The man accused of murdering schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy 30 years ago has been exposed in court as a notorious serial killer.
Child killer Robert Black’s criminal past was revealed to the jury at Armagh Crown Court yesterday, where he is standing trial for kidnapping and murdering the nine-year-old in 1981.
In a dramatic development the court was told by Crown prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC that the Scottish van driver has already been convicted of murdering three girls, abducting a fourth and attempting to kidnap another.
The 64-year-old, whose work took him all over the UK during the 1980s, is accused of killing Jennifer while he was making a delivery in Northern Ireland on August 12, 1981.
Jennifer was abducted as she cycled to a friend’s house close to her home in Ballinderry, Co Antrim.
Her body was found six days later, floating in water at McKee's Dam 10 miles away. She had been sexually assaulted.
Black's criminal record could not be disclosed to the jury during the first eight days of his trial for legal reasons. But Mr Hedworth told the jury yesterday: “The stage in the trial proceedings has been reached when I can tell you.”
Mr Hedworth added that Black is “one of those exceptionally rare individuals who target girls of a particular age to steal them away from the roadside in a vehicle for sexual purposes, and then dispose of their bodies when he has no further use for them”.
The jury was told that Black had been convicted of murdering three girls in the 1980s — Susan Maxwell (11), Caroline Hogg (5) and Sarah Jane Harper (10) — and the attempted kidnap of a 15-year-old girl in 1988.
Black’s crimes caught up with him in 1990 when he was arrested near Stow in Scotland with a six-year-old girl gagged, bound and stuffed into a sleeping bag in the back of his van, the jury was told.
He pleaded guilty to her abduction.
He was later linked by police with the three murders and the attempted abduction and convicted in 1994 at Newcastle-upon-Tyne Crown Court.
Mr Hedworth told the court that Black's past crimes did not in themselves make him guilty of Jennifer's murder, but said that striking similarities between the cases would prove it.
He told 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.”