The evening of October 26, 1978, started like any other in Andrew Road, West Bromwich, England.
Families had sat down to eat dinner, 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 about noise from record players, car repairs, and even TVs.
On this particular evening the noise of the car was making him increasingly angry.
Noise had become an obsession for the factory worker who had convinced himself that the neighbours were laughing at him.
As he sat cleaning his handguns that evening he decided he would turn them on his neighbours.
Just weeks before launching his attack his increasingly erratic behaviour had already led to a ban from the Telford gun club where he was a member and where he was nicknamed ‘the cowboy’.
He had dangerously adapted his own “more powerful” bullets and had even demanded moving targets wearing wigs at the club where he spent much of his time.
In an interview after the killing spree Williams’ parents Hilda and Horrace who owned a metal polishing form in the Jewellery Quarter, said they had “no idea” that he had been sat planning the massacre and they described him as a quiet boy.
The “quiet boy” launched his deadly attack at 7.10pm after snapping as a father and son George and Philip Burkitt worked 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.
Mayhem on the streets of England
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 whilst 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.’
Just a week before the tragedy he had issued a chilling warning to Philip Burkitt after hammering on the door to complain about the noise.
When Philip asked Williams what he was going to do about it, he replied: “I’m going to exterminate you.”
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 now also has a teenage daughter.
The return of the bad neighbour
Warren Smith experienced the return of the bad neighbour firsthand in 2013. The irascible 70-year-old living next door to him hurled objects at Smith’s house, pounded and drilled into walls in the dead of night, and issued nasty threats on a regular basis. When Smith finally moved into a new place, Street stalked him and amped up the harassment.
The police got involved and uncovered a chilling fact. Street had been making bullets and an explosive from scratch. As it turned out, Smith’s neighbor wasn’t just a cantankerous coot with a soft spot for stalking. He was the infamous Barry Williams.