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Ex-Flying Squad detective Dick Thorne saved woman from being murdered in car and recorded confession of would-be killer Peter Tillman

A FORMER Flying Squad detective has described how he saved a woman’s life by prising her partner’s fingers from her throat as he strangled her “in a trance” before recording a roadside confession of attempted murder.

Dick Thorne’s crime-fighting instincts as an ex-police officer kicked in when he tracked down the pair to a car that had crashed into undergrowth off the A337 where he thwarted Sway pensioner Peter Tillman.

He was speaking to the A&T after Mr Tillman died days before he was due to go on trial at Salisbury Crown Court on Tuesday where it was announced that his body had been found at his Manchester Road home over the bank holiday weekend.

While no details were given in open court about the nature of his death, DS Steve Norridge, of Hampshire Constabulary, said he had been notified by colleagues that it was “sudden”.

Speaking exclusively to the A&T, Mr Thorne, who served 22 years with the Metropolitan Police, said he was “shocked” by the incident on 20th August 2019 in which Mr Tillman had been in a “trance-like state”.

He said: “I felt that he was a very chilling and evil character.

Salisbury Crown Court
Salisbury Crown Court

“That was my impression of him at that moment, he may have been a lovely bloke otherwise, but to me he was a bit scary.”

A female passenger in the Jaguar, Debbie Wilson, and the woman driver of the Mini both suffered minor injuries and were treated by paramedics.

Mr Thorne (57) lives in the New Forest and now builds bespoke tree houses with his Mr Treehouse business. He said he was driving on the A337 between Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst when he came across a “smashed up” Mini Cooper and paramedics tending to the driver.

Police were not yet on the scene and, being an ex-Met officer, he stopped and offered assistance and was told by paramedics another car had struck the Mini.

Driving further up the road he spotted “scorch marks” on the surface, so parked his car and followed them, spotting Mr Tillman’s vehicle embedded in the foliage and what looked like the occupants trapped inside.

“But as I got to the door I could see he was there and had got her across the neck and was strangling her,” he told the A&T.

“I couldn’t get the door fully open, so I started screaming at him to stop and then I decided to try and get in, so was punching the window of the vehicle. Eventually, I managed to get it open.

“He was still strangling her so I had to get his hands off her throat. I was shouting and swearing at him and all of a sudden he came out of this trance and just let go.

“Then she came round and started shouting and screaming, saying he was trying to kill her, and I dragged him out of the car. There and then he started admitting that he was trying to kill her.”

Mr Thorne’s detective sense kicked in again as he got out his phone to record Mr Tillman’s comments and gave the

recording to police when they arrived.

“I mean what are the chances that I would be passing at that moment?” he added. “What are the chances that I would notice the scorch marks on the road, and may think I could help? They must be millions to one! The officer in the case said I definitely saved her life.

“I went into shock afterwards. I said to the ambulance guy there, ‘I am not feeling too clever’, and was shaking.

“But, like he said, when I went into work as a PC I was expecting things to happen. On your way home from work you don’t expect to find someone strangling somebody.”

Mr Thorne said he had been told Mr Tillman and the victim had a row before they ended up in the vehicle, and Mr Tillman drove it from his Sway home, intent on killing them both.

Mr Tillman’s car reportedly drove at other vehicles at high speeds before hitting the Mini Cooper and ending in the undergrowth.

At the time, Hampshire police confirmed there was a collision on the A337 between a Jaguar car driven by Mr Tillman and a Mini.

The force also said a female passenger in the Jaguar and the woman driver of the Mini both suffered minor injuries.

Mr Tillman was charged with attempted murder and dangerous driving to which he pleaded not guilty.

A trial date was set and he was remanded in custody, but the trial was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. After spending around a year in custody he was granted bail.

Eventually, the trial was set to go ahead on Tuesday at Salisbury Crown Court. But when it got under way the court heard Mr Tillman died at his home over the bank holiday weekend.

Judge Susan Evans closed proceedings and offered the court’s “sympathies” to Mr Tillman’s family. Winchester Coroner’s Court said Mr Tillman’s inquest had not yet been opened.

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