REMEMBER... The night they caught the Black Panther

Psychopathic killer, Donald Neilson, was captured in Rainworth by Mansfield police officers PC White and PC MacKenzie four decades ago.

Psychopathic killer, Donald Neilson, was captured in Rainworth by Mansfield police officers PC White and PC MacKenzie four decades ago.

0
Have your say

Forty years ago today we published the full report on the heroic police efforts to capture an infamous serial killer.

Donald Neilson was the most wanted man in Britain - known in the national press as the Black Panther, he left a trail of terror across the north of England, killing four people in the 70s

The Chad published a full report on the ordeal which led to Neilson's arrest, after he was given a life sentence 40 years ago today

The Chad published a full report on the ordeal which led to Neilson's arrest, after he was given a life sentence 40 years ago today

He was finally taken down in Rainworth in December 1975, and on July 29, the Chad published an feature on the daring work of a two police officers who were taken hostage at gunpoint and eventually overpowered their captor by the pair and several bystanders.

In this report on July 29, police described 'a figure scurrying along Leeming Lane' arousing suspicion.

PCs Anthony White and Stuart MacKenzie found themselves threatened with a shotgun and forced to take a 20-minute drive with the gunman.

Read more from eyewitness Paul Cullen here:

His reign of terror across the North of England made him th emost wanted man in the UK. Neilson died in prison in 2011.

His reign of terror across the North of England made him th emost wanted man in the UK. Neilson died in prison in 2011.

Serial killer captured 40 years ago today in Notts
"P.c MacKenzie would not have been on duty,' wrote our reporter, in the report that came out shortly after Neilson was handed a life sentence at Oxford Crown Court.

They had stopped at Stainforth Street, Mansfield Woodhouse after observing traffic and were making up their pocket books when they say a figure scurrying on the other side of the road.

Officer P.c. MacKenzie said to PC White, according to our report: "He has been up to something or is going to be up to something."

Neilson, then 39 years old and a builder from Bradford in West Yorkshire gave his name as John Moxton of Chapel-en-le-frith, when approached by the officers, and then 'his manner changed'.

Neilson refused to reveal why he wanted to take the officers to Blidworth, but it was believed he wanted to take them into the forest to kill them.

Neilson refused to reveal why he wanted to take the officers to Blidworth, but it was believed he wanted to take them into the forest to kill them.

"He said: 'Don't move,' and pushed a shotgun through the window."

He forced PC White into the back of the car and told MacKenzie to 'drive normally our you'll both be dead.' And as the car was directed towards Rainworth and Blidworth, PC White said he believed the Panther was 'a local nutter', 'with him saying Blidorth as the locals do'.

And as they came towards the ship in Southwell Road, Rainworth, PC White grabbed the barrel of his shotgun and grabbed Neilson around the neck.

"I pushed the gun upwards and it went off almost immediately," he said forty years ago this week.

Then the struggle spilled onto the street and people queuing at a bus stop and eating at the chip shop came to the policemen's aid, and with the help of a miner, Roy Morris, who helped grip Neilson's hands together, they officers handcuffed him to a railing.

The gun went off as the car stopped with the bullet grazing one of the officer’s hands.

A group of men from the chip shop then set about detaining Neilson.

Last December we interviewed former Postman, Paul Cullen, who was only 18 when the drama at the Rainworth Chip shop unfolded.

Now 58, he told our reporter Nick Frame in December last year: “The Ford Escort police car had been coming down the road when it slammed on its brakes and must have slid about three or four yards.

“Then there was this loud gunshot and one of the officers either wound down the window or opened the door and shouted ‘we’ve got an armed man here’.

“He had been overpowered and had been handcuffed to the railings next to the fish shop, but he was still trying to get away.

“The buttons of his jacket came undone and I saw bullets strapped to his belt and knives inside his jacket.

“There was also a big sawn-off shotgun lying in the middle of the road, an inspector picked it up with a white handkerchief.

“I think about how lucky everyone was, it was frightening when that gun went off, it could have killed anyone.

“Nobody knew who he was."

During the robbery of three post offices in 1974, the Black Panther shot dead two sub-postmasters and the husband of a sub-postmistress.

But it was his final meticulously-planned crime that ensured his reputation as one of Britain’s most evil killers, when he kidnapped 17-year-old Lesley Whittle, an heiress to a fortune, from her Shropshire home to demand a £50,000 ransom.

He kept her hostage at the bottom of a drain shaft at a park in Stafford, naked with a hood over her head and tethered by a wire around her neck.

But the ransom drop failed and Lesley’s body was found still hanging from the wire nearly two months later.

Neilson died in prison in 2011 aged 75, and at the time of his arrest, the policemen said they never did find out why he wanted to go to Blidworth.