“You’ll find my gun in the car. I just wanted to shoot my girlfriend. I’ve wanted to kill her for two years, but when I saw her I couldn’t do it. I changed my mind. You were lucky I didn’t shoot you” – Kevin Weaver to police
The majority of people have had romantic relationships break up. At the time, it can feel like the end of the world but most of the time, time is a great healer and people eventually move on, forget their heartbreak and meet somebody else. But equally, for some people they are unable to move on and forget that person they believe and feel to be “the one”. That person may occupy their every waking thought and moment, lovesickness it could be called, and if it doesn’t pass then an unhealthy obsession with the object of your affection may develop – as we see in Hollywood films like Fatal Attraction and Play Misty For Me.
24-year-old Kevin Weaver was very similar to Michael Ryan in ways. He lived at home with his mother and sister, in a small terraced house in the Roseberry Park are of the East Bristol district of Redfield, and like Ryan, his father had died some years before. Weaver was a former accounts clerk who was over-indulged and spoilt by his mother – whatever he wanted, he got – this seems to be a recurring theme really, perhaps is it some sort of misguided attempt to compensate for the loss of a parent?
Described as an “overweight and spotty loner”, Weaver had had no job for years and instead lived off his mother’s meagre earnings as a box office attendant at the Hippodrome Cinema, spending his days skulking around the family home, watching violent action and horror films, and over indulging in whisky. Again, like Ryan, Weaver was a gun and survivalist fanatic, having many weapons that his mother had bought him and some he had ordered through mail order. He was a licensed shotgun holder and was a member of a nearby clay pigeon gun club.
Weaver hadn’t always been this listless, but his life seemed to have spiralled downhill since 1985, as since then he had been lovesick and his mental state had deteriorated. For two years, he had sat at home brooding about his failed relationship with his former fiancée, 21-year-old Alison Woodman.
Weaver and Alison had met in 1983 when she was just 16, and had become engaged just a year later. But by 1985, Alison had finally ended their romance after the latest in a string of fights and rows caused by Weaver’s erratic and possessive behaviour. They had split up, and for two years Weaver had constantly hounded Alison in an attempt to win her back. He had plagued her at home with phone calls, followed her from her home in Blackhorse Lane in Bristol’s Downend district, and had waylaid her in the street constantly. It would be classed as classic stalking today, but back at that time it wasn’t perhaps as a widely accepted problem as it is today, and the legislation has certainly changed in this day and age. Alison had resisted all of this attention, wanting to remain on good terms but adamant that their relationship was over – which Weaver took badly.
The death knell for their relationship had finally come when, after a particularly turbulent period in their relationship where they had actually long split up at the time, Alison had due to her good nature agreed to meet Weaver for some talks over some drinks one evening in February 1987. However, whether Weaver had tried it on with Alison or had yet again pleaded for her to get back with him and she was having none of it, this evening hadn’t gone well because he then held her prisoner in his car against her will, and threatened to kill her and then himself. She had managed to escape when Weaver got out of the driver’s side of the car and went around to the boot – where a loaded shotgun and ammunition lay concealed under a blanket. When Alison fled, Weaver made no attempt to go after her – instead fleeing himself where he was finally discovered fast asleep in his car in a remote area of Aberystwyth, in mid Wales – and the shotgun and cartridges were still beside him. Facing charges of kidnap and possible firearms offences, Weaver was arrested and his shotgun was taken from him, along with the other firearms he held at home. But for some inexplicable reason, Alison, who must have been very forgiving and good natured indeed, contacted police telling them she was refusing to press any charges against him, and that as far as she was concerned no crime had been committed.
Weaver was not charged with any offence as a result of this letter, but he did have all his guns taken away, and his firearms licence was withdrawn. He continued hassling Alison and she continued trying to be nice and stay on good terms with Weaver, and was later to even write a letter to Avon and Somerset Police asking them to give Weaver his guns back. She even went as far to say that Weaver was:
“a genuine and responsible person”
It took a similar request from his mother, and a report from a police doctor who had examined Weaver following his arrest in Aberystwyth saying that he could find no evidence of mental illness with him, and Weaver had his weapons returned to him and his firearms licence reinstated.
