IN the second part of The Gazette series looking at the Fylde coast’s unsolved murders, Julia Bennett looks at the brutal killing of holidaymaker Gary Whitehouse in 1995.
HE was enjoying a night out with friends like many other holidaymakers.
But for Gary Whitehouse it was one trip he never returned from.
The two-day break in Blackpool turned into tragedy as the young gunsmith was bludgeoned to death as he walked back to his holiday accommodation in South Shore.
A major police investigation was launched but, despite repeated appeals, many witnesses spoken to and a £10,000 reward being put forward, Mr Whitehouse’s killer has never been found.
The 27-year-old’s murder – around 2.30am on September 26, 1995 – remains one of Blackpool Police’s biggest unsolved crimes.
Mike Barton, now deputy chief constable at Durham Police, was a Blackpool detective inspector when Mr Whitehouse was killed.
Officers worked on the theory he was attacked by someone in a car which pulled up as he walked along Lytham Road near to the junction with Tyldesley Road.
Deputy Chief Con Barton said: “We suspected Gary had had a drink and he may have walked in front of a car – that was the only possible motive.
“It was an unprovoked attack.”
The victim was on his way back from a night out at Jellies nightclub when he was attacked.
A man leapt out of a silver or grey Ford Escort-type vehicle and beat the tourist to death with the blunt end of a snooker cue or baseball bat before jumping back in the car and driving off.
Mr Whitehouse remained conscious and was able to walk to an ambulance.
He was taken to Royal Preston Hospital with severe head injuries but his condition worsened. He died three days later.
A 36-hour delay in the police being called in may have proved crucial.
Inquiries were also hampered by Mr Whitehouse’s friends not being able to pinpoint where the attack actually took place until two weeks later.
Deputy Chief Con Barton added: “We were 36 hours behind by the time we were contacted to say what had happened.
“We believe the offender got out of a passing car and hit Mr Whitehouse.
“DNA in those days was at its earliest stages in the forensic science world. CCTV coverage in the street, number plate recognition and telephone inquiries – they were all the sort of things we have now we but didn’t back then.”
Officers at the time of the murder appealed to speak to a man who helped after the attack. One of the victim’s friends asked for directions to a phonebox. The man, who police thought may have witnessed the attack, directed them to the Manchester pub.
He was white in his early 20s, 5ft 8in tall, of medium to slim build with short, light brown hair.
Police organised a reconstruction in October 1995 in a bid to track down the man they believed held vital clues. All to no avail.
Mr Whitehouse’s family made an emotional visit to the resort to make a public appeal for help while posters showing the victim’s photograph were circulated to pubs and clubs.
Despite 16 years now having past since the murder, Deputy Chief Con Barton believes there is still hope the case could be solved.
He added: “We won’t forget the crime. It’s one of my regrets that having left Lancashire, it was not solved.
“I get regular phone calls from officers in the force who are reviewing the case and speak to me about what happened.
“We believe there was more than one person in the car. I’m always optimistic when there is more than one offender that someone will speak.
“They may have a guilty conscious and realise what a dreadful act it was.”
Anyone with information about the case can call Blackpool Police on 08451 253545 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.