused a rift between the two. He denied the murder initially but had been convicted after a trial and was jailed for life at the Newcastle Crown Court in 1992. In 2001, he was denied parole after it was revealed that he showed little remorse for what he had done.