Sadistic, malevolent and cold-blooded double killer Gary Allen became the man who literally got away with murder – until this week.

The heartless, cruel, hate-filled and obsessed loner had a twisted loathing of prostitutes and he has got to rank as the worst criminal I have ever seen in many years of covering courts.

I first realised just how nasty and callous he was when I saw him day after day during his trial at Sheffield Crown Court back in 2000 when he was sensationally cleared of murdering Hull prostitute Samantha Class, despite seemingly overwhelming evidence.

Read more: Fears Gary Allen could be behind Ripper-style spree of murders

Mother-of-three Samantha, 29, was found dead in October 1997 on the banks of the Humber Estuary at North Ferriby. Three schoolgirls made the grim and horrific discovery of her body.

Samantha had been beaten and strangled to death in a frenzy of furious violence.

I covered the harrowing and depressingly seedy trial as Court Reporter for the Hull Daily Mail and remember the shockwaves that reverberated through the court when the jury unexpectedly acquitted him of what seemed, to an observer, an open and shut case.

To sign up for the Hull Live newsletter, click here.

Gary Allen has been found guilty of the murders of two women
Gary Allen has been found guilty of the murders of two women

Nothing could have prepared me, the detectives, lawyers and others who were involved in the case for the pure, undiluted shock of that “Not Guilty” verdict against all the odds.

Everything had been prepared at the Hull Daily Mail in the expectation that it would be a guilty verdict. The only question, as usual, in such cases from the Newsdesk was: “When do you think we will get a verdict?”

Equally predictably, and with varying degrees of thinly disguised exasperation, I gave my standard murder trial answer: “It’s a case of ‘How long is a piece of string?’ It could be three hours or it could be three days. You just can’t tell.”

This was never deemed to be an acceptable prediction because busy Newsdesks inevitably want to know the exact time that they can expect to receive some copy on the case (laboriously dictated, in those pre-computer days, over the telephone to copytakers). They also want to know how many pages to leave for pre-written background features.

Gary Allen
Gary Allen

The follow-up questions included: “Do you think it will go into tomorrow?” and “Are there are any members of the family there to speak to you?” as well as “Do you think we will be able to get any new pictures?”

But the matter of whether Allen would actually be cleared by the jury was never even properly considered by anyone, least of all me, because the brutal murder of Samantha Class really did seem like an open and shut case, not least because of the compelling prosecution case.

When the jury eventually returned its bombshell verdict of “Not Guilty” to murder, the feeling was like a bolt out of the blue.

Samantha Class

I thought I was hearing things and the colour drained out of my face in sheer panic. All the carefully pre-written “convicted after a trial” copy had to be scrapped, huge swathes of it consigned to the bin and all the stories completely rewritten.

Allen now had to be referred to courteously as “Mr Allen” – after all, we were talking here about a person who, in the eyes of the law at least, was an innocent man.

No clue could be given in newspaper reports or background features that, really, we thought he was guilty. No chance of that fantasy cliched headline: “The Man Who Literally Got Away With Murder.”

The police and detectives, the prosecution team and even the defence were left utterly shocked by the unexpected verdict and nobody could quite believe what they had heard.

Police searching the foreshore of the river Humber adjacent to Brickyard Lane at Melton during the investigation into Samantha Class' murder
Police searching the foreshore of the river Humber adjacent to Brickyard Lane at Melton during the investigation into Samantha Class' murder

Allen himself, I seem to remember, showed the same ice-cold, staring indifference to the verdict that he had throughout the trial.

The acquittal would see him freed to commit more crime on the streets, including another horrific murder of a prostitute.

I was shaking and red-faced in sheer disbelief – and panicking that everything that I had written in advance for the next day’s newspaper, about how the callous killer had finally been snared, would have to be scrapped or heavily rewritten. It was just what I didn’t need after a gruelling trial.

But first I had to break the bad news to my Newsdesk. “You’re not going to believe this,” I stuttered, “but he has just been cleared. I can’t believe it.”

I heard the shouts of disbelief in the office as the least welcome news I could have given was relayed to others close by.

I was told: “Are you sure? Are you sure you didn’t mishear? That can’t be right. Can you check to make sure?”

I was ordered to check that, yes, I had heard correctly and it wasn’t a mistake. I had to ring back and say: “No, it’s definitely right. He’s definitely been cleared.”

I then had to seek out the police, especially the chief investigating officer in the case, who by this time had disappeared into one of the consulting rooms with the prosecution barristers and their team.

