“The man in black – black thoughts and the blackest of deeds,”
It was September 1995 and in the UK the Spice Girls had just released their first single ‘Wannabee’. Alan Shearer had became the most expensive footballer with his £15million transfer from Blackburn to Newcastle and Prince Charles and Diana divorced after 15 years of marriage.
In North Wales, John Henry Roberts, 56, was a retired railway worker who lived in a small, isolated farmhouse near Holyhead. Although John didn’t give the appearance of having money, he was actually pretty comfortably off due to a large redundancy payment and family inheritances. John was a nazi paraphanelia enthusiast, with a swaztica flag on the wall of his cottage. A regular at his local pub, after he had not being seen there for three days a friend went to look for him at his cottage. After getting no answer at the door, he looked around the garden where he found John lying face down near an outhouse outside. His trousers were round his ankles and he had been stabbed in each buttock. These were not his only wounds and hadn’t contributed to his death – he was killed by a stab wound directly to his heart. John’s body was covered in stab wounds with fourteen on the front and thirteen on the back suggesting a frenzied attack. John had a pet Labrador dog which was found inside the house. I wonder what happened to his poor dog – poor thing must have been devastated. Hopefully John’s pet went to a good home.
The hunt for the murderer
Leading a major manhunt, Detective Supt Eric Jones admitted police had few clues about a motive for the killing. The whole area was stunned. People who knew Mr Roberts described him as a harmless “village eccentric” who wouldn’t hurt a fly. John was a gay man and privately, investigators suspected a sexual element to his murder as his trousers around his ankles and he had been stabbed in the buttocks. Police noticed that John’s distinctive swastika flag was missing. But they were puzzled at a motive for killing this seemingly gentle man.
A month later, police found another body. Keith Randles, 49 was a divorced father of two daughters who had recently lost his middle management job and had taken a role as a traffic safety officer looking after roadworks on the A5 road to Anglesey. Keith, originally from just across the border with England in Chester, was described as “an ordinary, harmless, conscientious man who had a reputation for shy good humour”. He had been living in a caravan on a compound alongside the A5 at the time of the attack. At about 9.30pm on November 29 he had gone to a fish and chip shop, and that was the last time he had been seen alive. At about 2.45am, a man driving from Holyhead had seen a Ford Transit van near roadworks. When workmen had arrived at the site at 7.30am they found Keith’s body near the caravan.
What was the motive?
Although police suspected a connection to the death of John Roberts they had no leads. Just why would anyone have wanted to kill Keith? Unlike John, Keith wasn’t gay so did this rule out the sexual motive for murder? In that case, was it just an indiscriminate killer, or were there two murderers attacking middle aged men on the loose in north wales in late 1995.
Just two weeks later, police had another dead body. On the evening of 17 December, 35 yr old crematorium worker and father of two Tony Davies, who lived near colwyn bay in north wales with his wife Sheila, told his wife that he was off to see his aunt who had just been discharged from hospital with a broken leg. It was 11pm: By 4.30 am his wife Sheila was concerned enough to call his aunt to find out where her husband had got to and to see if he was planning to come home. When his aunt informed her he had left her home three hours before, sheila was filled with a sense of dread that something was terribly wrong. She was right, it was. After leaving his aunt, Tony drove to Pensarn Beach near Colwyn Bay which was a cruising venue for gay men. Whoever he met there stabbed Tony six times leaving him dying by the waters edge.
Police were baffled. Although he was a married man if Tony was at Pensarn Beach late at night where men actively looked for sex, was there a murderer out there targeting gay men? Was this murder connected to the death of John Roberts and possible even Keith Randles? Did Tony have a secret life unknown to police? At this time, views towards gay men were very different to today and despite their appeals to the gay community, if there were witnesses to this attack they were unwilling to come forward. The police had to do something to attempt to stop the killings and nobody was talking. In desperation, they opened a confidential hotline after the death of Tony Davies aimed at the gay community. Within the first few days one name kept coming up as someone who had been violent towards gay men. One caller even told police he had been taken to his house six months ago and tortured, but hadn’t told anyone what had happened because of the shame. This man was Peter Moore.
Who was Peter Moore?
