Northern Ireland’s former State Pathologist, who examined the body of murdered schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy 30 years ago, told a court he felt pressurised by prosecution lawyers into changing his opinion that the little girl had not been sexually assaulted.
Professor Thomas Marshall said he had found no evidence of sexual assault when he carried out a post-mortem examination in 1981.
During day 11 of the trial against her alleged killer Robert Black, Prof Marshall told Armagh Crown Court yesterday that in 2008 he felt he was being pressurised into changing his opinion during a meeting with Crown lawyers about the case.
“I think at that moment there was a little pressure for me to alter the opinion I had given in 1981,” he said.
“I’ve a recollection of feeling I was being asked to say something which I didn't believe in. I do remember coming away from the meeting feeling that I had to resist being pressurised.”
Following questioning by Crown counsel Toby Hedworth QC, Prof Marshall admitted that his findings did not rule out sexual assault.
The court was also told that Jennifer’s abduction and murder bears the signature mark of serial child killer Robert Black, who is on trial for her murder.
A forensic pathologist who reviewed the case in 2008 said the nine-year-old’s death displays striking parallels to the murder of 10 year-old Sarah Harper, who was one of three girls killed by Black after Jennifer’s disappearance. Both Jennifer and Sarah were abducted close to their homes and their bodies found dumped in water, with ligature marks on their necks.
Dr Nathaniel Cary, a forensic pathologist who has been involved in several high-profile criminal cases, including the 2002 murders of schoolgirls Holly Chapman and Jessica Wells in Soham, told the jury at Armagh Crown Court that the murders of Jennifer and Sarah had “remarkable similarities”.
“These cases are rare in any case. If a rare thing has similar features, that is the important point,” he said yesterday.
Jennifer (below) was abducted on August 12, 1981 as she cycled to her friend’s house a short distance from her Ballinderry home. Her body was discovered in McKee’s Dam close to Hillsborough six days later.
One theory as to the cause of death is that she was strangled until she lost consciousness and then thrown into the water to drown.
Dr Cary said it was difficult to draw any meaningful assessment of similarities between Jennifer’s murder and the murders of Susan Maxwell and Caroline Hogg because their bodies were badly decomposed by the time they were discovered.
“But the abduction and dumping of the bodies of girls this age speaks for itself about what has gone on,” he said.
The trial continues.
Story so far
Notorious child killer Robert Black abducted and murdered three young girls in the 1980s while working across the UK as a van driver. He is now on trial for the murder of Ballinderry school-girl Jennifer Cardy who was snatched in August 1981.
A forensic pathologist has told a jury there are similarities between Jennifer’s murder and the murder of another young girl kidnapped and killed by Black.