Notorious paedophile Robert Black, the evil serial killer whose victims have included a Salvation Army choirgirl from Yorkshire, has been convicted of his fourth child murder.
A jury took less than five hours to find him guilty of kidnapping and murdering nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy in Northern Ireland 30 years ago.
Black, 64, has already been told he will die in jail after he was given 10 life sentences in 1994 for murdering three other children during the 1980s.
They included choirgirl Sarah Harper, 10, who was abducted while she went to buy a loaf for her mother from a corner shop near her home in Brunswick Place, Morley, Leeds, on March 26, 1986.
Sarah’s body was found floating in the River Trent almost a month later. She had been sexually assaulted.
Black, a delivery driver from Scotland, also murdered 11-year-old Susan Maxwell, from the Scottish Borders, and five-year-old Caroline Hogg from Edinburgh.
He was caught in 1990 when police found him with a barely alive six-year-old girl who was hooded, bound, gagged and stuffed in a sleeping bag in the back of his van in the Scottish village of Stow. He had sexually assaulted her moments earlier.
The conviction is expected to lead to growing pressure on prosecutors to charge Black with a fifth murder, for which he remains the prime suspect.
He was arrested and questioned inside Wakefield prison in 2005 by detectives investigating the disappearance of newspaper delivery girl Genette Tate, but no charges have been brought in the case.
Genette was 13 when she was last seen on a lane near Aylesbeare, east Devon, in August 1978.
Her father John, who is now 69 and dying of prostate cancer, said yesterday he believed Black was responsible and urged him to own up. Mr Tate said: “If he told us where she was... it would be a tremendous weight lifted off my shoulders, but it would break my heart to know what she had been through.”
Black showed no emotion when the verdicts on the Jennifer Cardy murder were read out at Armagh Crown Court yesterday.
Judge Mr Justice Ronald Weatherup told him: “You have been convicted by a jury of murder. There is only one sentence that will be imposed by law.
“That’s the sentence of life imprisonment. Accordingly, I sentence you to life imprisonment.”
The court had heard that Jennifer was snatched as she cycled to a friend’s house in the quiet Co Antrim village of Ballinderry on August 12, 1981.
Her body was found six days later in a dam behind a roadside layby 15 miles away at Hillsborough, Co Down.
Outside court, Jennifer’s deeply religious family – parents Andy and Patricia, her sister Victoria, and brothers Mark and Philip – revealed they had prayed for their loved one’s killer.
“We prayed for Robert Black,” Mr Cardy said, “that Robert Black would some day know Jesus as his saviour, just as Jennifer knew Jesus as her saviour, and the wonderful thing is that some day we will be reunited with Jennifer in glory and that is just a wonderful thing to know that.”
Mr Cardy said he did not hate Black, just pitied him.
“We pity Robert Black and the awful life he has led,” he said.
“We have been able to live without bitterness and vengeance in our lives and when we lost Jennifer life was never the same, but life had to go on and we had to live life.
“Robert Black stole the life of our daughter, Jennifer, but Robert Black didn’t steal the lives of me and my family – we’ve lived a happy, prosperous life, but we miss Jennifer each and every day.”
Mr Cardy added that he believed Black deserved to die for what he had done.
“I would have to say that I would still say that somebody who commits murders like this, I believe their lives should be taken, I believe they should be put to death, that’s my belief,” he said.
“I don’t mean that in a vengeful way, I mean that in a just and righteous way.”
Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray, of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said Black was “a lost cause to humanity”.