ONE of the detectives involved in the case of parcel bomb murder suspect Keith Cottingham has spoken of his disappointment that the man he describes as cold and calculating will not stand trial.
Cottingham, 73, died in prison from natural causes last weekend while awaiting trial accused of killing housewife Barbara Harrold.
It was alleged Cottingham sent a bomb to Mrs Harrold following a financial dispute after he bought a Spanish villa from her and her husband.
Cottingham, who used to live at Sturry, near Canterbury, had fled to Spain after the killing in 1984 and it took more than 17 years to get him extradited back to Britain to face trial.
Retired Kent detective chief supt John Hann said: "I used to send him Christmas cards every year just to remind him that I was still waiting. It is shame after all the hard work he will never stand trial."
Mr Hann has no doubt that Cottingham was the man behind Barbara Harrold's death.
"The time and effort he put into manufacturing the bomb, smuggling the parts into the UK from Spain and then knowing it would arrive the day after he went back to Spain, not caring who opened the parcel, show all the signs of a cold hearted, clever and conniving individual. I have no doubt that it was him, despite his protests."
The initial inquiry threw up several complications but detectives soon found out that Cottingham had been in dispute with the Harrolds over his Spanish villa.
"Two of our team travelled to Spain. They recovered bits of paper and metal that were the exact fits for the recovered bomb particles but he still never admitted it."
Although he retired from the force two years before Cottingham was eventually brought back, Mr Hann kept an interest in the case.
"I was looking forward to his conviction because it would have got a bad man off the street but now he has cheated justice in this life."
Dave Surridge, the police chief who led the hunt for the parcel bomb murderer, has also always maintained that Cottingham was guilty.
Now retired and living in the Canterbury area, he is content for the unsolved, brutal murder of Mrs Harrold at her home in Ightham, near Sevenoaks, to be laid to rest with Cottingham.
Mr Surridge says Cottingham was not immediately suspected of sending the gift-wrapped bomb that blasted nails and darts into Mrs Harrold's stomach. She died in Kent and Canterbury Hospital several days later.
Then he received news that was to lead to Cottingham becoming one of Britain's "most wanted" fugitives. He says: "It caused us to look towards Cottingham as the only suspect.
"It was always a difficult case. For instance, Mrs Harrold's husband was an arms dealer. It meant we had to look at a number of options, allegations and opportunities."