Howard Hughes – Child killer

Howard Hughes (born 1965 in LlandudnoConwyWales) is a convicted child murderer.

Howard Hughes was born in LlandudnoNorth 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

July 1996

Police knew him for years as a violent paedophile, yet no one stopped him stealing an innocent life

Howard Hughes Paedophile

Police in north Wales knew for many years about the paedophilic and violent tendencies of Howard Hughes, it emerged yesterday after he was jailed for life for the savage double rape and murder of seven-year- old Sophie Hook. Hughes’s record dates back to his mid-teens when he was arrested after attempting to assault a boy indecently and then strangle him.

Social services officials in north Wales yesterday argued that his subsequent conviction and suspended sentence for assault – a Schedule One offence – meant police should have entered his name on a warning register and alerted the children’s agencies.

However, a north Wales police spokeswoman said last night that criticism from the social services staff made little sense when Howard Hughes had been known to social services from an early age. She said that the police had had a good working relationship with social services, and that arrangements for working with other agencies had been tightened up across the country since 1981.

North Wales police are understood, however, to have interpreted the definition of Schedule One narrowly, applying it only to sex offenders.

After Hughes was found guilty, the judge at Chester Crown Court yesterday called for a change in the law to protect society against men like him. Recommending that Hughes should never be released, Mr Justice Curtis saidthat the country needed a statutory system of supervision and control. “Your crimes are every parent’s nightmare. No girl is, or ever will be, safe from you.”

The Home Office said later that the judge’s recommendation about tighter supervision for paedophiles had already been addressed in a consultant document launched last month when Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, announced preliminary plans to set up a register of sex offenders.

Hughes had been the subject of complaint from various sources over the years. Among them, the Independent has learned, was the Llwyn Onn children’s home in Colwyn Bay who told police that Hughes had contacted one of their boy residents. The boy had previously been a resident at Bryn Estyn, the children’s home at the centre of the Clwyd child abuse scandal, where he had beenabused. Hughes himself spent 13 days in Bryn Estyn on the way to treatment at St Andrew’s Hospital, Northampton, under the Mental Health Act.

“Social work staff were very worried about Hughes, who was hanging around the home,” a senior social services source said yesterday. “They went to the police, who could have arrested him.” Police did issue a warning, through their child protection team, last year, shortly before Sophie was killed at Llandudno in August.

The social workers argue that the police should have maintained a vigil instead.

In the close-knit community of Colwyn Bay where he grew up, Hughes was known as “Mad Howard”. The son of Rene and Gerald, a successful and well- respected businessman, he had been difficult from an early age and shown signs of emotional insecurity. A chromosomal abnormality had left him exceptionally tall, at 6ft 8ins. Shortly after his 10th birthday he had been sent to a special school for children with behavioural problems in Derbyshire. His parents paid for private tuition, but he was never to gain any qualifications.

Hughes’ peers spoke of his violent tendencies even as a youth. “He was always in fights with people much older than him,” one said. “He was always killing things, like small animals. Everyone knew his reputation – you didn’t mess with him.”

He was obsessed with children. In the mid-Eighties he approached a girl, thought to be 11 or 12, in some woods for sex. In 1993, a 15-year-old alleged she was assaulted by him with intent to rape, and an 11-year-old claimed he spied on her. Last year, two witnesses spoke of indecent suggestions being made to them, and a 15-year-old girl was threatened with rape.

Detective Superintendent Eric Jones confirmed Hughes had been closely watched since 1981, but added: “I have had a look at the papers we have in relation to Howard Hughes and I am quite happy in my own mind that everything that could have been done at various stages was done.”

Malcolm King, policy and resources chairman at Wrexham Borough Council and former chair of Clywd social services, said: “It appears that this person was known to all the agencies in Colwyn Bay for many years and it must give everybody the greatest cause for concern that he had been on the loose for so long. If we dealt with the issue of Schedule One offenders differently, maybe this would not have happened.”