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Man who shot dead council official in front of TV cameras in 1991 has died

Albert Dryden was jailed for life after he gunned down Harry Collinson (PA) Photo: PA Archive/PA Images

A killer who shot dead a planning officer in full view of TV cameras to protect an illegally-built bungalow has died, his childhood friend said.

Albert Dryden was jailed for life after he gunned down Harry Collinson, principal planning officer with Derwentside Council, in Butsfield, County Durham, in June 1991.

The 78-year-old was released from prison in October after suffering a stroke and died in a County Durham care home on Saturday morning, said Alex Watson who was his lifelong friend and also the Derwentside Council leader at the time of the shooting.

Now an Independent Durham County Councillor, Mr Watson said: “He died in a nursing home in Langley Park.

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“I knew Albert all his life, I used to do weightlifting with him.”

Mr Watson said he visited Dryden a few weeks ago and although he could no longer talk, the councillor was sure he felt remorse.

He said: “He had no quality of life, he had suffered a string of strokes, it was awful to see him in such a state.

“Harry had lost his life and the children lost their father, but Albert lost his life as well. He had a burden to carry.”

Mr Watson was not at the site when the shooting happened – something he regretted.

He said: “If I had been there I could have stopped it. People’s lives were shattered.”

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Speaking to the Press Association, Mr Collinson’s older brother, Roy, laughed off suggestions that Dryden had showed any remorse for the killing, describing him as a “bloody murderer”.

Mr Collinson, of Northumberland, said that he had received four letters written by the killer from his prison cell, but described them all as the “ravings of a madman”.

“Not once did he show any remorse, culpability, or regret for what he had done,” he said.

“He looked to blame everyone but himself. At one stage he even tried to blame the vehicles that were going to knock down his house, claiming they were not taxed or something ridiculous like that.

“I get so annoyed when people try to rewrite history, and look at things from a different angle. No excuses can be made for what Albert Dryden did.”

When asked whether Dryden’s death would bring any comfort to his family, Mr Collinson said: “It’s over, but what he has done is going to impact generations of this family to come.

“Good riddance to the man.”

Dryden, a former steelworker, was also convicted of the attempted murder of council solicitor Michael Dunstan and wounding Pc Stephen Campbell and TV journalist Tony Belmont with intent.

During the trial at Newcastle Crown Court in April 1992, the bearded eccentric claimed he was mentally unwell and not responsible for his actions, but this was rejected by the jury.

Dryden served 26 years of a life sentence before he was released because of his ill health.

He had opened fire on Harry Collinson and Mr Dunstan as they led a council operation to demolish the bungalow he built illegally on his country lane smallholding.

After Mr Collinson, a 46-year-old divorced father of two, fell mortally wounded into a ditch, Dryden fired two more shots into his heart and brain.

Footage from the shooting showed journalists and council workers fleeing for their lives, with many taking refuge in ditches to avoid the bullets.

After his conviction Dryden launched an appeal, although it was dismissed after a hearing in 1994.