Belfast Telegraph

Robert Black will not take the stand in his defence

The murder of a Northern Ireland schoolgirl, for which serial killer Robert Black stands accused, is unique in the modern criminal history of the region, his trial has been told.

Notorious Scottish paedophile Black is charged with abducting and murdering nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy while on a day-long work trip across the Irish Sea 30 years ago. He denies the charges.

On a day when it was confirmed that Black will not give evidence in his defence, the jury at Armagh Crown Court heard that while Jennifer's case was the only one of its type in Northern Ireland in 40 years, it shares 12 distinct similarities with the three child murders the former van driver has been convicted of in mainland UK.

The court was also told Jennifer's death remains the only unsolved child murder in the region in the last four decades.

The schoolgirl was snatched as she cycled to a friend's house in the quiet Co Antrim village of Ballinderry in August 1981. She was found floating in a dam behind a roadside lay-by 15 miles away at Hillsborough, Co Down, six days later.

Retired police detective Stephen Clarke told the jury he had reviewed all child killings in Northern Ireland since 1972 and compared them to four criteria common to Black's crimes.

Namely, that the victim was a pre-pubescent girl; that she was snatched from a public place; that she was murdered; and that transport was used.

“There was only one case that fitted the four criteria,” he revealed.

“And that was the case of the abduction and murder of Jennifer Cardy.”

Crown counsel Toby Hedworth QC asked him to confirm this was the only such child death in Northern Ireland in the last 40 years.

“Yes, my Lord, the case is unique,” said the former detective chief inspector, addressing judge Mr Justice Ronald Weatherup.

He added: “The Jennifer Cardy case is also the only case that has never been detected.”

Black (64) looked on impassively from the dock as the retired detective outlined the findings of his case review.

Jennifer's parents, Andy and Patricia, watched the exchanges from the public gallery.

Mr Clarke was the last prosecution witness called.

Junior counsel Paddy Taggart opened the defence case by informing the court that Black would not be taking the stand.

“Mr Black will not be giving evidence,” he said.

Justice Weatherup asked the defence lawyers was their client aware that the jury was entitled to draw an inference from his failure to do so.

Senior counsel David Spens QC confirmed Black was aware of the situation.

The serial killer's reign of terror ended in 1990, when he was caught red handed with a six-year-old girl hooded, bound, gagged and stuffed in a sleeping bag in his van in the Scottish village of Stow. He had sexually assaulted her moments earlier.

In 1994 he was then convicted 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 — as well as a failed abduction bid in Nottingham in 1988.

The trial continues.

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