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Child killer Robert Black dies in Northern Ireland prison

Child killer Robert Black who was convicted of the murders of four children from across the UK has died in Maghaberry prison.

The 68-year-old Scottish-born killer was serving 12 life sentences for the murders of four schoolgirls in the 1980s.

His victims were nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy from Northern Ireland; Sarah Harper, 10, from England, and 11-year-old Susan Maxwell and five-year-old Caroline Hogg both from Scotland.

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Northern Ireland Prison Service confirmed an inmate died in non-suspicious circumstances.

Prison sources have said the dead prisoner was Black.

Black was caught red-handed by police in 1990 with a barely barely alive six-year-old girl hooded, bound, gagged and stuffed in a sleeping bag in the back of his van in the Scottish village of Stow. He had sexually assaulted her moments earlier.

In 2012, he was found guilty of the 1981 murder of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy, from Ballinderry, Co Antrim.

He was also suspected of involvement in other killings.

He had long been the prime suspect in the case of missing 13-year-old Genette Tate, who was last seen in a rural lane in Aylesbeare, Devon, in 1978.

No trace of the newspaper delivery girl has ever been found. All that remained at the scene were her bike and scattered papers.

A NI Prison Service spokeswoman said: "The Prison Service has confirmed that a 68-year-old prisoner has died at Maghaberry Prison.

"While this is not being treated as suspicious, the Prison Service has informed the PSNI, Coroner, and Prisoner Ombudsman. It would not be appropriate to comment further at this time."

SDLP MLA for Upper Bann Dolores Kelly said the murder committed by Robert Black were "scorched in the memories" of people at the time.

She said: “The horrific murders committed by Robert Black are scorched in the memories of people from that time. I remember vividly being in the search party that looked in vain for Jennifer Cardy.

"While I didn’t know her family, I have never forgotten them. Once again tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with them as the painful scars of Jennifer’s death undoubtedly resurface.

“On almost a daily basis I drive past the spot were Jennifer’s bike was abandoned on the 12th August 1981, and I am reminded the evil that touched this place that day.

"The entire community was frightened and shocked by what had happened and we were not alone. I remember all the children he murdered over the years: Sarah, Susan and Caroline.

“Though Black was convicted in 1994 for the murders of the other three girls, it was not until 2011 that Jennifer’s family got the justice they sought.

"This was one of the longest police investigations ever to be conducted here and when he was finally convicted he was described as a lost cause to humanity. There is no doubt in my mind that that is true and tonight Black faces the ultimate judge.”

Four young victims of depraved killer

Robert Black was convicted of the murder of four schoolgirls.

1981 - Jennifer Cardy

The nine-year-old schoolgirl was snatched as she cycled to a friend's house in the quiet Co Antrim village of Ballinderry on August 12 1981.

Her body was found six days later in a dam behind a roadside lay-by 15 miles away at Hillsborough, Co Down.

Black was in Northern Ireland to deliver posters for the start of a new beer and cigarette campaign.

Detectives trawled 560,000 old fuel receipts in a bid to nail Black, and eventually they found the one that proved crucial.

The receipt from a Coventry service station proved that Black, who scrawled his name on the paper, was driving south to London the day after the murder in August 1981 in a van primarily used to deliver posters in Northern Ireland.

1982 - Susan Maxwell

The 11-year-old schoolgirl lived on her family's farm near the village of Cornhill-on-Tweed on the English side of the Scottish border.

On Friday July 30 she arranged to play tennis with a friend two miles away, just over the border in the town of Coldstream.

She got a lift there and had persuaded her mother Liz to let her walk back - the first time she had done so on her own.

Her game finished at 4pm and Susan was seen crossing the bridge back into England over the River Tweed on her way home.

But then she vanished.

Two weeks later, her body was found 264 miles away lying a ditch at a roadside lay-by just outside Uttoxeter in the Midlands.

Work records showed that Black had been travelling between Edinburgh and Newcastle on the day Susan vanished and that he would usually return to London through the Midlands, where he would visit a friend. The friend lived in Donisthorpe - 20 miles from the lay-by where Susan was found.

1983 - Caroline Hogg

Five-year-old Caroline, from Portobello near Edinburgh, had spent most of Friday July 8 1983 at a friend's birthday party.

She wore a princess dress - one she loved so much that her parents let her keep it on for the rest of the day.

That evening back at her home on Beach Lane, she was allowed out to play for five minutes in the school grounds opposite her house.

Her mother went to call her in after about half an hour, but there was no reply.

It emerged that a boy had spotted Caroline in the play park she was not allowed to go to. She was on the swings. The child also noticed a ''scruffy looking man'' sitting on the promenade watching her play.

Another child had seen her walking towards the town's funfair, Fun City, hand-in-hand with an unknown man.

Ten days later, again in the English Midlands, Caroline's badly-decomposed body was found. The dead child was completely naked - again suggesting a sexual motive.

It later emerged that Black, who used to swim in Portobello as a teenager, had been back in the town the day Caroline disappeared, making a delivery.

1986 - Sarah Harper

Ten-year-old Sarah lived in the working class area of Morley in greater Leeds.

On the evening of Wednesday March 26, during her Easter holidays from school, she was sent on an errand to the corner shop by her mother.

The shopkeeper remembered her calling in, buying a loaf of bread for her mum and two packets of crisps.

She was last seen heading down a short alleyway on her way home.

Then, nothing.

Three and a half weeks later, a man walking his dog along the River Trent at Wilford, near Nottingham, saw something floating in the water.

He was shocked to realise it was a body - Sarah's.

A post-mortem examination revealed she had been subjected to a violent sexual assault.

The cause of death was drowning, with tests suggesting she was still alive when she was dumped in the river, albeit possibly unconscious.

Black made a delivery in Morley on the evening Sarah disappeared. A return trip to London via the River Trent would have seen him take the same exit off the M1 motorway he used when visiting his friend in Donisthorpe.

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