A convicted killer coolly asked someone to call a taxi for him shortly after the murder of a grandfather in nearby Little Gaddesden, police revealed today.
The call came in from Ashridge Business School, less than a mile from the Nettleden Road home where Ian McLoughlin is believed to have murdered Graham Buck, 66.
As McLoughlin got into the taxi and began the next stage of his getaway to Watford, visitors on public tours of the historic Grade II-listed gardens of Ashridge Business School were none the wiser.
Police believe Mr Buck was fatally stabbed on Saturday afternoon while trying to save 87-year-old neighbour Francis Cory-Wright from a vicious robbery.
A post-mortem yesterday found that Mr Buck died of his stab wounds. Cory-Wright was left with minor injuries.
Ian John McLoughlin, 55, who is also known as Ian John Baker, was seen fleeing the scene with a large bundle of £50 and £20 notes.
Today Det Chief Insp Martin Brunning said police have so far had 30 phone calls reporting sightings of the killer ‘from locally to across the UK’.
He said: “I want to make it absolutely clear that if anybody is harbouring Ian McLoughlin or assisting McLoughlin to avoid police, then they will feel the full force of the law.”
The investigation is now focusing around a blue and white checked short-sleeved shirt with a button-down collar that McLoughlin is believed to have been wearing at the time of the murder.
A new CCTV image of him wearing the shirt has been released – which like the previously released images were captured on the security system at Ashridge.
Mr Brunning, who is leading the manhunt to find McLoughlin, said: “I need to know where that shirt is if he’s not wearing it. If he’s still wearing it, it makes him distinctive.”
Mr Brunning thanked the public for their ‘very positive response’ to the police appeal to track down McLoughlin.
He said: “I want those calls to keep coming in, because we have not found him – he has not been arrested yet.”
The forensic investigation into the Little Gaddesden murder has now been narrowed to Cory-Wright’s house itself. It had previously also focused around the public green and the homes around it, including Mr Buck’s.
Mr Brunning said the forensic investigation will go on for a ‘significant proportion of this week’.
In a press conference yesterday, police said McLoughlin’s visit to convicted paedophile Cory-Wright, who was recently released from prison, began ‘cordially’.
McLoughlin was on day release from Springhill Prison in Grendon Underwood, near Aylesbury, where he was 22 years into a sentence for murder.
He was given the sentence for stabbing to death 56-year-old Peter Halls, whose body was found at his Brighton home, in July 1992.
He had previously been given 10 years – shortened to eight years on appeal – for the manslaughter of 49-year-old Londoner Len Delgatty in October 1983.
Police do not yet know how McLoughlin got to Little Gaddesden after his release from Springhill Prison.
> If you see McLoughlin, phone 999 immediately.
> Anyone who can help the police should contact them as soon as possible by calling the non-emergency number 101, quoting Operation Acaria.
> You can also call Crimestoppers, the independent charity, anonymously on 0800 555 111.