But that was enough for 21-year-old Alison, who decided that was it for their relationship and attempted to sever all ties with him once and for all, thinking that for the best. It was from this point that Weaver began to become more and more obsessive – and more and more deranged. For months, he continued drinking heavily, brooding about Alison, following her and hanging about outside her workplace and home, caring about nothing except Alison and his bitterness at the fact that she had broken off their engagement. Then it reached August 1987 – and on 19th August 1987, Michael Ryan committed the Hungerford massacre.
Weaver became obsessed with it – he recorded every piece of news footage that he could about Michael Ryan’s rampage, and watched it obsessively. Perhaps watching the actions of Ryan and learning about the horror that he had created flicked some kind of switch in Weaver’s mind – for from that point onwards, he decided that Alison was better off dead than alive. At least to him.
14th October 1987. Kevin’s mother Margaret had risen early that morning and had headed out shopping, leaving Kevin and his sister Linda fast asleep in bed. Kevin Weaver awoke that day with something having snapped in his mind, and he had decided that this was it, this was the day Alison had to die. But he had to get to her, knowing she would be at her work as an office temp at Alexandra Workwear in nearby Patchway, an outer suburb of Bristol, and at the time, due to his drinking, his mental state and or a combination of both, Weaver had no car, having been banned from driving. But this wasn’t stopping him.
His sister, 27-year-old Linda Weaver, who Kevin got on very well with usually, did have a car – but Weaver knew that she wouldn’t let him use it, due to his ban and her disagreement with him hassling Alison. Rising early, Weaver went downstairs in the family terraced house, opened a bottle of whisky, and began drinking. He then went into the understairs cupboard and found his tool box. Taking a heavy hammer from the box, he closed the cupboard door and crept back upstairs, passing his own bedroom and walking into the bedroom where his sister lay sleeping.
Weaver raised the hammer, and smashed it into his sister’s skull at least thirty times. He put all 16 stones of his weight into the blows, and such was the force used to kill Linda that the handle of the hammer snapped. He then dragged his sister’s mangled corpse out of bed, into the bathroom, and placed her into the bath. Something in the dark recesses of his mind that day then decided that his mother Margaret, the mother who doted on him and spoiled him, should never find out what he had done. Arming himself with a different hammer, he waited inside the hallway for his mother to come home from shopping. Margaret arrived home just before dinnertime, having bought some pies for lunch for herself, Linda and Kevin.
It is impossible to imagine Margaret’s thoughts when she opened the door and walked into her hallway, to be greeted with the site of her son, covered with blood and wielding a hammer, but mercifully, it would have only been a fleeting thought. Weaver was hiding behind the hall door, then proceeded to batter his mother to death with the same maniacal rage that he had just killed his sister with, striking her time and time again with the hammer. He then carried his mother upstairs, placed her body in the bath on top of his sister’s body, then filled the bath with water.
Weaver then calmly washed his bloodstained clothes, then tumble-dried them and redressed like nothing had happened. On top of the clothes he had been wearing when he had committed familicide, Weaver placed on Armalite body armour that he had purchased some months before – and now it was off to see Alison. Weaver again went to the cupboard under the stairs and came out with a golf bag, in which he placed an Italian made 12 bore shotgun, a Russian made 12 bore shotgun, a Spanish made sawn off shotgun, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. Then, emulating Ryan’s actions, Weaver turned on all of the gas appliances in the house, and rigged up a detonator mine to the underside of the living room coffee table. This was a shotgun primed with a tripwire that would fire if tripped, and with gas escaping into the house, would cause a massive explosion. He then left the house, carrying the golf bag, the bottle of whisky and a bottle of lemonade, placed these in the car, and then in his sister’s white Marina car drove the 6 or so miles to Alison’s workplace.
Arriving at Alexandra Workwear a short time later, Weaver removed the Italian made single barrelled pump action shotgun from the golf bag, and several rounds of ammunition. He then fully loaded the shotgun and entered the factory, heading for the computer room as he knew exactly where Alison would be working that day. Weaver found her at her desk, surrounded by her colleagues, and the sight of an armed man striding up to her desk caused a commotion. There were nearly 30 people in the office, and the usual office chatter and bustle stopped. Some people burst into tears whilst others stood rooted in shock. However, Weaver was oblivious to all except Alison, and when he reached Alison he grabbed her by the wrist and said:
“Come on Alison, we’re leaving. You’re coming with me”
But Alison screamed and broke away, running to the other end of the room in an attempt to get to safety. Hearing the commotion, 29-year-old office manager David Purcell came out of his side office to see what was going on, and immediately sprang into action. David was a former policeman, and perhaps he still had that instinct to act or heroic nature, but he immediately made to disarm Weaver. Weaver however, was just a fraction too fast for him and taking aim, blasted David in the shoulder from close range. This caused a horrendous wound and David was left on the floor, screaming in agony.
