Killer of Leeds schoolgirl Sarah Harper is unmasked in new murder trial

Sarah Harper was 10 when she died in 1986
Sarah Harper was 10 when she died in 1986
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THE killer of Leeds schoolgirl Sarah Harper and two other children was dramatically unmasked today as the man standing trial for the murder of a nine-year-old in Northern Ireland 30 years ago.

Predatory paedophile Robert Black’s criminal past as a triple child killer was revealed to the jury in Armagh Crown Court.

Black, now 64, is accused of kidnapping and murdering nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy in August 1981.

Crown lawyer Toby Hedworth QC told the jury legal reasons had prevented Black’s record from being disclosed in the trial.

“But now the stage in the trial proceedings has been reached when I can tell you,” he said.

He told them the defendant had been convicted in 1994 of murdering three young girls in the 1980s, the abduction of another and the attempted abduction of another.

Black, wearing a red jumper, sat impassively in the dock as the revelations were made.

Jennifer was abducted as she cycled to a friend’s house in the Co Antrim village of Ballinderry in August 1981.

Her body was found six days later floating in a dam 10 miles away.

The schoolgirl’s parents Andy and Patricia watched from the public gallery as the jury heard of Black’s dark past.

In 1994, the Scottish van driver was tried at Newcastle Upon Tyne Crown Court and found guilty of murdering three girls - Susan Maxwell, 11, Caroline Hogg, five, and 10-year-old Sarah Harper - and the attempted kidnap of a 15-year-old girl.

In 1986 Sarah disappeared after leaving her home in Morley near Leeds to buy a loaf of bread in a corner shop. She vanished on her way home..

Her body was found floating in the River Trent near Nottingham a month later. She had been raped.

Susan went missing as she walked between the villages of Cornhill-on-Tweed and Coldstream on either side of the Scottish/English border after playing a game of tennis in July, 1982.

Her body was found dumped by a roadside near Uttoxeter, Staffordshire 260 miles away. Police suspected a sexual assault.

A year later 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.

Black’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 and bound in the back of his van.

He was convicted of her abduction after pleading guilty.

Police subsequently found they could link him with the three murders, the attempted abduction of the 15-year-old in Nottingham in April 1988 and a series of other charges. He denied all those counts but was found guilty of them all at the 1994 trial.

Mr Hedworth told the silent courtroom that when Black, who worked as a poster delivery driver, was arrested in Stow, the six-year-old girl was found stuffed into a sleeping bag in the back of his van.

A medical expert predicted she would have died within an hour if she had not been released, the lawyer told the court.

The prosecution counsel then told the jury what Black said to a detective as he was being taken away.

He outlined the exchanges to the court.

“What a day it’s been,” Black said.

“It should have been Friday the 13th.

“It was a rush of blood. I’ve always liked young girls since I was a young kid.”

The officer asked him if he worked alone.

“It’s not the sort of thing you do with witnesses around, is it?” Black replied.

“I just saw her and got her into the van. I tied her up cos I wanted to keep her until I delivered the parcels to Galashiels.”

The detective then asked Black had he touched the girl.

“It just happened so quick,” he said.

“I only touched her a little. I wanted to keep her until I went somewhere like Blackpool so I could spend some time with her.”

The officer asked him what he would have done after that.

“Just let her go, drop her off,” Black told him.