Neighbour from hell gunned down family next door for making too much noise
He was the neighbour from hell serial killer who killed five people and seriously injured three more in a shocking massacre – then planned a copycat rampage when he was freed from prison.
Gun fanatic Barry Williams opened fire on three neighbours in 1978 following a long-running dispute over noise and then killed an elderly couple at a petrol station in Nuneaton, Warwickshire.
Williams, a paranoid schizophrenic, was detained indefinitely in Broadmoor after pleading guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility in March 1979 – but was released just 15 years later and given a new name of Harry Street.
In 2013, it emerged that neighbours Warren and Sharee Smith complained to police about a five-year campaign of harassment which had a chilling similarity to the dispute decades earlier.
When police raided the Williams' home in Hazelville Road in Birmingham – which he shared with wife Beverley and teenage daughter Amy – they found six guns, a homemade bomb and more than 50 bullets.
The serial killer adapted blank firing weapons and built homemade bullets before testing his guns by firing them at an Argos catalogue from close range.
It appeared police had raided his home just in time before he staged another horrifying massacre.
He was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
During his case at Birmingham Crown Court, Prosecutor Michael Duck QC said: "Officers searched the premises at Hazelville Road and the results of that search were in the context of this case, revealing and frightening.
"The methodology mirrored what he did in 1978. Of course, having discovered those items, there was further investigation into Harry Street and the reality of him having been Barry Williams in 1978 then emerged."
West Midlands Police immediately started a serious case review but said there had been no trace of a 'Street' on its database.
Detective Chief Superintendent Kenny Bell, of West Midlands Police, said Street's previous identity only came to light after his harassment campaign "escalated" and a local officer made "extensive checks", which led to Street's GP.
Having been identified as Williams, he was again detained indefinitely by a judge who said a tragedy had been missed by only a 'narrow margin' with the killer having threatened to blow up Mr Smith's family after his release.
But it is the tragic events of October 26, 1978. that Williams is most infamous for. The evening had started like any other in Andrew Road, West Bromwich.
Families had sat down to enjoy dinner together, a father and son were working under the bonnet of a car and Barry Williams was sat in the kitchen of the home he shared with his parents.
Williams had been arguing with his neighbours for some time, telling them just a week before that he was going to "exterminate them" if they did not quieten down. On this particular evening the noise of the car was making him increasingly irritated and angry.
He launched his deadly attack at 7.10pm after snapping at father and son George and Philip Burkitt who were on their Spitfire car next door.
Iris Burkitt, lived next door with her husband George, both aged 47, their son, Phillip, who was 20, and daughter Jill who was 17.
Williams armed himself with one legally held and one illegally held handgun and opened fire on the Burkitt’s in a devastating five minutes of violence.
First to die in the attack was self-employed builder George, who was shot above the left eye. As he lay dying, more shots hit him in the chest and side.
Terrified Philip tried to escape but was blasted five times, sending him smashing through the front window.
As his mum Iris, a 48-year-old typist, tried to escape she too was shot through the heart in a hail of bullets.
Williams finally turned his gun on teenager Jill, shooting her once in the chest, three times in the back, once in her right leg and once through her left arm.
She collapsed alongside her mum’s body in the hallway, but miraculously survived despite suffering the horrific injuries.
Judy Chambers, another neighbour and Iris Burkitt’s cousin, opened her front door to see what was happening and was shot twice – but also survived.
Williams then took police on a 100mph chase across the Midlands while shooting and throwing homemade bombs at passers-by including children.
The final victims were husband and wife petrol station owners Mike Di Maria, 58, and his wife, Liza, 53.
The couple were shot dead in Nuneaton before Williams was cornered the following day by cops who had chased him in the Ford Capri he had used to escape in.
The unarmed officers overpowered him in front of 100 children queuing to watch Grease at a cinema in the Derbyshire town of Buxton.
He was detained indefinitely in 1979 after he admitted five counts of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and was sent to Broadmoor.
Psychiatrists at the time said he was suffering from ‘paranoid psychosis.’
Williams was released just 15 years later and, incredibly, was allowed to live in a hostel just six miles from the scene of the killings. The public uproar led to him being moved to north Wales.
It’s understood that he then changed his name to Harry Street and returned to Birmingham to marry his partner and the couple went on to have daughter Amy.
Speaking to the Mail’s sister paper the Sunday Mercury in 2003, Judy Chambers, who survived being shot, said: “I have nightmares almost every night, even now. I don’t find it hard to recall the events of that night because it has been with me all my life.”
Mr Smith, whose family were so close to being copycat victims, spoke of his shock after discovering the killer's past.
He told the Sunday Mirror: "I feel shock but also relief. He was a very clever guy – he played the system and serious mistakes have been made.
"We actually got on well with his wife and daughter, and I do feel sorry for them. We were very, very lucky as I know that something was about to happen before his arrest."
Mr Smith spoke of his anger that the killer had been allowed to change his name and that police had no idea of the dangerous history of their 'nuisance neighbour'.
Williams died of a suspected heart attack inside the high-security Ashworth Hospital on Merseyside in December 2014, aged 70.
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