GARAGE MURDERS 20 YEARS ON: Brutal murders which left community in shock
Late in the evening of January 23 1995, the families of Antonio Marrocco – known as Tony – and Paul Sandham raised the alarm after the pair failed to return home from work at Tony’s garage on White Lund.
Arriving at TM Motors in Northgate at 1.30am, nothing could have prepared the police for the sight that faced tham when they opened the door. Inside, officers found the body of 49-year-old car dealer Tony. The Italian dad-of-one had been beaten to death with a wrench.
His colleague Paul’s body was found the following morning.
The 29-year-old – who had recently fought a cancer battle – had been stabbed 40 times and dumped in a field off Powder House Lane, a mile from the garage.
A police hunt was now on for a double killer who seemed to have murdered the men, both from Bolton-le-Sands, for just a few hundred pounds and Tony’s gold chain. Detectives believed the killer had asked Paul to take him for a test drive, before stabbing him to death and returning to the garage to murder Tony.
When Tony’s son Adrian, then 22, told detectives a white MG Metro was missing along with its documents, police had a breakthrough.
Computer checks showed the killer had traded in the car in Kent, but had given false details to the buyer.
However, thanks to an appearance on TV show Crimewatch, another lead emerged when a detective in Kent made a connection between the White Lund murders and a robbery in a Surrey jewellers.
Clifton’s description, based on a video image and the Kent police officer’s investigation, matched the description of the man who’d sold the MG Metro.
The lead was strengthened when a woman who knew Clifton walked into Morecambe police station and said he’d been in the area at the time of the murders.
Another link was established when an acquaintance of Clifton’s was traced who had bought a gold belcher chain from him – Tony Marrocco’s chain.
But Clifton remained one step ahead, changing his car and address up to twice a day and leaving a trail of false names.
On February 28 1995, four detectives turned up at a seventh floor flat in south London to question a girlfriend of Clifton’s.
They were greeted by Clifton himself – clutching a double-barrelled sawn-off shotgun.
The killer escaped by lowering himself over the balcony, dropping to the one below.
He then scaled 100ft down the block of flats, causing the press to dub him “Spiderman”.
With officers now staking out every address linked with Clifton and searching car records, he was eventually traced to a property in Erith, Kent, and was arrested without incident.
With the search for evidence continuing, earlier camera footage of Clifton driving through London emerged, which clearly showed his hand was bandaged.
Re-examining the murder scene, police found Clifton’s blood on the inside of Tony Marrocco’s pockets, indicating that Clifton had rifled through his pockets after killing him, and giving the police a watertight case.
Officers discovered Clifton had done business with TM Motors on New Year’s Eve 1994, exchanging a BMW for a Honda Prelude.
They believed Clifton either thought he’d been ripped off or that he saw the amount of cash Tony Marrocco carried.
Even after his capture, Clifton continued to cause a scene, holding his own solicitor hostage for 21 hours at Lancaster Magistrates’ Court before police stormed the cell.
Before his trial at Preston Crown Court in January 1997, Clifton sacked his barristers and said he intended to defend himself.
But when the trial began he refused to be brought up from his cell.
Having pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing, the judge agreed the trial could go ahead.
Clifton, now 26, was found guilty of both murders, and, ordered by the judge, it took nine prison officers to drag the struggling killer into court to be handed his life sentence.
Tony Marrocco’s widow Geraldine was in court to see Clifton jailed.
Paul Sandham’s widow Susan, however, had previously moved back to her home town of Scarborough to escape the memories.