Peter Moore was born 1940 in St Helen’s, not far from Liverpool. He has lived in Rhyl, north wales, with his mum until her death. She doted on his calling him her ‘miracle son’ as he was born when she was in her 40’s. A tall man with mousy hair and a greying moustasch, to many, Moore was a respected entrepreneur running a chain of local cinemas. He was regarded by the parents as a kindly local businessman who was trying to pump life back into a number of cinemas which he owned in North Wales. These were not modern Multi-Plex theatres, but the old-fashioned “Flea pit” type of Picture House that many of a certain age will remember. Peter Moore was known locally as “the Man in Black” because of his habit of dressing exclusively in black clothing. He said that this is because black outfits are the traditional mode of dress for theatre workers, and this is what he considered himself to be. One local person in north wales described her memories of Peter Moore as follows:
“It was a normal Saturday morning in the early 1990s and in the sleepy North Wales Town of Denbigh, my wife Sharon and I were off to do the weekly shop at the local supermarket. We followed the usual Saturday routine of dropping our kids – a boy and a girl – at the Local cinema “The Futura”. Here the Owner/Manager, a man called Peter Moore ran a Saturday club for children. The kids would be entertained by a matinee children’s film and would be treated to snacks and pop in the cinema’s little snack-bar. Many local parents would drop their kids off into the care of Peter Moore, go off to do their shopping, and pick them up again afterwards. It was an Ideal arrangement. Peter Moore appeared to be an affable and trustworthy businessman – An upstanding member of the community”
But in reality, the 49 year old was a sadistic killer who was targeting men at night. Fascinated with the wartime nazi party, he would go to gay meeting places across north wales in nazi style caps and leather boots with a large knife or truncheon. He thought this gave him the dominating and overbearing appearance he sought to frighten his victims for his own sexual pleasure. Although close to his mother, he shared a strained relationship with his father as an effeminate child, reportedly suffering episodes of bullying and drunken abuse. Years later, as an openly gay man, Moore increasingly looked to exert control, dominating his male staff in his hardware shop and often taking them as lovers. In reality, his private life had a far darker side; from the 1970s until the early 90s, Moore dressed in black and hunted at night, committing scores of sexual assaults on local men around the Conwy Valley. The death of his doting mother in 1994 triggered a horrific escalation of violence as ‘The Man in Black’ turned to murder, ending the lives of 4 men in a matter of months.
Asked whether killing gave him sexual pleasure, Moore replied, “Yes, there is a certain excitement from it. But it certainly wasn’t a sexual excitement…Like everything, it was a job well done.”
When detectives quizzed him on why he had begun killing, Moore said that his mother’s death, followed by the deaths of two dogs, a cat and some koi carp, had pushed him over the edge. “Death literally seemed to be following me,” he said, and the act of killing left him with a feeling of peace. He missed his mother “dreadfully.”
The former Bagillt cinema manager’s killing spree began in 1995 after he became fixated with Jason Voorhees, the fictional murderer in the Friday 13th series of slasher movies. Some detectives suspected that Moore’s violence was caused by anger at his own sexuality, as Moore, who openly admitted he killed for ‘fun’, said he would take pleasure in his encounters with other gay men before attacking them.
Others suspected that is was a mechanism to help him forget other issues in his life . Although Moore was successful, when distributors sent films to multiplexes, he started losing trade. It was even suggested that he killed to forget his financial problems (at least in part).
When detectives turned up at his home on 21 December 1995 they found a whole range of sexual equipment including handcuffs and rubber gags. There was an incongruous mixture of chintz curtains, a pair of fluffy toy kittens on a bed, a Nazi flag, handcuffs and military uniforms. The walls of the living-room inside Darlington House, Moore’s home in St Asaph Avenue, Kinmel Bay, were decorated with strings of Christmas cards. Crackers lay on the sideboard. Two recent copies of the Daily Post were shown both carrying front-page stories on the murder of Tony Davies.
On a shelf in Moore’s bedroom was a police helmet, two German military caps and a pair of long, black boots. Hanging on a cupboard alongside the bed was a truncheon and a sergeant’s uniform hung in the wardrobe
An unrepentant Moore happily confessed, even telling police about the second victim, Edward Carthy, 28, who had not yet been found. Edward was killed a month after the murder of John Roberts when Moore was looking for another victim in a Liverpool gay bar. Edward, from Birkenhead near Liverpool, was a drug addict. Edward wanted Moore to drive him to his home in Birkenhead for sex, but instead Moore drove him to North Wales. When Edward realised that he had met a monster he desperately tried to escape the van while Moore was driving. He was unable to escape and we can only imagine his terror as he pondered what was going to happen to him. I wonder if he realised that Moore planned to kill him? Edward was stabbed four times and buried in dense forest. Moore drew police a diagram locating the body. He sniggered as he told police about the clearly terrified Edward saying, ‘I think he got a bit frightened, actually’.
The Trial: November 1996
At his trial at Mold Crown Court in November 1996, the prosecution said that the nocturnal Peter Moore was one of the most dangerous people ever to have set foot in Wales. Although he was on trial for four murders, , it was claimed that Moore attacked more than 50 other men in what the judge described as “20 years of terror”.
Even his own defence barrister said, Eric Somerset Jones QC said: ”I hold no brief for Moore’s way of life. On his own admission he is a bad man.”
“The man in black – black thoughts and the blackest of deeds,” barrister Alex Carlile QC told a jury as he opened the prosecution case against Moore.
The court heard that John Roberts was just unlucky as his house was located just off Moore’s route home from one of his cinemas. Poor John tried to protest he was not Jewish, as Moore launched 27 blows with a combat knife he had bought a few days earlier for £25.
