Gardener who helped capture evil Black

MOURNERS will pay their final respects tomorrow to the quiet man of Stow who was responsible for the capture of evil child killer Robert Black, writes Bob Burgess.

It was the keen eyes and sharp wit of local postmaster David Herkes that helped put the paedophile behind bars where he will remain until he dies.

He was the man who spotted Black snatch a six-year-old girl in Stow on a sunny July 14 in 1990. Black’s capture that same day culminated in his conviction for four murders, kidnap, sexual abuse and attempted abduction.

Mr Herkes, 75, died at the Craw Wood care home at Tweedbank on Saturday where he had lived since 2008 after developing Alzheimer’s. His daughters Awdri and Shirley were by his side. His son-in-law Allan Doyle has been paying tribute. He said: “David was a family man who was devoted to the care and support of his late wife, Christine, his daughters and their families.

“He was perhaps best known, however, for the role he played in the arrest and conviction of child serial killer Robert Black.

“His quick thinking that day saved the life of a six-year old girl and led directly to the incarceration of Black. David’s actions were recognised by the presentation of a meritorious award by Lothian and Borders Police and a separate award from the Police Federation.”

Mr Doyle added: “Having trained as a potter with Buchan’s of Portobello, David went on to serve his community in Gorebridge as a funeral director, founding his own business. He retired to Stow where he owned and ran the post office and general store.”

He was fascinated by the natural world and was an accomplished pond-keeper gardener.

And it was his love of gardening that led to him spotting the abduction in Stow.

He had bent down to look at the blades of his mower when he saw the girl’s little feet next to Black’s van.

Mr Herkes said at the time: “Suddenly they vanished and I saw him making movements as if he were trying to stuff something under the dashboard. He got into the van ... and sped off towards Edinburgh.”

He alerted police and later recalled: “I was standing near the spot where the child had been abducted, briefing the police and the girl’s distraught father about what had happened.

“Suddely I saw the van again and shouted ‘that’s him’. The officer dashed into the road and the van swerved to avoid him before coming to halt.”

The schoolgirl was found stuffed in a sleeping bag – she had been sexually assaulted.

In August of the same year Black admitted his crime and was jailed for life. Protracted legal battles later saw him given other life sentences for the killing of Susan Maxwell, Caroline Hogg, Sarah Harper and Jennifer Cardy.

Funeral details - page 12