In a quiet cul-de-sac off Beverley Road, a neighbour peered over her garden wall into the back yard of 7 May Street.
She could hardly believe her eyes, but there appeared to be a foot sticking out from under a duvet.
The woman called police, reporting what appeared to be a body in next door’s yard.
She did not know there were in fact two, and she had stumbled upon the scene of East Yorkshire’s first double murder for nearly 20 years.
He had long since fled, but Phillip Simmons, 38, one of several residents at the privately rented property, had turned 7 May Street into a house of horrors.
The burly and intimidating 16.5st thug had murdered housemate Daniel Hatfield, 52, who weighed just 6st, and his friend Matthew Higgins, 49, who was only paying him a visit.
It may never be known who was killed first, but Simmons told police it was Mr Hatfield, which would mean Mr Higgins was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
For after attacking his first victim in the kitchen, and continuing the assault with a variety of weapons after dragging him into the yard, Simmons walked back into the house and found the second man standing in the kitchen.
He took a “calculated”, instant decision to kill him too, later telling police: “I thought that I had no choice, I’m gonna have to do him as well.
The two murders were almost identical, involving beating and the use of multiple weapons.
It was a grim task that befell the officer who had to remove the duvet.
But in an exclusive interview with the Mail, the officer who led the inquiry revealed that other potential victims crossed Simmons’s path, and may have been lucky to escape with their lives.
After the second killing, Simmons walked back into the house and found someone else in the kitchen, a woman who also lived there.
The killer decided to leave.
Detective Chief Inspector Tony Cockerill said she may be “simply lucky to be alive, considering the mindset of Simmons at the time, having just murdered two men who were no threat to him, one after the other.
“He’d reached a tipping point in his life where he’d committed these crimes.
“He had nothing to lose and could see where this would end up, and that was prison for the rest of his life.”
Simmons was on the run, but he was already a suspect and evidence was being quickly gathered against him.
He dumped his trainers in the bin at a “local address”, but these were recovered.
As well as retrieving forensic evidence from the scene and making inquiries locally, police continued filling in any gaps in their knowledge even after Simmons was arrested.
Det Chief Insp Cockerill said: “We spent some considerable time creating a timeline between the murders and his arrest to help us understand what had happened and where our evidential opportunities lay.”
It is thought Simmons spent just two days at large before he was arrested after a robbery at a Betfred bookmakers in Preston Road, east Hull, from which he hoped to fund his flight from justice.
Simmons, whom police describe as “a physically imposing, large man”, threatened the manager with a broken bottle, and demanded money.
Police say the manager was wise not to have challenged Simmons, handing over the £2,800 he took.
Det Chief Insp Cockerill said: “It was that decision and good fortune that he was not seriously injured, or worse, because Simmons knew what he’d done, he knew he was wanted, he had nothing to lose, and he’s an extremely violent and volatile individual.
“Simmons is capable of remarkable levels of violence.”
The officer said it is one of the worst cases he has seen.
“I’ve seen worse injuries,” he said, “but to have one after the other in such a premeditated way, which for me is an illustration and indication of where he was psychologically at the time, where he’s thinking that’s a rational decision, where a man has used horrendous levels of violence in two murders, is shocking.”
Det Chief Insp Cockerill praised relatives of the victims for the dignity they showed in court yesterday, when Simmons admitted two counts of murder and robbery.
Judge Jeremy Richardson QC told the killer: “Phillip Simmons, you have pleaded guilty to two exceptionally serious crimes, and the crime of robbery.
“In respect of the murder convictions, there is but one sentence I shall be passing in due course, and that is a life sentence incumbent on each of the two counts.
“The only issue for determination is the minimum term that should be served in this case.
“There is an argument that I should impose a whole life term, but cogent arguments have been advanced as to why I should not take that course.
“I make it clear at this juncture I have not made any decision.
“At present I keep an open mind, but it is only right that I should indicate that I take, of course, an exceptionally serious view of such an exceptionally serious case.”
Hull Daily Mail