A DISTURBED lone gunman, innocent victims, an outpouring of grief followed by questions about how such a terrible thing could have occurred. A few days after 58 people were killed by one man in Las Vegas it might be hard for younger readers to appreciate the shock Albert Dryden spread after he killed one man more than 26 years ago.

That a council officer could be murdered while serving an enforcement order made the shooting of Harry Collinson one of the North-East’s most shocking crimes. The mundane setting added to its shock value - things like that simply did not happen in quiet corners of County Durham.

A police officer and a TV reporter were also injured in the incident. The fact that it was captured by reporters, photographers and a camera crew lent the crime an immediacy and power that was rare in those days before the broadcast of terrible incidents via rolling news and the internet blurred the lines between news and entertainment.

Loading article content

There is a risk that over the last quarter of a century we have become increasingly desensitised to the impact of horrific crimes. Nowadays reports of an MP stabbed to death on the street and children at a pop concert murdered by a suicide bomber are part of a seemingly endless cavalcade of terror.

It is hard to know if the Dryden case would still have the same shock value in 2017. It should. 

The release of Dryden from prison will evoke painful memories not just for those close to the victims but for any right-thinking person who read the reports and saw pictures from Butsfield on June 20, 1991. One positive thing to take from those memories is a reminder that it is natural and right to feel traumatised by murder. Lose that and we risk losing a sense of our humanity.