Date: 22 Nov 1988
Harry Howell was found dead in his home in Ibbison Court in Blackpool. He had been beaten about the head with a blunt instrument and robbed.
He was last seen on the Guy Fawkes weekend on Saturday 5 November 1988.
His body was found in his chair in the living room of his flat two weeks later on 22 November 1988. It was noted that he had been dead for 17 days. The murder weapon was never found.
His wife had died four weeks earlier.
He had been living in sheltered accommodation for elderly people at the time he was murdered in Ibbison Court and a warden would go round each day to check on the elderly residents. He had previously suffered a stroke that had partly paralysed him, and he was blind in one eye and also slightly deaf.
Shortly after his wife died, his son met him at her funeral and spoke to him about his care and then later took him to the Newgate Cafe in Central Drive, Blackpool, which was very near to where he lived and spoke to a waitress there and explained Harry Howell's situation to her and explained that he would be going there once a day from then on and said that he was to get a proper meal each day, stressing that he wasn't to be eating sandwiches.
Although Harry Howell was elderly and had suffered from a stroke, he was described as being an independent type who enjoyed placing a bet and having a pint and said that he had recently started to drink in The George public house on Central Drive which was around the corner from his home, and the police said that they were interested in speaking to anyone that had seen anyone talking to Harry Howell there. It was also noted that he also drank in the Brunswick in Bonny Street and the Royal Oak in South Shore.
However, it was noted that he used to carry a large amount of money in his wallet and that he would make a point of telling people that he was well off. It was also noted that he had kept his life savings at his flat as he didn't trust banks and that he would often talk about that. However, it was noted that when the police searched Harry Howell's flat they found £2,000 and found another £1,100 on his person indicating that after killing Harry Howell, his murderer had taken his wallet and watch but had not searched him or his flat.
However, the police said that they thought that the motive behind his murder was money.
Harry Howell was last seen by the warden at Ibbison Court at 9.30am on the Saturday 5 November 1988.
An hour later he went to the Newgate Cafe for his breakfast which was then his usual routine.
Whilst there, a waitress said that she remembered serving a well-dressed man there that she hadn't seen before and said that he bought a cup of tea and went and sat at the same table that Harry Howell was sitting at and that they sat there talking for a while. The police said that they were interested in speaking to the well-dressed man. The man was described as:
At about the same time a man went into Burtons Bakery on Central Drive in Blackpool where Harry Howell usually bought a pie each lunchtime and said that he had come in for some meat sandwiches for an old-man that came in there regularly and asked whether the shop assistant knew him. He explained that he wanted meat sandwiches but when he was told that they didn't have any he bought two beef and horseradish sandwiches. The two beef and horseradish sandwiches were later found unopened in their packaging and the Burtons Bakery paper bag they had been put in in Harry Howell's flat. It was noted that the two beef and horseradish sandwiches were the only beef and horseradish sandwiches that the bakery had made and sold on 5 November 1988.
The man that had gone into the bakery was described as having dark hair and the police later released a photofit of him. His full description was:
It was noted that Harry Howell enjoyed speaking to people and that on the Saturday afternoon at about 4pm he met two strangers in Blackpool in the street, a man and woman with two young children who he kept speaking for about 20 minutes. It was noted that he told them that he had no financial worries as he had plenty of money stashed away.
It was noted that Harry Howell didn't mix much with the other people in Ibbison Court and it was not known whether he had spent Guy Fawkes night alone or not.
The following morning the milkman delivered a pint of milk to Harry Howell's flat which was later taken in by someone.
It was noted that the warden used an internal intercom to check on the residents on Sundays and that she said that when she spoke to him on the morning of Sunday 6 November 1988 that he told her that he was fine.
When the warden went round to see the residents on the Monday morning 7 November 1988 she saw that Harry Howell had placed a piece of white card in the window of his front door which it was said was a system that residents used to signify that they had gone out for a while and so she didn't knock and went on about her rounds.
On Tuesday 8 November 1988 the milk man called at about 7.30am and left a pint of milk and noted that the white card was still in the door glass.
Later that day, at about 8.30am, the home help sent by the Social Services went to see Harry Howell and noticed that there was a note on his door addressed to the milk man saying that he was on holiday for two weeks and asking that no milk was delivered. The note read, 'On Holiday for 2 weeks. No Milk Please'. However, it was noted that the milkman who had been there an hour earlier had not seen it. About 30 minutes after the home help had been there the deputy warden passed by on her regular round and she said that she didn't any note on the door.
It was thought that the note had only been on the door for 30 minutes and the police said that there was no indication that Harry Howell had been planning on going on holiday and that it was probable that his murderer had put it there and then removed it shortly after.
It was additionally heard that a window cleaner that came by later that afternoon didn't see a note pinned to Harry Howell's front door either when he washed the glass in Harry Howell's front door and it was not known what had happened to it. The window cleaner said that as he was working that he soon after saw a young man go up to Harry Howell's front door and knock, but said that he didn't get a reply and then walked off. He described the man as:
On Thursday 10 November 1988 the milkman called again and after he saw the pint that he had left on the Tuesday still on the doorstep he thought that Harry Howell had gone away without telling him and so took the bottle of milk away.
It was noted that it wasn't until twelve days later that it was noticed that something was wrong.
It was on Tuesday 22 November 1988 that the window cleaner went round again and whilst he was washing the glass pane in Harry Howell's front door he noticed that the doorframe had been damaged although the door was still firmly locked. The window cleaner said that he became concerned and so wen to the back of the flat and used his ladder to look through the window and saw Harry Howell's body lying in his armchair in his lounge.
It was noted that there was quite a bit of damage to his front door and that it was surprising that no one had noticed it before. However, the police said that whilst it indicated that there had been a burglary, they said that it might have been caused later to cover up for a burglary.
It was noted that quite a few things had been stolen from Harry Howell's flat, including:
Harry Howell had previously worked for British Leyland.
The police later said that his murder was similar to that of Jack Shuttleworth who was murdered in his shed in Ingleton on 3 August 1989 by a man that had won his confidence. However, the main suspect in Jack Shuttleworth's case later hung himself in Armley prison whilst on remand.