Weaver then calmly walked up to him and shot him again at close range, killing him instantly, and then began firing indiscriminately about the room. A shot went through an office partition wall and struck 48-year-old accountant John Peterson in the back, mortally wounding him. John was to die in the ambulance rushing him to hospital. By now, the remaining staff in the room were cowering under their desks, and daring to peek out they saw Weaver reloading his shotgun, and then stalk up to Alison.
He stopped by her, readied the gun, aimed it at her head. Alison looked up at Weaver, expecting any moment to be killed – but nothing. He had changed his mind, claiming later that he suddenly realised he couldn’t go through with killing Alison – because he still loved her. He altered his aim slightly and fired into the floor beside her. Still holding the shotgun, he simply said to her:
“This is your lucky day”
Can you imagine just how frightening that must have been? Weaver then turned, left the computer room, and headed back out of the factory. In a matter of minutes, he had gunned down two people and forever changed the lives of many. The employees of Alexandra Workwear had all scattered now in fear, fleeing out of the factory closely stalked by the psychopathic Weaver. As the twenty employees who had witnessed the horrific and frightening events that had taken place just minutes before fled through the car park, terrified that they would become the next victim of the madman, one member of staff lagged behind the others. Linda Smith had suffered polio, and as a result could not flee as quickly as the rest of the workforce, so she made it as far as a row of parked cars, but exhausted, had to stop and take shelter by crouching behind the nearest one, a white Marina….
Unfortunately, the car she had picked to shelter behind was the car that Weaver had brutally murdered his sister to use.
As 20 year old Linda lay exhausted through fear and the effects of her illness, two lorry drivers parked at a nearby depot had heard the commotion and witnessed the employees fleeing the building, and at first thought there had been an accident or perhaps a fire. Seeing Linda crouching behind the car and thinking that she may be hurt, the two men approached her to give assistance. It was at that moment that Weaver came striding across the car park.
As Linda looked up and screamed, and the drivers both saw the reason why people had fled in a panic, Weaver got to the car and raised the shotgun as if in preparation to take his next victim. But one of the lorry drivers – perhaps through a knee jerk reaction without thinking or just pure bravery – shouted out to him:
“Don’t be silly – put it down”
This must have struck a chord somewhere in Weaver’s mind, because he lowered the shotgun and instead said:
“I’ve done what I came here to do”
He then got into his sister’s car, placed the shotgun on the passenger seat, and sped off. Once sure he was gone, the hysterical staff contacted police and emergency services, who arrived at the scene shortly. A manhunt was immediately launched for the crazed killer, who was warned to be armed and dangerous, and teams of armed police were assembled to track down Weaver. Whilst Alison, who had been Weaver’s intended target that day spoke to police and gave them his address and vehicle details, medical staff went to tend to the wounded, but there was little they could do for either man who had been shot.
David Purcell had already succumbed to his grave wounds, and John Peterson was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival. Meanwhile, with a description of him issued and details of the car he was driving, police began the manhunt for Weaver, and their first port of call was to his home address to see if he was either there, or Weaver’s family knew where he was.
Before police officers reached his house, however, just 45 minutes after the shootings, Weaver was apprehended by unarmed PC’s Mark Nicholson and Peter Pugsley about eight miles away from the scene of the double shooting, on the A37 road between the nearby towns of Pensford and Whitchurch. The two officers had spotted the white Marina car pulled over at the side of the road, and whilst one stopped the traffic, the other used a police loudhailer to order Weaver to lay down his weapons and exit the vehicle with his hands raised high. He got out of the vehicle, but in his hands held the bottle of whisky – which he continued to swig from, and a newspaper. He then staggered to the side of the road, sat down and spread the newspaper across his knees.
He offered no resistance when cuffed by police, and was immediately arrested in connection with the two murders at the factory, and taken into custody.
Once in handcuffs, Weaver talked immediately, expressing surprise. He said:
“Was it only two? I thought I had shot at least three people”
Weaver then also said that officers should be careful if they went to his house, as he had left them a little surprise…..
