It was one of the North East's most notorious crimes - the fatal shooting of planning officer Harry Collinson by Albert Dryden.

The infamous event was made all the more remarkable as it was caught live on camera, long before social media and smart phones turned the world into a 24/7 film studio.

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the shooting that sunny day in June 1991 at Butsfield near Consett in County Durham. Despite the passage of time, mention of it will stir many memories.

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As a young Chronicle reporter then, I was working on another story in head office in Newcastle. We had two reporters - Garry Willey and Bruce Unwin - and a photographer at the scene.

We were all dimly aware of the story they were covering about some eccentric who had built a bungalow without planning permission somewhere out in the sticks, a row that had been rumbling on for months but today was 'D-Day', demolition day.

Albert Dryden and the bungalow
Albert Dryden and the bungalow

Dryden had in fact built two greenhouses, a shed, parked a caravan on the land, and built an archway at the gated entrance and then dug a huge hole and built a partly-sunken, ramshackle looking bungalow in it.

Apparently he was inspired by a man who got round planning laws by building a home completely underground.

Dryden lost his planning appeal to keep the bungalow, although the Government inspector who chaired the hearing said some of the other buildings could stay because of the time they had been there.

The wrangle dragged on for several months with the council attempting to get a compromise that would avoid the need to bulldoze the bungalow.

The last suggestion was that Dryden modify the building and use it for keeping livestock, but he rejected this.

Finally, councillors had had enough and decided there was no option but demolition, as the law provided for, and it was down to Mr Collinson, working for what was then Derwentside District Council, to enforce it.

Which brings us back to around 9am on June 20, 1991.

Albert Dryden wielding his Webley revolver
Albert Dryden wielding his Webley revolver

A call came in from one of our reporters, I think it was Bruce, to the news desk. There was something about the tone and the reaction of the news editor that caused the news room to quickly go quiet and caused everybody to eavesdrop. Something serious had happened.

During the confrontation Dryden, who had amassed an arsenal of guns in his bungalow, went to his caravan and picked up a First World War 'Webley' revolver.

When he returned he pointed the weapon at Mr Collinson, then 46, whose last words - "Can you get a shot of this?" - were caught on film.

Dryden shot him in the chest at point blank range, killing him, then fired wildly into the fleeing crowd, reportedly hoping to get the council's solicitor, Michael Dunstan, but instead hitting TV reporter Tony Belmont in the arm and PC Stephen Campbell in the backside.

We later find out that Bruce had avoided Dryden's bullets by crouching down behind a car, which had its rear window shot out. A Northern Echo photographer was filmed pleading with Dryden not to shoot him.

One newspaper photographer was so traumatised, he disappeared for hours and was later found wandering in a back lane. He eventually had to give up work.

At his trial Dryden was found guilty of the murder of Mr Collinson, the attempted murder of Mr Dunstan, and the wounding of Mr Belmont and Mr Campbell, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Murder victim Harry Collinson
Murder victim Harry Collinson

In a bizarre twist, “Free Albert Dryden” posters were not an uncommon sight in the Derwentside area during the days and weeks after the killer was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder.

Some of Dryden's supporters were later suggested that the presence of journalists and a TV camera may have put pressure on Dryden to take the ultimate step to defend his property.

But the council, already concerned about threats Dryden had made and an alleged earlier assault on a council official, hoped his reaction could be contained by the situation.

Harry’s brother Roy Collinson has always insisted the tragedy could have been avoided, as a planning officer should never have been required to deal with the killer who was known to be armed and dangerous.

On the 20th anniversary of his brother’s death, he said: “It should never have happened. Albert Dryden was an eccentric and dangerous man who was fascinated by guns and explosives.

“Harry should not have been doing that job. He was a local planning officer. He should not have been dealing with armed lunatics. That is the annoying part of it.

“People who knew Dryden, and he was quite well-known, always knew he would do something like this. He said he would and he did. It was incompetence and the authorities did not realise how dangerous he was.”

Albert Dryden who was jailed for life
Albert Dryden who was jailed for life

In 2017, Dryden suffered a severe stroke and was released from prison on compassionate grounds, to be cared for in a residential care home. He died in 2018 aged 78.

On the 25th anniversary of the event, Mr Collinson's former colleague Peter Reynolds, paid tribute to him.

He said: “Harry Collinson was a very conscientious officer. He was determined not only to do everything exactly correctly, but that everything should be done openly and honestly.

“All the necessary approvals were in place, and the council could have sent a bulldozer in the night and knocked down Dryden’s bungalow without anybody knowing.

“Instead, Harry arranged for the demolition to take place during the day, and notified Dryden in advance.”