Inside Barry Williams' Hour-Long Crime Spree That Left Five People Dead

Throughout his life, Barry Williams was known as a relatively quiet man who, at the age of 34, was still living with his parents in West Bromwich, England. As reported by Sword and Scale, he did not have any known history of aggressive or violent behaviors, and authorities confirmed he did not have any record of arrests or convictions.

In 1978, Williams began displaying unusual behavior that caused some concerns about his mental state. Notably, he had a keen interest in shooting — in addition to becoming licensed to own and use a semi-automatic pistol, Williams was an active member of a local gun club. Although his hobby was not a specific concern, he suddenly began acting eccentrically at the club. Among other things, he asked if he could place wigs on the targets he was shooting at. As reported by Birmingham Mail, he also modified the bullets he used to be "more powerful." The owners became increasingly worried, and Williams' membership was eventually revoked.

Williams' erratic behavior also became evident outside the gun club. According to Sword and Scale, he developed an unusual obsession with his parents' next-door neighbors. 

He did not like his noisy neighbors

Although the neighbors had moved into their home five years prior, and Williams periodically complained that they were too loud, his anger suddenly intensified in October 1978 — at around the same time he was asked to leave the gun club. As reported by Sword and Scale, Barry Williams was specifically annoyed that George Burkitt and his son often repaired their vehicles in the driveway. In addition to the noise associated with repairing the vehicles, Williams said the Burkitts routinely listened to loud music, which could be heard from inside Williams' parents' home.

On the evening of October 26, 1978, Williams was growing increasingly angry about the noise. At approximately 7:10 p.m., he decided to go next door to confront the Burkitts about the noise. However, it was soon clear that he had no intention of discussing the situation with the family. According to Birmingham Mail, Williams took two guns with him to the Burkitts' house, and within moments of his arrival, he opened fire on the family.

Barry Williams shot and killed his neighbors

Barry Williams first approached 47-year-old George Burkitt, who he initially shot in the forehead, directly above his left eye. When George fell to the ground, Williams continued shooting him in the chest and side (via Birmingham Mail). George's son Phillip, who was 20 years old, attempted to flee the scene. However, Williams opened fire and shot him five times before he fell through the front window of his parents' home.

Williams then turned his gun on George's 49-year-old wife, Iris, who he shot multiple times in the chest. He then focused on George's 17-year-old daughter, Jill, who he shot in the chest, back, right leg, and left arm. Neighbor Judy Chambers, who was also Iris Burkitt's cousin, heard the commotion and walked outside to see what was going on. As reported by Birmingham Mail, Williams, who was in the process of fleeing the scene, spotted Chambers and shot the woman two times. He then got into his car and sped off.

He led authorities on a high-speed chase

Birmingham Mail reports that Barry Williams led authorities on a high-speed chase that reached speeds up to 100 mph. Along the route, Williams shot out the window of his vehicle multiple times and also tossed homemade bombs at people on the street. According to Sword and Scale, Williams eventually pulled his vehicle into a gas station in Nuneaton, where he opened fire on 58-year-old Mike Di Maria and his 53-year-old wife, Liza. He then drove away and managed to elude authorities for another 12 hours.

Law enforcement officials were finally able to capture and detain Williams when he crashed into another vehicle. When he was arrested, Williams asked the officers (via Sword and Scale), "Why didn't you kill me? I was hoping to die. Why didn't you shoot me?" Although George, Phillip, and Iris Burkitt and Mike and Liza Di Maria were killed in the brutal rampage, Birmingham Mail reports that Jill Burkitt and Judy Chambers eventually healed from their wounds and survived the attack.

He was released after 15 years

As reported by Birmingham Mail, Barry Williams was ultimately charged with multiple counts of murder. Although he pleaded guilty, he claimed he committed the crimes due to a diminished mental capacity. Following a mental health evaluation, several psychiatrists testified that Williams was diagnosed with paranoid psychosis and would require prolonged inpatient treatment. Williams was subsequently sentenced to be held in the high-security unit of the Broadmoor hospital, where he was ordered to remain indefinitely.

By 1994, Williams had spent 15 years at Broadmoor Hospital. As he was deemed to be mentally stable and no longer presented a threat to others, he was released without any further restrictions. Shortly after his release, Sword and Scale reports that Williams legally changed his name to Henry Street. He eventually married, and he and his wife had a daughter together. However, by 2007, he started having issues with his new neighbors. According to the Daily Mail, Williams became convinced his neighbors, the Smith family, were harassing him. Over a period of six years, Williams' delusions became increasingly intense, and he began verbally confronting the Smiths about the perceived harassment.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Barry Williams did not like his new neighbors

On October 14, 2013, Barry Williams — who authorities knew only as Henry Street — was charged in connection with the harassment of the Smith family. During a subsequent search of his home, authorities found six firearms, modified bullets, and a homemade bomb (via the Daily Mail). They also learned of Street's previous identity and violent past.

As it was believed that he still had mental health issues and posed a risk to the community, Williams was once again sentenced to an indefinite term at a mental health facility. During an interview after Williams' trial, Daily Mirror reports his neighbor, Mr. Smith, said, "It was like he was planning a re-enactment of his killings — but perfectly this time with us as his victims." After spending just over a year at the facility, a spokesperson confirmed to the Daily Mail that Williams was "taken to general hospital after becoming acutely physically ill." It was later revealed that he had suffered a heart attack and died on December 24, 2014, at the age of 70.