NOTORIOUS murderer Albert Dryden has died in a North-East care home, The Northern Echo can reveal.

The 78-year-old, who suffered from a stroke, and was no longer able to speak, died in a County Durham residential centre on Saturday morning.

He was released from prison last October after serving 26 years of a life sentence for shooting dead a planning officer in front of television cameras and press photographers.

Principal planning officer Harry Collinson, 46, of Neville's Cross, Durham, was killed by Dryden on June 20, 1991, as went to oversee the demolition of an illegally-built bungalow at Butsfield, near Consett.

The Northern Echo:

Albert Dryden outside his bungalow at Butsfield, near Consett, which he built without planning consent

Dryden drew a First World War gun and shot him at point-blank range on June 20, 1991, before wounding police officer Stephen Campbell in the buttock and reporter Tony Belmont in the arm.

The former Consett steelworker had previously been refused parole, because he had shown had no remorse, but he was released from prison on compassionate grounds.

Dryden had built his bungalow in a hollow, wrongly believing he would not need planning permission, and became embroiled in a long-running dispute with Derwentside District Council.

Durham County Councillor Alex Watson, who served as leader of the district council at the time said: "You cannot excuse him for what he did, but he was a proud man and all he wanted was to build his house and live in the countryside on his own and not harm anybody.

“It was not planned, but the way he saw it, he was defending his castle.

“It was said that he was not remorseful about killing Harry Collinson but he was. I know that having seen him and it was good to see him before he died.

“He was just a man who wanted to get on with his hobbies. He was obsessed with weapons from that era and that was the way he was. He did not mean anyone any harm.

“In defending his home he had committed murder and he was given a life sentence. I know you cannot bring Harry back. It is a difficult one.

“He asked to see me about three weeks ago. He asked a friend to get me to see him so I went. I had not previously.

“It was a facial expression that gave that showed he was regretful. He could not talk. It was in his eyes.

“I went through photographs with him. In his own way he expressed his regret. He has paid the penalty now. I think he was trying to make his peace."

Mr Collinson's older brother, Roy, told The Northern Echo: “Whenever he went up in front of the probation service he never showed one bit of remorse.

“I had letters sent to me by Albert Dryden, which he had no business to do but he still did, and he tried to justify it by blaming everyone else. He tried to blame the solicitors, the police and various other things.

“In every letter without exception, he tried to pass the blame on to someone else.

"They were written in his own hand.

“It was the ravings of a madman.

“If Alex Watson had been a bit livelier and the planning committee had had the job done properly and not put it on to my brother we would have none of this.

“He murdered a defenceless man. I get mad when people start making excuses for him, that he just an old man with white hair and a beard. He was a bloody murderer. The man was crackers all his life.” 

He added: “Good riddance, I hope this is the end of it. I know it won’t ever be for Harry’s family. But I hope it is for me. I wish I had never heard of Albert Dryden.

“I cannot say I am sorry, because I am not sorry. I am bloody pleased. It is the best news I have had all day.”