Keith Randles was also killed purely as he was on the route that Moore took home. He opened the door of his caravan late at night be attacked by Moore, who stabbed him 12 times. Moore said that Keith begged for his life for the sake of his grandchildren, and asked Moore why he was stabbing him. “I just said, Fun! He looked nonplussed. He carried on screaming.” As trophies, Moore took Keith’s video recorder and his mobile phone.
Moore told detectives he had been cruising the area looking for a victim when he saw Tony Davies. Moore saw Tony get out of his car, light a cigarette and walk to the edge of the water. When Moore reached him Tony’s trousers were around his ankles, exposing himself. ‘I just took the knife out and stabbed him’ he said. I think he screamed or shouted a bit.’ Moore killed him with six stabs and blood found on the beach was matched by DNA profile to Moore. When police searched Moore’s home they found items belonging to his victims both in the house and in a garden pond. From Davies, his duffel bag was in the house and his car keys in the fish pond. A knife bearing traces of the blood of a number of men was found in a bag belonging to Moore.
Although he had earlier confessed to the murders, giving evidence Moore claimed the crimes were committed by a homosexual lover he nicknamed “Jason” after the killer in the Friday the 13th horror films. He was obsessed by the films and Jason’s character in particular.
A verdict is reached
The jury of eight men and four women took just two hours thirty-five minutes to find him guilty. Jailing him Mr Justice Maurice Kay said he will recommend that Moore spends the rest of his life behind bars. The judge told Moore: ”You were responsible for four sadistic murders in the space of three months. ”None of the victims had done you the slightest bit of harm. ”At no stage have you shown the slightest remorse or regret for the killings. Nor for the 20 years of terror and violence that preceded them. I consider you to be as dangerous a man as it is possible to find. “I shall have to report to the Secretary of State, advising him of my view as to the earliest date that you should be considered for release. “I don’t want you or anybody else to be in the slightest doubt as to what I shall say. In a word: Never.”
At his trial Moore showed himself to be a vain man. On one occasion, he was told off in court for being insolent and when he was going through the gates into the court he actually posed for the camera. He certainly gave the impression he quite enjoyed being the central figure of it all and being in control.”
Speaking outside court, Edward Carthy’s stepmum Lynne revealed Moore wrote a creepy letter pleading innocence to her daughter Katie Haygarth, before his trial “She was only 14 at the time and he’d written ‘Dear Katie’ like it was a penpal letter. It was frightening.” Lynne said the health of her father, also called Edward, declined rapidly after his son’s murder before dying himself from emphysema 10 years ago. She added: “It killed my dad off. It affected him in every way and he never, ever got over it. It wasn’t just the fact that he was murdered, but the way he was murdered. It wiped him out in the end. He got emphysema through it and couldn’t breathe. He wouldn’t go over the door or bother with anyone.” His wife Beatrice said that the grieving dad had been destroyed by the murder. “My husband was never the same person again. It destroyed him completely. “He went into shock, drew into himself and wouldn’t talk about it. It horrified him. She still vividly recollects her husband’s reaction when police broke the news of how Moore had mutilated his son.There was just absolute silence and he couldn’t talk. He sat in the chair while I rang the police to verify what the police were saying and never said a word.”
Still in the news
In 1999, Moore won nearly £13,000 compensation from a couple he claimed had stolen contents of his home, including garden gnomes. He claimed neighbours Les Bradshaw and Pauline Prydderch abused an offer from him to become caretaker of his property by selling his belongings at car boot sales.
In July 2000 Moore lost his fight to win £160,000 damages from North Wales Police. He accused police of failing to protect his home following his arrest in 1995. But a district judge at Leeds Court – agreed the case should be struck out, on the grounds that Moore had no realistic chance of winning it at trial. He appeared in court flanked by heavy security and did not have legal representation.
During his time in Wakefield Prison Moore befriended Harold Shipman, the serial killer and former GP who hanged himself in January 2004. He was one of the last people to speak to Hyde-based GP Harold Shipman and gave evidence at Shipman’s inquest, after the doctor killed himself following his conviction for murdering elderly patients in the border town.
Moore still appears in the papers now and again. A few years ago he was reported as having died but these accounts turned out to be untrue. He also tried to place an advert in local papers asking for witnesses to come forward to help prove his innocence, but due to the strong feelings of the families of his victims he was blocked. Just this year, a dead male was found close to the location where he buried Edward Carthy and Moore suggested he knew details of the victim, but this doesn’t seem to have progressed.
As we have heard today, Peter Moore fits all the stereotypes for the cold blooded serial killer. Battling confused feelings about his sexuality, this monster dominated men for his sexual gratification before the death of his mother lead him to go further and kill his victims. It is hard to imagine the horror they went through. And like so many others, in the community he was seen as a local businessman. Hundreds of children were left by their trusting parents at his cinema in his care. When news came of his arrest, I wonder how these parents felt?