One police officer said Reg Wilson would have killed again had he not been caught. Graeme Hetherington reports

REG WILSON believed he had a plan to commit the perfect crime when he selected his victim after being attracted by a medieval skull in his front window.

The skull belonged to Dr David Birkett and had been placed in the window as a Christmas joke.

It had a sprig of holly sprouting from a hole in the top.

Dr Birkett, a noted skin specialist and respected palaeontologist, had owned the ornamental Norman skull for some years.

He was interested in it as an early example of primitive surgery.

The doctor had no idea the skull would catch the eye of a psychopath looking to select a victim at random for the "perfect" murder.

Reg Wilson's plan was simple. First, randomly pick a stranger. Then batter the victim to death where there were no witnesses and nothing to connect him with the crime.

Wilson, a physical fitness and survival enthusiast, came up with a scheme to get through security-conscious Dr Birkett's front door.

He posed as a motorcycle courier wearing a crash helmet. It had the advantage of hiding his features, especially a distinctive tattoo of a serpent on his face.

On the afternoon of February 3, 1990, Wilson went to the doctor's house and dropped a note through the door saying the courier company had a parcel for him, asking him to ring to arrange delivery.

So when a helmeted figure turned up on his doorstep, Dr Birkett was quite at ease. Wilson stepped into the hall behind him, raised a hammer wrapped in a carrier bag and brought the weapon crashing down, smashing the doctor's skull.

That first blow would have been enough to knock Dr Birkett unconscious. A further 16 blows were delivered, some in the hall and some in the study.

Wilson, as part of his planning and using his detailed knowledge of forensic science, had taken a cord to drag Dr Birkett's body with, to avoid contact between his clothing and that of his victim, preventing telltale fibres being transferred.

It is believed he may have searched the house for the skull before he turned over the body and inflicted the last of the blows around the doctor's left eye.

By accident or design, it left the doctor with almost identical injuries to those on the medieval skull.

Wilson was arrested months later when a single fingerprint, which was found at the murder scene despite his meticulous planning, matched those tying him to the theft of a motorbike.

The crazed killer, described as a psychopath at his trial, had compiled a hitlist of targets and collected an armoury of weapons.

During his trial at Durham Crown Court, Wilson showed no emotion for the murder, in Cornfield Road, Linthorpe, Middlesbrough.

He had taunted the investigating officers with graphic details of the injuries the doctor suffered and said the murder had given him a "buzz better than smack (heroin)".

Once he was arrested, the subsequent police investigation uncovered some of the most alarming aspects of Wilson's depraved mind.

At his home in Riverdale Court, Whinney Banks, Middlesbrough, detectives found a list of names and addresses of leading Cleveland police officers, including then Deputy Chief Constable Jack Ord.

They also found a cache of firearms, including a sawn-off shotgun and crossbows. There was also a detailed strategy for luring police officers to their deaths.

During the five-month hunt for Wilson, led by Detective Chief Inspector Brian Leonard, Wilson sent police a letter and poem describing his hatred of officers and congratulating himself on the murder.

Wilson's jail tariff was set at 18 years and, after the 12 months and 26 days he spent on remand before sentence is taken off, the ruling means the 42-year-old can seek parole next month.

At the time of his imprisonment, Detective Sergeant Ray Morton, who was part of the investigation team, issued a chilling warning: "He set out to kill and did it. If he had not been caught, he would have killed again.

"If he ever gets out I am sure that he will kill again."

Now a Parole Board has to decide whether or not that warning is likely to come true.

If it disagrees with Det Sgt Morton's analysis, Reg Wilson could be on the streets within weeks.