How the police uncovered a gun fanatic's chilling plan
Colin Cheetham, who had a fascination with taxis and guns, planned to commit the "perfect" murder.
He spent weeks working on his plan to lure a cabbie to his death, Nottingham Crown Court heard during his trial.
As part of his murderous scheme, he took photographs of four railway stations and their timetables to find the most secluded and quietest spot for the killing.
Chillingly, he also took a photograph of the MJ's Taxis advert which was displayed on the wall at the sleepy Cromford station.
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Then, on September 17, he used the information to summon a taxi to Cromford train station and kill its driver. Stuart Ludlam took the call and paid the ultimate price.
First he was fired at through the rear windscreen of his car, the bullet penetrating his scalp.
He was then forced into the boot of his car and executed at close range.
His body was discovered by holiday-makers who saw an arm hanging out of the boot.
A murder investigation was launched but it seemed a motiveless killing. A breakthrough came when police found it was Cheetham who owned the mobile phone used to lure Mr Ludlam to his death.
Police investigators found that the T-Mobile phone, which was never recovered, had been activated on August 13 last year.
There was no record of who had bought it, as they had paid cash, but it had been bought at Morrison's supermarket in Frank Whittle Road, Derby.
It was a £5 phone top-up card bought moments later at the petrol station which revealed the identity of its owner. Cheetham's mistake was that he paid for this, along with £20 of fuel, on his credit card.
Cheetham was arrested on September 27 – 10 days after Mr Ludlam was found dead in his Ford Focus estate.
Police discovered he had not known Mr Ludlam but had a "fascination" with both taxis and guns.
It was the only explanation they had for the motiveless killing.
Det Chief Supt Tony Blockley said: "It was an excellent piece of detective work by two young cops. By using their own initiative they managed to identify Cheetham. I don't think we would have ever found Cheetham if it hadn't been for this.
"He had almost committed the perfect murder because he had covered his tracks – there were no links back to him and no witnesses. He meticulously planned it. He knew the times of the trains and the taxi numbers."
When police searched Cheetham's home in Waingroves Road, Ripley, they found photos of Whatstandwell, Ambergate, Duffield and Cromford stations as well as their train timetables. Police believe he was looking for the most secluded place and quietest time to commit the murder.
"But we have no idea why he did it," said Det Ch Supt Blockley. "The fact that there's no apparent motive made it even more difficult to investigate as we didn't have a direction.
"Was it Stuart who he was after or just a taxi driver? There is no evidence to suggest they knew each other. We have really had to think out of the box."
The two officers who found the evidence that cracked the case were DC Simon Swanborough and PC Tony Wilson.
The pair had taken up an offer of weekend overtime to go through CCTV footage at the Morrison's supermarket to see if they could spot the person who bought the mobile phone.
It was while at Morrisons that they decided to make their inquiries about the £5 top-up voucher bought at the petrol station.
DC Swanborough, 29, said: "We literally went there off our own backs to see if we could find out some information."
Through painstaking checks, the two found the voucher had been paid for using a credit card.
As soon as they found the receipt they were able to link the details with Cheetham. Further checks revealed he held a firearms certificate, and on it was a picture of him, which they used to compare with the shop's CCTV.
DC Swanborough said: "It was good to be able to feed that back to the incident room. They had been going in a completely different direction at the time because there was no motive and this gave them the first insight into the suspect."
The officers then discovered footage of Cheetham entering the store at 3.28pm and picking up a mobile phone box and two newspapers. He paid with cash. The phone was connected to Virgin at 3.54pm. At 4.01pm the £5 top-up voucher was bought with Cheetham's card.
The phone was used to call MJ's Taxis at 11.46am on September 17. The call was automatically diverted to Mr Ludlam's mobile – 56 minutes later he was found dead, on his knees and bent forward in his boot, with two gunshot wounds to his head.
The phone, the murder weapon and Mr Ludlam's taxi radio were never found.
Cheetham always denied murder and gave police detailed explanations about why CCTV showed him in various places on the day of the shooting.
He told officers he left his home at 10.45am to drive to Cromford railway to take photos for a calendar that he was planning to send to friends and relatives at Christmas.
CCTV footage shows him driving through Crich towards Cromford at 11.04am.
But during the trial, Nottingham Crown Court heard that in March Cheetham gave a different explanation for being at the station on the day of the shooting. He claimed he went there to loan a loaded gun to a man called Geoff who wanted to teach a drug dealer a lesson.
He said he saw Mr Ludlam being shot at but not the fatal bullet being fired.
He claims he left and returned to find Mr Ludlam dead.
At the peak of the investigation, 76 officers were working on the case. So far it has cost the force £272,278.
Officers initially believed the murder could have something to do with an argument that Mr Ludlam had with another taxi driver. This was reinforced by the unusual sighting of a yellow Hackney cab in Cromford on the morning of the murder.
Police questioned more than 250 yellow cab drivers and 1,200 statements were taken from the public. Fifteen people, including Cheetham, were arrested in connection with the murder.
Det Ch Supt Blockley believes it is some comfort to the victim's family that Cheetham has been convicted but is frustrated that they do not know why he did it. "The only person who knows the answer is Cheetham but it looks like it was just the thrill of killing somebody."