William Wilkinson seemed like ‘a laid back kind of guy’.
Slightly bedraggled in appearance – save for when he dressed up as Elvis Presley for karaoke – there were few, if any, signs of the unthinkable crimes he would commit as one horrific act spiralled into another.
He moved to Seafield Road in Blackpool in the spring of 2022 and began converting his Peugeot Boxer into a campervan, with the help of a neighbour.
Wilkinson’s flat was filled with Elvis memorabilia. He dressed up as ‘the King’ to perform. It was hardly the behaviour of a killer.
But that’s exactly what Wilkinson would soon become. ‘You don’t expect someone to snap like that,” one neighbour said.
On September 1 last year, Wilkinson – known as Billy – bludgeoned neighbour Eddie Forrester to death. He then dismembered Eddie’s corpse and hid body parts around Lancashire and Cumbria.
“We couldn’t believe it when we heard,” another neighbour said.
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On Friday (January 19, 2023) Wilkinson was jailed for life with a minimum term of 19 years and three months. It is likely the 65-year-old, who had no previous convictions, will die behind bars.
Seafield Road is a quiet, terraced street yards from the sea front. It has a dark history.
In 1998, serial killer Stephen Akinmurele slayed pensioners Eric and Joan Boardman in their home. Despite the gruesome killings, neighbours describe it as ‘a friendly neighbourhood, which is usually fairly quiet’.
Phil Walker lives across the road from the scene of Eddie’s murder. He said often saw him walking his dog up and down the street.
Eddie was a ‘broad Scot’ who always gave him the time of day, Phil said. He also knew Wilkinson well and had helped him fit a new bath and a boiler in the kitchen of his ground floor flat.
“I thought he was quite a nice lad”, he added. “I used to have a laugh with him, but I know Eddie used to wind him up. When he first moved in, Eddie would come down having a bit of a go, but Billy was that laid back he just took it as a laugh.
“I know they had a few goes with each other, arguing and falling out, then I went to do another job for Billy and he said, ‘I’ve just had a do with Eddie and given him a black eye.”
In September last year, Wilkinson was living in the ground floor flat at number 14. Eddie occupied the first floor and another neighbour lived upstairs.
Phil said: “Billy had bought that white van he had. The guy who lived on the top floor was helping him convert it into a campervan, put a bed in and what not. Sometimes he’d be out there working on the van and he’d call my wife over to have a look at how he was getting on. It’s quite scary really.
“Billy was always walking round with carrier bags, things he’s bought for the car boot. Every Saturday he’d be up at 5.30am getting ready to go, and every week he’d come back again at around 3pm. It was strange though. On the Saturday Eddie went missing, Billy never came back.
“I thought there was something suspicious about it.”
The same day, a friend who regularly ate dinner with Eddie reported his pal missing when he did not turn up to meet him. Lancashire Police launched a missing person investigation to try and find the ‘somewhat vulnerable’ 55-year-old.
Unknown to neighbours, Wilkinson had concealed Eddie’s dismembered body parts in carrier bags – and, after leaving many in public bins in Blackpool, headed north to deposit them in the Lake District.
Phil added: “That morning he had come out of the flat and put four carrier bags on the floor. There are four cats in this street, and they were all around his feet. I found that strange.
“I knew Eddie could wind Billy up, but never thought someone could snap like that. To be able to cut a body up and do what he did – you have to wonder if he’d done it before, or if he’d been a butcher or something.”
Forensic analysis of the body parts later revealed Wilkinson had used a mechanical saw in the kitchen of his ground floor flat. He had removed organs, including Eddie’s hear, which has never been found. He scrubbed the house, even painting over a length of skirting board in an attempt to conceal blood spatters.
When police searched the property, they found blood on the door frame, walls, carpet and in the communal hallway. There was a strong smell of cleaning fluid and wet paint when officers forced their way inside.
Mark Howarth-Oates, Det Superintendent for Lancashire Police, said: “As a result of what we found, this now moved from being a missing from home inquiry to a murder investigation – and Wilkinson was the suspect.”
In the days that followed, officers scoured CCTV and ANPR footage to try and find out where Eddie, or his neighbour Wilkinson could be. They traced Wilkinson going about his usual routine, walking round the town with carrier bags and visiting a car boot sale.
When officers found him – parked in the carpark of the Kirkstone Inn – they noticed he had changed his appearance. His straggly beard had been removed and he was now clean shaven, with a neat, cropped haircut. He had also changed his clothes, but a sleeveless top and hoodie, seized from the van, also bore spatters of Eddie’s blood.
Wilkinson was taken to Lancaster Police Station for questioning, but denied any knowledge of where Eddie was, or having anything to do with his disappearance. As he was returned to his cell, he turned to the interviewing officer, smiled, and said: “Good luck.”
Meanwhile, officers from Lancashire and Cumbria Police searched for Eddie’s body. They soon had a breakthrough. Two suitcases, found partially buried in land off Ashes Lane, Staveley, contained Eddie’s dismembered torso. His head was later found in a quarry off the M6. Many have never been found.
Eddie’s family were unable to hold a funeral until December, when it was confirmed it was unlikely the remains would ever be recovered. They said: “We fight to stop thinking about the horrific nature of how Edward was taken from us and don’t want to lose self control. It is hard to believe what that monster did to him. It is like something you see on the TV when you watch crime dramas.
“You watch those from the comfort of your home and never think it could be you who suffers that incredible act of evil. Nothing will bring our Edward back. We will never fully and process what happened to him.”
Neighbour Ray Jordan said: “It’s shocking what happened to Eddie. It’s not the first time something like this has happened though. When we first moved here there was a murder just up the street, and recently there was a young lad who killed a woman just behind here.
“I do feel safe here though. It’s a pretty quiet area. I just can’t believe what’s happened. I used to see Eddie all the time, walking up and down with his dog.”
Phil Walker added: “To think I was in his flat on my knees, fixing his sink. Say the wrong thing and he could have hit me over the head. You just don’t know people, do you?”
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