Belfast Telegraph

'Similarities' in Jennifer murder

The murder of a schoolgirl for which serial killer Robert Black stands accused bears remarkable similarities to the death of one of his victims, his trial has heard.

Forensic pathologist Nathaniel Cary told Armagh Crown Court the fact the cases of Jennifer Cardy and Sarah Harper are so alike is very important because child abductions are so rare.

The jury also heard another senior pathologist claim he felt pressured by the Crown to alter elements of his testimony ahead of the trial starting.

Black, 64, denies kidnapping and murdering nine-year-old Jennifer, who vanished as she cycled to a friend's house in the Co Antrim village of Ballinderry in 1981. The notorious paedophile has already been convicted of three child murders - one of which was the 1986 killing of 10-year-old Sarah Harper, who vanished from Morley near Leeds.

On the 11th day of Black's trial, Dr Cary told the jury the circumstances of the two girls' deaths were "remarkably similar". He added: "These cases are very rare. So if a rare thing has similar features, that's an important point."

Both girls were found dumped in water, Jennifer in a dam 10 miles from her home near Hillsborough, Co Down, and Sarah in the River Trent near Nottingham.

With Black listening from the dock, Dr Cary said there were similar marks on both victims' bodies and both may have been still alive, albeit possibly unconscious, when they were put in the water.

He said there were clear signs of a serious sexual assault on Sarah's body, and while there were no such visible injuries on Jennifer he believed the evidence indicated she had also been interfered with.

Earlier, former Northern Ireland state pathologist Professor Thomas Marshalll expressed unease about a meeting he had with Crown lawyers in 2008 to discuss Dr Cary's review of his findings and ascertain whether he would give evidence at the trial. "I think at that moment there was a little pressure for me to alter the opinion I had given in 1981," he said.

Prof Marshall stands by his autopsy report of 1981 in which he stated drowning as Jennifer's cause of death and indicated he had found no evidence of sexual assault. Dr Cary does not rule out drowning but forwarded three alternative suggestions: That she was asphyxiated with the use of a ligature; That she was rendered unconscious with the ligature and then thrown into the water and left to drown; She had a ligature tied round her neck but escaped and then drowned as she tried to get away.

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