Howard Hughes – Child killer
Howard Hughes (born 1965 in Llandudno, Conwy, Wales) is a convicted child murderer.
Howard Hughes was born in Llandudno, North Wales, in 1965, the youngest of four children born to Gerald and Renee Hughes. He had three older sisters, and his father was a wealthy businessman who ran a construction firm. He was born with a genetic disorder which caused him to grow at an abnormally quick rate, and on starting primary school in 1969 he quickly gained a reputation for being aggressive with other pupils. He was expelled from several primary and secondary schools for violent attacks on other pupils, and at one stage his father offered the headteacher of one private school double fees to keep him on, but the headteacher refused to allow Howard to remain at the school.
Hughes would regularly play truant from school, where he and other tearaways would steal items including bicycles from garden sheds. He would sell stolen bicycles from the garden of the family home. When his parents divorced, he moved into his mother’s house.
Hughes came to the attention of police in 1981, when at the age of 16 he was arrested for strangling a seven-year-old boy so fiercely that he was rendered unconscious and had to go to hospital. He was convicted of assault, and placed onprobation.
After leaving home, he moved into a flat in Llandudno and began a lengthy feud with his female next-door neighbour. He would peer over the fence when she was sunbathing, threatened to ‘blow her head off’ with a gun, and regularly played loud music. In 1985, Hughes was briefly admitted to a mental hospital in Northamptonshire but failed to make any real progress. According to a friend, he continued to walk the streets of Llandudno and look up girls’ skirts while standing below a footbridge, as well as peering into the dormitory at an all-girls boarding school. In 1987, he was charged with raping a 14-year-old girl but the case collapsed due to a lack of evidence. By this stage, the local schoolchildren had given him the nickname “Mad Howard”.
Murder of Sophie Hook
In July 1995 Hughes was arrested for the murder of Sophie Hook, a 7-year-old girl who was abducted from a tent in her uncle’s garden. Sophie was visiting Llandudno with her family to celebrate the ninth birthday of one of her cousins with a barbecue and garden party.
Allegedly, although he has always vehemently denied this, Hughes observed her from an adjacent bridle path. A thick hedge obscured him from view. From this vantage point he could easily have heard the family’s conversations.
Howard Hughes went on trial at Chester Crown Court on 24 June 1996, charged with abduction, rape and murder.
The jury heard no forensic evidence which linked Hughes to the death of Sophie Hook, but they received valuable information from three witnesses. Hughes’s father Gerald told the jury that his son had admitted the murder to him shortly after he was arrested and being held in custody at a local police station (although Hughes himself has always denied that any such confession took place). Jonathan Carroll, a 30-year-old thief who was in prison at the time he testified, told the jury that he had seen Hughes carrying a hessian sack along a Llandudno street on the night of Sophie’s murder, and that he had caught a glimpse of a naked body in the sack. A third witness, convicted child sex offender Michael Guidi, testified that Hughes had boasted to him some time earlier that he would like to ‘rape a girl of 4 or 5’. The jury also heard details of the injuries that Sophie had sustained in the attack, many of which had been inflicted before she died.
On 18 July 1996, the jury returned a guilty verdict on all three charges against Howard Hughes. The 31-year-old was then given three life sentences by trial judge Mr Justice Curtis, who branded Hughes a ‘fiend’ and recommended that he should never be released from prison.
On 5 September 1997, the Court of Appeal gave Howard Hughes leave to appeal against his conviction for the abduction, rape and murder of Sophie Hook. Six months later he sparked further outrage by launching a £50,000 compensationclaim against the Bryn Estyn children’s home, where he claimed he was abused as a child. Two weeks later, the Court of Appeal rejected Hughes’s bid to have his convictions quashed.
Hughes himself has always vehemently protested his innocence. Despite the unanimous ‘guilty’ verdict from the jury at his trial in 1996, there have been some doubts over whether Howard Hughes was actually the murderer ever since he was convicted, largely due to the fact there was nothing more than circumstantial evidence to connect him to the crime at the time of his trial – and no further evidence has turned up since, circumstantial or forensic. This fact did not go unnoticed by local and national press at the time of the murder
Police knew him for years as a violent paedophile, yet no one stopped him stealing an innocent life