In Depth

Robert Black: child killer dies in prison

Notorious murderer was jailed for the deaths of four schoolgirls – and had been linked to more

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Child murderer Robert Black died in prison in Northern Ireland this week aged 68. The Scottish-born killer was serving a life sentence for the murder of four schoolgirls in the 1980s.

A sexual predator with a record stretching back to the age of 12, when he attempted to rape a girl, Black's crimes against children escalated to murder in August 1981, with the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy near her home in County Antrim, Northern Ireland.

Less than a year later, 11-year-old Susan Maxwell from Northumberland became his next victim, strangled as she went to play tennis in Coldstream, in the Scottish Borders.

In July 1983, Black abducted five-year-old Caroline Hogg, who was playing outside her house in Edinburgh. Her body was found 300 miles away, in Leicestershire. Three years later, he struck again, strangling ten-year-old Sarah Harper near her home in Morley, Leeds.

Black's job as a van driver gave him ample opportunity to move around the country without attracting suspicion while police did not initially link the death of Jennifer to the later killings.

In 1990, Black was preparing to kill again. Passing through the Scottish Borders village of Stow, he spotted a six-year-old girl walking alone and bundled her into the back of his van. He then tied and gagged her before putting her into a sleeping bag.

However, he was unaware that a neighbour, who had been watching the little girl, had called the police once he realised she had been taken. A squad car was immediately sent out and Black was spotted and stopped as he attempted to double back through the village.

An ITV documentary from 2001 revealed how, in an extraordinary twist, the police officer who stopped and searched the vehicle was the father of the terrified child tied up inside.

Black was sentenced to life - but police then began probing into his connections to the earlier murders and in 1994, he was given three more life sentences for killing Susan, Caroline and Sarah, with a fourth added in 2011, when he was found guilty of Jennifer's murder.

Detectives believe that Black could have been involved in at least four other unsolved murders of schoolgirls.

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