Belfast Telegraph

Brother of Jennifer Cardy reveals torture over thoughts of sister's death at hands of Robert Black

By Stephanie Bell

Jennifer Cardy's younger brother has told how he has been tormented for decades by the horror his sister endured.

In an emotional interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Philip Cardy said Robert Black may have driven past him on the day he murdered Jennifer.

And Philip recalled how, as a child, he grew up haunted by thoughts the "bogeyman" was real because of what happened.

"The wee country road we lived on was very quiet and we were always up and down it on our trikes and go-karts," he said. "Robert Black could have passed me in his van that day, and I shudder to think about that. I lay in my bed at night years later thinking about it in-depth.

"Grief is something that stays with you for years and continually pops up. When I started to think about what it might have been like for Jennifer, it really was hard to deal with. What was she thinking? Did she call out? Did she call: 'Daddy, daddy?' I can't even imagine what that must have been like.

"Just to think what she might have gone through, maybe asking: 'God, where are you?' It is unimaginable, and if you really thought about it, it would put you insane. What that man did was unbelievably evil, and I wonder if anyone thinks about what it was like for Jennifer and the other girls."

Even though he was only six when Jennifer disappeared, every detail of the bright summer's day when his happy-go-lucky nine-year-old sister was cruelly snatched is forever etched in Philip's memory.

Like his parents Andy and Pat, Philip (40) has no hatred for the serial killer who abducted, sexually abused and murdered his sister as she cycled to a friend's house on August 12, 1981.

However, while he hopes that Black's death in Maghaberry Prison at the age of 68 earlier this week will give the family some long-deserved peace, his thoughts are also with the families of the other missing children Black is believed to have murdered.

Philip, who is married to Susan (41) and has three children, Elijah (6), Isaac (4) and Joel (3), works in the family kitchen and bedroom company Richardson Cardy, in Lisburn. Talking about Black's death, he revealed how, as a child, the then unknown killer had been a real-life "bogeyman" to him and how, when he came face-to-face with him in court in 2011, he found it strange that he had no hatred towards him.

"As a child you are always told there is no such thing as the bogeyman, but I knew because of Jennifer there was a bogeyman," he said. "I find it odd that I can't hate him. I wish I could hate him, but I don't. It was such a big relief when we found out who he was. From that moment, he was like a caricature of someone, as if he still wasn't real until I sat behind him in court. It was then I realised this person I feared all my life was a wee, fragile old man. How could you hate somebody like that? I don't have any hatred for him, only pity.

"But I did think about what age he was back then, and he would have been in his 20s and probably had a roughness about him, and that's who Jennifer faced.

"The court case was absolutely horrendous, and it explained quite a lot about how Jennifer died. I wouldn't want to think it through in detail.

"I have my own thoughts and feelings on it, and as a family we did pray for Black. I think it's good that it's over and he is dead, but the biggest and most horrible thing is that in one way he should have lived until he was 99, or until he had given information about those other poor souls who are still missing.

"From a selfish point of view I am glad he is gone, but from a loving point of view I wish there had been a confession, as it would have been lovely for those families to have known the truth.

"To not have to relive it again would be fantastic, but I don't know. Can the bogeyman be dead and still haunt you? I hope not. I hope that is the end of it."

Philip can recall every detail of the day his sister went missing, describing it as playing like a "film roll in my mind". He remembers playing with his best friend in the garden when his mum called them all in for tea.

"Jennifer had fed our younger sister Victoria and gone out to cycle to her friend's house," Philip said. "I remember mum had made stew in a big blue pot, but it was horrible and me and my brother Mark didn't want to eat it. My dad usually worked late, but it was a Wednesday and one of the nights he got home around 6pm instead of 10pm.

"Mum's car had a puncture and I remember dad fixing it. Then mum went out to look for Jennifer and came back and said she had not arrived at her friend's house. I went out with dad to look for her. I remember being happy because it meant I didn't have to eat my stew."

Philip was aware his sister had not come home for dinner and that his mother was worried, but he remembers her being "very contained" and managing to hide her growing panic as neighbours, friends and family started to arrive and join in a massive search.

He also recalls driving with his father around the local roads and stopping and calling at houses along the way as they looked for missing Jennifer. When they finally returned home, six-year-old Philip was shocked to see three UDR Land Rovers and police cars outside their country home in Ballinderry. "I remember it was becoming dusk and I was brought into the house and given a cup of tea and a Digestive biscuit by the mum of one of Jennifer's friends," he explained.

"More and more people started to congregate and the house just started to fill with people. I remember that I couldn't understand why my grandparents were there. I shared a bedroom with Jennifer, and I remember that we were sent to bed and I knew that Jennifer hadn't come home, but I didn't understand the magnitude of it."

In the days that followed, as the searches for Jennifer continued, Philip remembers relatives taking him and his brother and sister on a trip to Newcastle as his parents dealt with the growing horror that their daughter was not coming home.

A devastated but brave Pat, who later described her daughter as "the happiest wee girl I've ever known - she was so innocent, so happy and had a thoughtfulness beyond her nine years" - somehow managed to keep most of her pain from her other young children.

Eventually, Jennifer's bright red bike was found behind a hedge about a mile away from her home. In the awful hours and days that followed the discovery more than 200 local people joined police officers and soldiers in one of Northern Ireland's biggest ever searches, combing the area for clues.

It was six days before the little girl's body was found by two fishermen at McKee's Dam, near Hillsborough, about 10 miles from her home on the main Belfast to Dublin road.

Philip was very young at the time but remembers his sister's funeral, the "lots of tears" that were shed at it and "a very kind gentleman" who owned a chemist shop in Crumlin taking him out for an ice cream and buying him a toy tractor.

After the funeral he recalls his grandparents taking the children away to give his parents some time to try and come to terms with their terrible loss.

He said: "I remember when we came back all of Jennifer's toys had gone. Everything that Santa had brought her - her Sindy house, all of her things.

"My parents had given them all away, and to me it was as if she had been erased. Talking to them some years later about it, they explained that they didn't want to create a shrine and have the rest of us feel that we were second class."

The years that followed before Black was finally charged with Jennifer's murder in 2009 were tough on all the family.

Philip remembers his mum often in tears and his father doing his best to console her.

He admires them both for how they have coped: "They are great. I don't know how they have kept going. I think now that Black is dead they want Jennifer's name remembered, rather than his."

With the child killer gone, Philip hopes his family can finally begin to put the pain of the past behind them, and he tells how there is one person who he will always feel hugely indebted to - the person who helped police finally catch Black.

Had it not been for the quick thinking of English man David Herkes, who passed away in 2012, the killer could still be at large - a thought that Philip cannot contemplate.

"David Herkes is the one person who should be commended and not forgotten," he said. "He saw Black wipe the window of his van with a dirty rag, which he thought was odd. It was why he kept watching him and then he saw him put a little girl inside." Police had spent over a decade hunting for Black, and if it had not been for David's observations and swift actions on the afternoon of July 14, 1990, the killer could have continued preying on young girls for many more years.

The horrific details of what happened next were relayed in court, as Philip recalled: "Black took the child to a quarry, where he bound her and gagged her and assaulted her, then put her head-first into a sleeping bag and back into his van, planning to keep her for later. Apparently, she would have been dead within 15 minutes. The child's father was the policeman who found her - she was only six years old. If David had not have called the police, then none of us would be sitting today with any closure. We would never have known who Black was, and he could have died somewhere from natural causes and none of us would have known anything about it. David Herkes, who has since passed away, has to be commended."

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