A JURY in Northern Ireland has been told that a man accused of murdering a schoolgirl from County Antrim three decades ago is Scottish-born child killer Robert Black, writes Bob Burgess.
The murdering paedophile was captured by police at Stow in 1990 after a local man spotted him abducting a young girl and bundling her into his delivery van where she was sexually assaulted.
By then Black had already killed three schoolgirls and abducted a fourth. His victims were 11-year-old Susan Maxwell who was snatched as she crossed Coldstream Bridge in July 1982; five-year-old Caroline Hogg, taken from the shorefront at Portobello almost exactly a year later; and Sarah Jane Harper, 10, from Morley, near Leeds, who was killed in 1986. In 1988 a 15-year-old girl escaped a kidnap bid by Black.
He was jailed for life at the High Court in Edinburgh for the Stow abduction, and later convicted of the three killings and jailed for life with a minimum term of 35 years.
Black, now 64, is on trial at Armagh Crown Court accused of the August 1981 kidnap and murder of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy who disappeared as she cycled near her home village of Ballinderry, near Lisburn. Her body was found six days later floating in a dam 10 miles away near Hilsborough in County Down. Black denies the charges.
For legal reasons the jury was not told of Black’s criminal record during the first eight days of the trail. But in a dramatic move on day nine, Crown Prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC revealed the Grangemouth-born van driver’s past. He told jurors: “The stage in the trial proceedings has now been reached when I can tell you.”
He revealed details of the three murder convictions and attempted kidnap, and said Black’s reign of terror had ended in dramatic fashion at Stow.
The QC told the jury: “Black is one of those exceptionally rare individuals who targets girls of a particular age to steal them away from the roadside in a vehicle for sexual purposes and then dispose of their bodies when he has no further use for them.”
He said the accused’s past crimes did not in themselves make him guilty of Jennifer’s murder – but he said striking similarities between the cases would prove it. Jurors heard Black pleaded guilty to the Stow abduction, and a police investigation linked him to the three killings and the attempted abduction of which he was convicted after a trial at Newcastle Crown Court in 1994.
Mr Hedworth told the Armagh hearing: “What you certainly must not do is say, ‘Well, he’s done these other ones, he’s a thoroughly bad man, so we’ll find him guilty in this case as well’.
“What you have to do is look at what has been proved in respect of those other girls and see whether it assists you in deciding whether you can be sure that it was Robert Black rather than some other individual who abducted and killed Jennifer Cardy.”
Northern Ireland’s former state pathologist, Professor Thomas Marshall, has told the jury he stands by his initial findings that there was no evidence the youngster had been sexually assaulted. But he said the fact that the cases of Sarah Harper and Jennifer Cardy were so alike was very important because child abductions were so rare.
The trial continues.