Cannibal Killer

cannibal killer

This documentary examines the case of David Harker, who killed Darlington woman Julie Paterson and claimed to have eaten her flesh. The film follows the trail of human devastation in the wake of Harker’s crime, which was to claim two more lives.

In 1998, the town of Darlington was rocked by the brutal murder of Julie Paterson and the arrest of her killer, David Harker. This film combines interviews conducted in 2000 with new insights from witnesses, police officers and local reporters to unpick the story of Harker’s terrible deed and its deadly consequences.

The man who was to be dubbed the ‘British Cannibal’ moved to Darlington in 1995, aged 23. By all accounts, Harker was a lively, unpredictable man who surrounded himself with impressionable young friends. Yet he harboured disturbing fantasies and would later profess his desire to become Britain’s youngest serial killer.

Julie Paterson, meanwhile, was a 31-year-old mother-of-four who had lost her children in a custody battle and was battling depression, alcohol and Valium addiction. Her boyfriend at the time, Alan Taylor, recalled that Paterson would frequently disappear for days on end. It was only when she missed crucial appointments with her children that he first alerted the police.

An appeal to the public yielded the information that Paterson was last seen in the company of David Harker. Acting on a tip-off, detectives were called to a secluded lane where they were shocked to find parts of Paterson’s dismembered body in a sack. “We could clearly see on the top of the sack the shoulder blades of a human being,” recalls Detective Inspector Ian Phillips.

Prior to the gruesome find, Harker had bragged to numerous friends that he had killed Paterson and mutilated her body – but no one had believed him. “He boasted about how he chopped up Julie,” recalls his friend Matt Fairly. “Obviously, he was drunk, so I just passed it off and didn’t believe him.” A search of Harker’s flat provided police with all the proof they needed, with the discovery of Paterson’s belongings and pools of blood on the floor. Harker at first denied the crime and refused to reveal where Paterson’s missing head and limbs were buried. His denial prompted a massive police operation as the entire town was swept for Julie’s remains. Officers spent weeks searching a landfill site in vain before the hunt was finally called off.

Harker, meanwhile, was diagnosed as having all the criteria of a psychopathic killer who felt no remorse for his crime. His story became more outrageous, as he claimed to have killed two more people and to have committed acts of necrophilia and cannibalism on Paterson’s body.

Sentenced to life in jail, he began a letter-writing campaign to the press in a bid for attention. “His motivation was notoriety,” says Karen Westcott, a journalist for the Northern Echo. “His trump card is that he’s never said where her remains are and I think he won’t do that because he knows that it’s keeping him in the press.”

In the wake of the murder, Alan Taylor became obsessed with finding the rest of Paterson’s body and took to digging holes all over Darlington. In 2000, he revealed his anguish when he was filmed standing over his lover’s grave. “The nightmares I have… in a way, I’m like a murderer myself because I have to think how, maybe, he’s done it,” Taylor said.

Taylor turned to drink and in 2006 murdered his friend John Morrison by strangling him with a belt. He claimed that he wanted to be sent to the same prison as Harker in order to exact revenge on his girlfriend’s killer. Three months after being sent away for life, Taylor committed suicide. Now the lead officer in Paterson’s case plans to visit Harker in prison in a final effort to learn what became of his victim’s remains and bring closure to this tragic story.

cannibal killer

This documentary examines the case of British cannibal David Harker, who killed Darlington woman Julie Paterson and ate her flesh. The film explores the trail of human devastation in the wake of Harker’s crime, which was to claim two more lives.

In 1999, 26-year-old David Harker was jailed for killing and mutilating the body of mother-of-four Julie Paterson. Police were alerted to the murder when they found Paterson’s remains dumped in a sack in a secluded lane; yet the victim’s head and limbs were never found and the killer has never expressed remorse for his actions.

In the wake of the murder, Paterson’s boyfriend, Alan Taylor, became obsessed with finding the rest of her body, and took to digging holes all over Darlington. Taylor turned to drink and in 2006 murdered his friend John Morrison by strangling him with a belt. Taylor claimed that he wanted to be sent to the same prison as Harker in order to exact revenge on his girlfriend’s killer. Three months after being sentenced to life in jail, Taylor committed suicide.

This film combines interviews conducted in 2000 with new insights from witnesses, police detectives and local reporters to unpick the story of Julie Paterson’s murder and its tragic consequences.

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