Belfast Telegraph

Robert Black jailed for murder of Ulster schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy

Child murderer Robert Black is to serve a minimum of 25 years in jail for killing Northern Ireland schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy in 1981.

Black, 64, was sentenced at Belfast Crown Court after he was found guilty last month of snatching nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy as she cycled to a friend's house in Ballinderry, County Antrim, in 1981.

The former delivery driver abducted Jennifer while on a work trip to Northern Ireland and dumped her body in water close to the main Belfast-Dublin road near Hillsborough, Co Antrim, before catching a ferry home.

Black, who is already serving multiple life terms in Wakefield prison, was sentenced by Mr Justice Ronald Weatherup, who had earlier heard the killer's own lawyer offer no plea for mercy.

David Spens QC told the judge: "This is one of those rare cases in which there is no mitigation and so I propose to say nothing in that regard."

Prosecution barrister Toby Hedworth QC argued that Black should face a whole life term, given his other killings.

Around 40 killers including Moors Murderer Ian Brady and Rose West have formally been told they will never be released.

But the judge gave him another life sentence with a minimum of 25 years instead.

Jennifer's murder was the fourth for which Black has been convicted.

In 1994, he was found guilty of three unsolved child murders in the 1980s - those of 11-year-old Susan Maxwell, from the Scottish Borders, five-year-old Caroline Hogg, from Edinburgh, and Sarah Harper, 10, from Morley, near Leeds.

Detectives in England are reviewing the evidence against Black in connection with another schoolgirl's disappearance.

Jennifer's family were in court today to see the killer sentenced.

Andy and Pat Cardy heard Mr Justice Weatherup tell their daughter's killer he would be at least 89 before he would be considered for release.

The judge said: "Your crime was particularly serious.

"You subjected a vulnerable child to unpardonable terror and took away her life."

Paedophile Black was convicted of Jennifer's murder in October following a six-week trial at Armagh Crown Court.

Black, flanked by prison officers in the dock, and only a few feet away from Jennifer's parents, was handcuffed before he was led away.

The judge said of Jennifer's murder: "This was an act of sexual predation."

He added: "Victim impact statements have been provided by Jennifer's father and her brother Phillip. Her father speaks poignantly about Jennifer, of the family's awareness of Jennifer's absence from all family occasions, and of the harrowing revelations in the course of the trial."

Black's reign of terror finally ended in 1990 when he was caught red handed with a six-year-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.

During his trial for Jennifer's murder, Black did not betray a flicker of emotion, presenting an unwavering picture of cold indifference.

Black was born in 1947 near Falkirk in Scotland to a single mother who put him up to be fostered within weeks.

The couple who took him in later died and Black was placed in a children's home back in Falkirk.

The predatory paedophile has 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.

The judge added: "Jennifer's brother was a six-year-old boy who lost his sister.

"He speaks of fear and dread, of a child's nightmare of the family being targeted again, of dreams of what Jennifer's last words were, and how she would have struggled in her final hour."

Setting the minimum term behind bars, the judge said: "This is such a case where your culpability is exceptionally high and the victim was particularly vulnerable."

Outside the court the murdered child's parents Andy and Pat said they were satisfied that, in real terms, Black would spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Mr Cardy said: "It has been an emotional couple of hours. It has been a long, long journey. It has been 30 years of a journey."

He said his family's faith in God sustained them and added that he hoped their faith would inspire others to seek support in religion.

He said of the sentence: "We are very, very pleased. We think that justice has been done. We don't think Robert Black will ever be out of jail again to assault little girls. He will never be able to torture little girls."

Mrs Cardy, who was flanked by her daughter Victoria, was in a wheelchair after being injured in a recent car accident.

Her son Philip was also present, but her second son Mark was unable to attend.

Mrs Cardy spoke words of forgiveness about her daughter's murderer.

"There is absolutely no bitterness," she said.

"I have never been asked personally to forgive Robert Black."

But she added that if asked for forgiveness: "I would meet him face-to-face."

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