Pariah in death as he was in life, now public could foot bill for serial killer Robert Black's funeral
It would be outrageous if the public ended up paying for Robert Black's funeral, MLAs have said.
Black's funeral bill could be picked up by the public if no one claims the serial killer's remains.
The Scot, who murdered nine-year-old Ballinderry girl Jennifer Cardy in 1981, died in Maghaberry Prison this week, where he was serving life sentences for the murders of four schoolgirls.
The Prison Service is trying to trace any family of the notorious murderer from Falkirk.
But if no next of kin can be found, or no one claims his remains, Black will be given the modern equivalent of a 'pauper's funeral' - now called a public health funeral - with the ratepayer footing the bill.
Lagan Valley MLA Paul Given, who represents the area in which Jennifer Cardy lived and who knows her parents, said the public funding of Black's funeral would be "outrageous".
The average cost of a basic funeral in Northern Ireland is just over £3,000. Even a no frills funeral paid for by a local authority can cost around £1,500.
But it is understood several local funeral firms would be unwilling to handle the remains of one of the UK's worst ever child killers. A post mortem will first be carried out on the remains of the 68-year-old, who died in non-suspicious circumstances on Monday.
A Prison Service spokesperson said: "In the event of a death in prison in Northern Ireland, and where no next of kin is identified, Prison Service will make necessary funeral arrangements."
Public health funerals were rare in the old Lisburn City Council area, which covered Maghaberry. Only two were held in 2010/11 and none in the following two years.
One of those was for a funeral where the family was unwilling to pay. The other had no friends or family.
The council paid £1,470 for each funeral, although it claimed back £1,270 from the Crown Solicitor.
Black, born in Grangemouth, was convicted in 2011 of the murder of Jennifer. She was abducted by Black as she cycled to a friend's house on a rural road at Ballinderry in August 1981.
Black was also convicted of murdering 11-year-old Susan Maxwell, from the Scottish Borders, five-year-old Caroline Hogg, from Edinburgh, and Sarah Harper (10) from Morley, near Leeds.
Mr Givan said: "The public would be outraged if taxpayers' money might have to be used to pay for this killer's funeral.
"I have three daughters of my own and the thought of anything happening to them is unthinkable but to have to pay for a killer like this to be buried would be outrageous."
He said every effort should be made to find a relative to foot the bill or alternatively, any money Black had should be recovered and used to pay his funeral costs.
"The taxpayer has already paid tens of thousands of pounds to keep him in Maghaberry prison and this would just be adding insult to injury," the MLA said.
Alliance Assemblyman Trevor Lunn said it would be "very disappointing" if the public purse were to carry the burden of the funeral. However, he said that if no relative can be found the state would have an obligation to bury him "as cheaply and in as simple a way as possible".
"In this particular case I wonder what the Cardys would think of it. They seem a lovely couple, very forgiving and Christian in their outlook," he said.
The DUP's Lord Morrow said it would be "too much" to ask the public to pay for Black's funeral. "I think the general public which I am one of will find that very difficult to understand and difficult to accept," the MLA said.
"It's too much from the public and more so of the families who have suffered at the hands of this man."
The Belfast Telegraph contacted a number of local funeral directors who said they would be uneasy with handling the remains of the serial killer.
Last year, Garda killer Adrian Crevan Mackin's body lay unclaimed in a hospital morgue for several days, with a number of funeral directors refusing to handle his remains. The 25-year-old Newry dissident, who also shot his partner, was secretly cremated without ceremony at a low-key funeral service in Roselawn.
One undertaker said: "That might be the best way for Black to go too. Cremation would also mean there would be no grave for anyone to visit this ghoul to pay their respects. He doesn't deserve respect."
The National Association of Funeral Directors said his case had been referred to the coroner, and steps would be taken to contact any next of kin who wished to be involved in the funeral.