A man who shot a planning officer dead in full view of TV crew in order to protect an illegally-built bungalow has died, according to his childhood friend.
Albert Dryden was jailed for life after he gunned down Harry Collinson, principal planning officer with Derwentside Council, in Butsfield, County Durham, in June 1991.
Dryden opened fire on Harry Collinson and Mr Dunstan as they led a council operation to demolish the bungalow he built illegally on his country lane smallholding.
After Mr Collinson, a 46-year-old divorced father of two, fell mortally wounded into a ditch, Dryden fired two more shots into his heart and brain.
Footage from the shooting showed journalists and council workers fleeing for their lives, with many taking refuge in ditches to avoid the bullets.
Dryden, 78, was released from prison in October 2017 after suffering a stroke.
He died in a County Durham care home on Saturday morning, said Alex Watson who was his lifelong friend and also the Derwentside Council leader at the time of the shooting.
Now an Independent Durham County Councillor, Mr Watson said: “He died in a nursing home in Langley Park.
“I knew Albert all his life, I used to do weightlifting with him.”
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Mr Watson said he visited Dryden a few weeks ago and although he could no longer talk, the councillor was sure he felt remorse.
He said: “He had no quality of life, he had suffered a string of strokes, it was awful to see him in such a state.
“Harry had lost his life and the children lost their father, but Albert lost his life as well. He had a burden to carry.”
Mr Watson was not at the site when the shooting happened – something he regretted.
He said: “If I had been there I could have stopped it. People’s lives were shattered.”
While Mr Collinson’s older brother, Roy, told the Northern Echo Dryden was a “bloody murderer”, adding: “Good riddance.”
Dryden was also convicted of the attempted murder of council solicitor Michael Dunstan and wounding Pc Stephen Campbell and TV journalist Tony Belmont with intent.
During the trial at Newcastle Crown Court in April 1992, the former steelworker claimed he was mentally unwell and not responsible for his actions, though this was rejected by a jury.
Dryden served 26 years of a life sentence before he was released because of his ill health.
Mr Collinson told the Echo: “He murdered a defenceless man. I get mad when people start making excuses for him, that he just an old man with white hair and a beard.”