A convicted killer on day release from the Aylesbury Vale jail where he was serving life is believed to have murdered a grandfather-of-two in Little Gaddesden before fleeing the area in a taxi.
Police are continuing a nationwide manhunt to find Ian John McLoughlin, 55, who is also known as Ian John Baker – but say he may well have left the country already.
They believe he was responsible for the brutal murder of grandfather-of-two Graham Buck, 66, in Little Gaddesden, at about 3.30pm on Saturday afternoon.
Police say he had come to the Nettleden Road home of 87-year-old Francis Cory-Wright, who lives alone and recently finished serving a 30-month sentence for child abuse, to rob him.
They motive was announced at a press briefing at the Welwyn Garden City headquarters of Herts Police this afternoon.
Det Chief Insp Martin Brunning, who is leading the investigation, said: “Mr McLoughlin arrived at the house and for some considerable time there was quite a cordial conversation going on.”
A tradesman arrived to carry out some work at Cory-Wright’s house in the middle of the visit, and stayed for about 30 minutes, Mr Brunning said.
It was after the workman left that Mr Buck, who lived two doors down from Cory-Wright, heard the old man’s cries for help and came to his aid.
But he received fatal stab wounds, while Mr Cory-Wright suffered minor injuries. He was treated in hospital, but has since been released.
McLoughlin was seen fleeing the scene grasping a bundle of £50 and £20 notes, which police believe could add up to thousands of pounds.
Det Chief Supt Jeff Hill said: “Graham Buck went to the aid of a neighbour and has died as a consequence of doing that, which makes this a particularly tragic incident.”
Mr Brunning added: “Mr Buck’s actions were totally selfless and illustrate a deep sense of community spirit, which deserves recognition and respect.”
The pair said that after the murder McLoughlin caught a taxi to Watford from an address in the Little Gaddesden vicinity, which they have not yet confirmed. CCTV images of McLoughlin at that address have been released as part of the appeal for information from the public.
McLoughlin was sentenced to 10 years – shortened to eight years on appeal – for the manslaughter of 49-year-old Londoner Len Delgatty in October 1983.
In July 1992 he was given a life sentence for the murder of 56-year-old Peter Halls, who was found stabbed at his Brighton home.
McLoughlin is 22 years into that sentence, which he was serving at Springhill Prison in Grendon Underwood, near Aylesbury. He was due back there from day release at 7pm on Saturday, but did not return.
Police are now investigating reports of a potential sighting of him in Bedmond, near Hemel Hempstead, at 2.30pm yesterday afternoon.
Mr Hill said: “Ian McLoughlin is an extremely dangerous man and if anyone thinks they have seen him, please contact police on 999 straight away.
“Please make no effort to approach him or engage him in conversation in any way.”
He said McLoughlin is known to drink heavily given the opportunity and will need transport to get around.
He said: “We therefore particularly appeal to owners of guest houses, hoteliers and those working in the transportation industry to be vigilant.”
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.
A family tribute to Graham Buck will be uploaded shortly.