There would be no immediate comment, I was told, but if I wanted to hang around until after the detectives had discussed the matter with the prosecution, there might be a formal statement.

In the meantime, it was all hands to the pump as I cobbled together a hastily rewritten “new story” about the countdown to the completely unexpected outcome to the case.

Adrenalin, a shaky hand, beads of sweat and an overwhelming sense of being in a trance gripped me as I scribbled furiously on my reserve sheets of paper about the few insights that I could legally get away with concerning the newly respectable “Mr Allen”.

When a terse police statement was finally handed to me, it read the only way that the officers could word it.

The police accepted the verdict of the jury, the prosecution case had been presented as fully as it possibly could in view of all the evidence available and, I seem to remember, the police were not looking for anyone else in connection with the matter.

Around the corridor, mutterings about a “perverse Sheffield jury” ignoring crystal clear evidence could be heard. The word “perverse” often surfaced later in discussions by gossips about the jury.

I waited in vain around the corridors of the court, especially the entrance to the cells where cleared defendants often emerge after they have been released.

Needless to say, Allen did not appear and there was no question of him being photographed leaving the court. I was asked if I would try to “grab him” to interview him to get his reaction to being cleared.

He will almost certainly have spent a significant further time in custody, despite being cleared, while authorisations and safeguarding checks for his release were made by the prison and other authorities.

Gary Allen confessed to killing a woman to an undercover police officer

The death of Samantha Class had a particular poignancy for me because I had seen her in person at Hull Crown Court a few weeks before she died – and I recognised her immediately from the photograph published of her after her body was found.

She had appeared at the court for sentencing on drug-related offences. It remains a bitter irony that, if she had been jailed that day, she would probably still be alive today.

Although the police pledged at the time to keep the case under review and to consider any future evidence that came to light, the unspoken truth behind the police statement at the time was that they didn’t think for a minute that anyone else but Allen had committed the murder.

But it never occurred to anyone in that Sheffield courtroom in 2000 that the case would be resurrected in the most dramatic way many years later in another courtroom at the very same court.

Alena Grlakova was found dead in Rotherham in 2018

Still less, that Allen would murder another prostitute 21 years after the Samantha Class death in frighteningly similar circumstances, driven by his pathological and deep-seated hatred of prostitutes.

The luckless second victim, was Alena Grlakova, 38, who was strangled to death in Rotherham. He left her naked body in a drainage culvert.

In a unique turn of events that could not have been predicted back in 2000, new evidence emerged that meant that, against the odds, Allen could be retried for the Samantha Class murder as well as the new case of Alena Grlakova.

Ironically, it was the fact that Allen was eventually released from custody after his acquittal in the Samantha Class case that proved to be his undoing.

He moved to Plymouth and assaulted two other sex workers by trying to choke one of them and putting his arm around another’s neck from behind. Luckily, he was disturbed and they survived.

Allen told an undercover police officer that he had killed a woman and had dumped her body in the Humber.

He admitted to probation officers that he had a “deep-seated” hatred of prostitutes and that he liked to “make them cry” and “enjoyed hurting people”.

We report from Hull's courts every week. So for the latest headlines and stories from Hull Crown and Magistrates Courts, subscribe to our free newsletter, sent out twice a week.

It's free, easy and takes no time at all. Just click on this link to our newsletter sign-up centre.

Despite the not guilty verdict, it seemed that Allen was determined not to keep the low profile that you might expect someone in his highly precarious position to do.

He turned up, unbelievably, in Grimsby, where I was working at the time as Court Reporter.

He appeared at Grimsby Magistrates’ Court and I was again face to face with the cold-blooded sadist that I remembered so well from Sheffield Crown Court.

I remember thinking and saying to local solicitors who knew of his past: “Of all the places in the whole country for him to turn up again – Grimsby.”

Grimsby Magistrates' Court where Terry Walker was jailed for 31 weeks
Grimsby Magistrates' Court

It soon became clear why he had chosen Grimsby – its unwelcome reputation for being the sort of place where someone who wanted to meet prostitutes could easily find them without much difficulty.

The continuing worry of the police and the very close monitoring of Allen’s movements by safeguarding officers soon became very apparent.

Their fear of what he was capable of became very clear and they wanted the court to help them keep very close tabs on him through the making of an order imposing stringent requirements on him.

They were right to be worried about Allen’s insatiable hatred of prostitutes. It’s a bitter tragedy that two women, who were murdered a shocking 21 years apart, have become the terrible victims of a psychopath’s evil obsessions.