Arriving at the Weaver house in Roseberry Park, armed officers approached the door with caution. They had just arrested a deranged killer with a bag full of guns who had freely admitted to killing two people and planning to kill another – and who had left police a surprise at his house. Knowing that Weaver lived with his mother and sister, and with no answer at the door, the priority was to try to find his mother and sister and to make sure that they were safe, and to see if they could shed any light on Weaver’s actions that afternoon. At the door of the property, however, police noticed an overpowering smell of gas, and decided that it was unsafe to enter the property – not knowing what Weaver had left for them? All houses in Roseberry Park were evacuated, the fire service were contacted and upon their arrival at the scene, arranged for the gas supply to the property to be turned off, and then smashed the windows of the property to allow the built-up gas to escape. When it was eventually deemed safe for them to do so, armed officers entered the house.
Making a sweep through the house, all the more urgently due to the massive amounts of blood that they found covering the hallway walls and carpet, officers found and disarmed Weaver’s detonator mine. He had wanted to cause a giant explosion that would no doubt have claimed the lives of many people. They also found the horrifically mangled bodies of Margaret and Linda Weaver lying submerged in the bath, and realised that Weaver was at least a quadruple killer.
Aside from the guns recovered from Weaver’s car, a search of the Weaver home later revealed a mass of ammunition, two home-made garrottes, masses of survivalist literature and handbooks, a set of handcuffs and an extensive library of ultra-violent action and horror films. Weaver’s extensive coverage of the Hungerford massacre news reports that he had recorded was also found, and the parallels with Michael Ryan’s rampage of just eight weeks earlier were drawn. But back at the police station, Weaver was offering no explanation for his actions that day, except he woke up determined to kill Alison that day and nothing or no one was going to stop that. But when it came to it, he couldn’t do it – because he claimed he still loved her. He went on to describe the struggle in which David Purcell had attempted to disarm him, saying:
“I felt threatened by him. I thought that he was going to overpower me, so I shot him. I shot him a second time to stop him suffering.”
Weaver was charged with the murders of his mother and sister, Margaret and Linda Weaver, office manager David Purcell, and office accountant John Peterson, as well as several firearms offences, and was remanded in secure custody to await trial.
Weaver’s trial began at Bristol Crown Court nearly five months later, on 28th March 1988, where he pleaded guilty to four counts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. Queen’s Counsel for the prosecution, Paul Chadd, told the court that Weaver had modelled himself on the mass killer Michael Ryan by emulating his actions, and pointed out the parallels between Ryan and Weaver – both had been brought up in female dominated households, both were spoilt, both were brooding loners and heavy drinkers, and both spent many hours watching violent films such as Rambo and Death Wish. Perhaps as a result of all of these, the most striking parallel was that both had developed a fascination and strong enthusiasm for guns. Paul Chadd claimed that Weaver had even planned some sort of bizarre “pilgrimage” to visit the town of Hungerford. Weaver had told police that it was only Alison he had intended to kill that day, but to do so he needed his sister’s car – which he knew she would not relinquish to him. He simply decided to kill her and his mother and just take it.
Weaver was described as a psychopath, one who’s responsibility was severely impaired by his extreme bouts of depression. This was accepted by the court, and Weaver faced Mr Justice Webster – who sentenced him to be committed to Broadmoor Maximum Security Psychiatric Hospital for the rest of his life, labelling him:
An appalling danger to the public at large
With that, Weaver was taken away to Broadmoor to begin his sentence, where he remains to this day. His actions that October morning had left four people dead in the most horrific of ways, and countless lives changed forever – including making two widows – and twin baby girls fatherless. David Purcell had, only three months before Weaver’s rampage, become the proud and doting father of twin daughters. Alison Woodman for a long time unfairly blamed herself for Weaver’s actions that day, tortured by her culpability in helping Weaver get his confiscated weapons back. But how could she have known what a psychopath would have done? The prosecuting counsel at Weaver’s trial were quick to emphasise that it was Weaver who had committed the orgy of violence that day and should feel remorse if anyone did, not Alison, claiming of her:
“She is an ordinary young woman, like millions of others who break off engagements. She played no part in this disaster”
And as for Weaver’s remorse? Detective Chief Superintendent Ray Sarginson, who headed the investigation into Weaver’s rampage was to say of him later:
“He is a cold, ruthless killer who inflicted some of the worst injuries I have ever seen in 25 years’ experience. He has not shown one iota of remorse”
The True Crime Enthusiast