Cardy verdict: Wrong turn proved killer Black's undoing
Robert Black prided himself on his encyclopaedic knowledge of the UK's road network but it was one wrong turn that proved his undoing.
The serial killer's decision to double back on himself after snatching a little girl from the Scottish village of Stow saw him drive straight into the hands of police officers who had just been alerted to a suspected abduction.
He later described that date - Saturday July 14, 1990 - as the day "the roof fell in".
The terrified six-year-old was found in the back of his delivery van bound, gagged, hooded and stuffed head first into a sleeping bag. If she had remained in that state, medical experts claimed, she could have been dead within 15 minutes.
Black had sexually assaulted her in the back of his blue Ford Transit moments earlier in a lay-by beside a disused quarry two miles north on the main A7 Galashiels Road.
But his next move - to turn round and drive back through Stow on his way south to Galashiels - sealed his fate, inadvertently saved his victim's life and finally brought his murderous reign of terror to a shuddering halt.
Black, who had approached another girl in the village an hour beforehand, only to be scared off by her dog, initially said nothing as the little girl was recovered from the van he used as his lair of abuse.
However as he was driven to a police station the calculating killer started to talk, recounting the events of the day in chillingly understated fashion.
"What a day it's been," he said.
"It should have happened on Friday the 13th. It was a rush of blood. I've always liked young girls since I was a young kid."
Black's victim was gagged with two strips of Elastoplast tape over her mouth and her wrists tightly bound behind her with black cord.
He had placed a cushion cover over her head before tying it tightly round her neck. He had then rammed her into the dirty sleeping bag he used on overnight delivery trips.
Fortunately Stow resident David Herkes had witnessed the abduction taking place and had told police immediately.
Mr Herkes had been on the other side of the road as the young girl, who was on her way home after calling at a friend's house to find no one in, walked along the pavement past the parked Transit.
He noticed her stop at the passenger's door - then suddenly she was gone, her feet whipped from her as Black pushed her into the foot well.
Later Black's petrified victim, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, told officers what happened.
"He wasn't looking at me then but then he looked at me," she said.
"I didn't know he was a bad man then.
"He said sorry but then he grabbed me round the waist and bent me over and pushed me under the chair of the van."
Black drove off before Mr Herkes could do anything but he had managed to note the number plate and immediately ran to the local police station.
It was 20 minutes later, as police were just beginning to mount the search, that Black drove straight into them on the Galashiels Road.
As he opened up in the police car, one officer asked him if he worked alone.
"It's not the sort of thing you do with witnesses around is it?" he replied.
"I just seen her and got her into the van. I tied her up 'cos I wanted to keep her until I delivered the parcel to Galashiels."
The policeman 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," he claimed.
When interviewed 15 years later by detectives investigating Jennifer Cardy's murder, Black sniggered as he suggested his victim in Stow looked older to him than she was.
"I thought she was about eight year-old and she turned out to be six-year-old," he said.
"If I'd known she was only six year-old I wouldn't have done it."
He said he first spotted her walking along the pavement and was attracted by what she was wearing - short socks, shorts and a t-shirt.
"I think part of what made me go for it in that case was my state of mind I suppose at the time," he told detectives.
"I was feeling pretty down in the dumps, but another part was that where she was walking, she was heading for an area where there was a high stone wall on one side and a park on the other side, so there's no houses actually overlooking that part of the road."
Black said he decided against taking the girl when she walked up a path to call at a house - her friend's - but then he spotted her again soon after on her way back.
"I went and found somewhere to turn round and I was starting back to head for my next (delivery) drop or my last drop as it happens, and it was on the way back that I seen that she was coming down the path again on her own so I thought I would stop and I'd see what developed," he said.