Child serial killer Robert Black’s horrific criminal past has been revealed to a stunned jury at his trial for the murder of another schoolgirl.
The paedophile was unmasked as Armagh Crown Court heard, for the first time, that the Scottish van driver has already been convicted of murdering three young girls, abducting a fourth and attempting to snatch another.
Sex attacker Black, 64, now stands accused of kidnapping and murdering nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy in Northern Ireland 30 years ago.
Jennifer was abducted as she cycled to a friend’s house in the quiet Co Antrim village of Ballinderry in August 1981. Her body was found six days later floating in a dam 10 miles away near Hillsborough, Co Down. She had been sexually assaulted.
Legal reasons had prevented the killer’s criminal record being disclosed to the jury during the first eight days of the high profile trial.
But that changed during a dramatic day in No.1 Court in Armagh as Crown lawyer Toby Hedworth QC outlined in graphic and shocking detail exactly what the man sitting in the dock had been found guilty of.
“The stage in the trial proceedings has been reached when I can tell you,” he told the jury at the outset of his address.
With an impassive Black listening to proceedings with the aid of a special hearing device, Mr Hedworth revealed the defendant had been convicted of murdering three girls in the 1980s – Susan Maxwell, 11, Caroline Hogg, five, and 10-year-old Sarah Harper, from Morley, Leeds and the attempted kidnap of a 15-year-old girl in 1988.
The lawyer said the London-based delivery driver’s reign of terror ended in dramatic fashion in 1990 when he was arrested near Stow in Scotland with a six-year-old girl gagged, bound and stuffed head first into a sleeping bag in the back of his van.
Police subsequently linked him with the three murders, the attempted abduction of the 15-year-old and a series of other charges.
He denied the counts but was found guilty of them all at a 1994 crown court trial in Newcastle Upon Tyne.
Mr Hedworth said his past crimes did not in themselves make Black guilty of Jennifer’s murder but claimed the striking similarities between the cases would prove it. He urged the jury: “What you certainly must not do is say ‘well he’s done those 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 he has been proved to have done 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.
“The prosecution will submit that the similarities between Jennifer’s case and those other cases make it clear that they were in fact the work of the same man.”
Jennifer’s parents, Andy and Patricia, at some points visibly emotional, watched from the public gallery as Mr Hedworth went on to detail Black’s history.
Black, whose work in the 1980s took him all over the country in his delivery van, denies kidnapping and murdering Jennifer.
The court heard highly disturbing details of what Black told officers he dreamed of doing to the girls.
Mr Hedworth told the jury the scenarios Black admitted dreaming about had distinct similarities with the circumstances of Jennifer’s disappearance.
Susan Maxwell went missing as she walked near the Scottish/English border in July, 1982. Her body was found dumped by a roadside near Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, 260 miles away.
In July 1983, Caroline Hogg vanished as she played near her home in Portobello, close to Edinburgh. Her body was found in a ditch in Leicestershire, 300 miles away, ten days later. A sexual assault was again suspected.
In 1986 Sarah Harper disappeared after leaving her home in Morley to buy bread in a corner shop. Her body was found floating in the River Trent near Nottingham a month later. She had been raped.
The trial continues.