Robert Black victim's families relieved as killer's unclaimed ashes discarded in secret at sea
Robert Black's ashes have been discarded at sea after no one came forward to claim them.
No ceremony was held during the scattering at a secret location outside the UK.
The Northern Ireland Prison Service finally confirmed yesterday that his remains had been disposed of - three weeks after his cremation in Belfast.
A spokesman said: "In the absence of anyone claiming the remains of Robert Black, his ashes have been scattered at sea, without ceremony, beyond these shores. This has been done in accordance with the legal requirements for disposal. No further comment will be provided."
Black died on January 12 at Maghaberry Prison, where he was serving 12 life sentences for the kidnap and murder of four children, including Ballinderry schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy.
Local undertakers had refused to handle his remains, leading to a delay in a funeral being held.
Jennifer's father, Andy, said yesterday that discarding his ashes at sea was a fitting end.
The Prison Service came under heavy criticism over repeated attempts to keep the details of Black's funeral secret.
However, the Belfast Telegraph revealed last month that he had been cremated after hours at Roselawn Crematorium on the outskirts of Belfast, and that the prison authorities were planning to scatter his ashes at sea.
Alastair Ross, chairman of Stormont's Justice Committee, said last night: "This was an incredibly difficult and sensitive matter for the Northern Ireland Prison Service to handle.
"I believe that ultimately they have taken the appropriate course of action."
It is understood that the prison chaplain who officiated at Black's cremation had responsibility for disposing of his ashes.
After Black's death, there was huge concern about his funeral arrangements, with members of the public and politicians demanding that his remains be discarded outside of the province.
Black was first accused of rape aged 12. He went on to abduct and murder a number of young girls while working as a delivery driver.
He was jailed in 1994 for the murders of Susan Maxwell (11) from Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, in 1982; Caroline Hogg (5), from Edinburgh, in 1983; and Sarah Harper (10) from Morley, near Leeds, in 1986.
In 2011, he was also convicted of the murder of Jennifer (9), in Ballinderry, Co Antrim, in 1981. He was further convicted of a failed abduction bid on Teresa Thornhill in Nottingham in 1988, when she was 15.
At the time of his death, Black was strongly suspected of killing up to 15 more children, including Genette Tate, who vanished in a country lane close to her Devon home in 1978. He was expected to be charged with her murder within weeks at the time of his death.
Genette's father, John Tate, criticised the prison authorities over their initial refusal to make public any details about Black's funeral.
Mr Tate said that the families of his victims had a right to know where his ashes had been scattered.