Child-killer 'seen at murder site'

Witness in 23-year-old case points finger at Black A WITNESS in a brutal murder case more than 20 years ago has come forward with evidence that could clear a convicted man – and place serial child killer Robert Black at the scene. Dave Mark

Investigators who are fighting to overturn two alleged miscarriages of justice believe they have taken a massive step forward to solving two child murders, after tracing a van driver who could be a vital witness.

The information could lead police to Robert Black, who is serving life for several child murders, including that of Morley schoolgirl Sarah Harper, and has been linked to the unsolved killing of Scunthorpe schoolgirl Christine Markham.

Former Strathclyde Police detective chief inspector Les Brown said last night he had found the man with new information about the murder of 16-year-old Pamela Hastie 23 years ago. Mr Brown said the 53-year-old van driver, who lives in Paisley, Renfrewshire, was at last to break his silence after seeing an appeal in the media urging him to come forward.

Mr Brown's charity, A Search for Justice, is devoted to miscarriages of justice. It says it has other information that could link Black, 57, to Pamela Hastie's death. The evidence – given to police at the time but not followed up – alleges that Black, currently serving life for three child murders, ran out of Rannoch Woods in Johnstone, Scotland, and bumped into into the van on the day Pamela's half-naked strangled body was found there.

Raymond Gilmour, 40, was jailed for life in 1982 for Pamela's murder, but has always protested his innocence. Following an investigation by the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission, he was released on licence pending appeal earlier this year after serving 21 years in prison.

Mr Brown added: "I feel sick to the bottom of my stomach to think that if Black had been caught and convicted in 1981, the lives of the girls (whom Black was convicted of murdering) could have been saved.

"The van driver said the man suddenly ran out into the road from Rannoch Woods and collided with the side of his van. He stopped to help him, but the man declined and walked away."

The driver is said to have seen Black's face on TV and to have recognised him as the man in the accident.

The charity has now added Black to its list of suspects in the case of Tracey Waters, 11, who was killed in the town just over a year later.

But the new information could come too late for the schoolgirl's uncle, Adam McDermott. He was charged with her murder, but was released from prison 60 days later after prosecutors decided there was insufficient evidence. He vanished on the 20th anniversary of her death and is feared dead.

Black, meanwhile, is currently serving life at Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire, after being found guilty in May 1994 of the brutal killings of 11-year-old Borders schoolgirl Susan Maxwell in July 1982; of five-year-old Caroline Hogg, from Portobello, near Edinburgh, a year later; and of Sarah Harper, 10, from Morley, near Leeds, in March 1986.

Black – who worked for London-based Poster Dispatch and Storage, delivering posters to depots around England and Scotland – has been linked to up to 10 unsolved abductions and murders in England, as well as others in France, Amsterdam, Ireland and Germany.

They include nine-year-old Christine Markham in Scunthorpe in 1973, Genette Tate, aged 13, in Devon in 1978, 14-year-old Suzanne Lawrence in Essex in 1979 and Colette Aram, 16, in Nottingham in 1983.

The death of the Scunthorpe schoolgirl remains a mystery. Her body has never been found. Christine Markham disappeared from her home in Robinson Road, Scunthorpe, on May 21, 1973. She left home at 8.30am to attend Henderson Avenue Junior School but failed to arrive. Black is one of several names linked to her disappearance.

dave.mark@ypn.co.uk