Belfast Telegraph

Child killer Black's voice returns to haunt as police tapes aired

Robert Black
Robert Black
Jennifer Cardy
Jennifer’s parents Andy and Patricia
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Tapes of disturbing police interviews with child killer Robert Black - who died in Maghaberry Prison this year - were broadcast last night in a BBC documentary.

The audio recordings of Black's PSNI interrogations from 2005 give an unsettling insight into the mind of one of the UK's most notorious serial killers.

In the Spotlight programme, former PSNI officer Pamela Simpson told reporter Chris Moore how she coaxed crucial evidence out of Black and unknowingly he provided the police with enough to convict him for the 1981 murder of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy from Ballinderry.

The Cardy family also revealed the torment they faced in coming face to face with Black in court 30 years later.

For three decades Black was a predatory paedophile, snatching children in broad daylight into his delivery van before sexually abusing them, murdering them and dumping their bodies, sometimes hundreds of miles away.

He was finally caught in the Scottish village of Stow in 1994 when a witness saw him pulling a six-year-old girl into his van. He was apprehended when he doubled back on his route.

Former police officer Ian Turnbull was on duty that day and had pulled Black's van over.

Returning to the road where Black's capture unfolded, he said what he saw next was the most shocking moment of his life.

The young girl he found in the van, tied up in a sleeping bag and barely alive, was his own daughter.

"There was tape around her mouth and her hands were tied with cords of some sort," he recalls.

"Imagine a six-year-old lassie and a big bloke like Robert Black. Absolutely petrifying."

Black was jailed for life for the crime. His actions spelled out a pattern for police and he went on to receive three more life sentences for the murders of 10-year-old Sarah Harper, five-year-old Caroline Hogg and 11-year-old Susan Maxwell.

In each case, he refused to speak or cooperate with police.

When it came the turn of the PSNI to interview Black in 2005 about Jennifer Cardy's murder, they knew a radical style of questioning was needed.

Pamela Simpson said she did not expect him to cooperate.

"I think everyone was surprised at that because nobody knew before we went in to the interviews whether he was even going to talk at all," she said.

Her tactic was to encourage him to talk about his sexual fantasies about young girls, hoping he would incriminate himself.

Black, who spoke in a soft Scottish accent, appeared to be happy to open up.

The recordings reveal Black state, in a casual manner: "I'm not exactly proud of the way I feel towards young girls. There's a part of me that knows I'm wrong, knows that it's wrong, that I shouldn't be doing things like that. I shouldn't even be thinking things like that, but there's the other part that says 'you like it, go on'."

Simpson, who had 12 years of experience dealing with sex abuse victims, struggled not to react. "You learn not to show shock, not to show horror and not to show emotion when listening to things like that," she explained.

"That's exactly what I did when I was speaking to Robert Black. It was extremely difficult."

After three days of questioning, Black appeared to realise he'd said too much.

With no DNA evidence linking him to the crime, the PSNI interviews proved to be vital in securing his 2011 conviction.

Jennifer Cardy's family then spoke about how they had come to terms with what Black had done.

"I think Robert Black was most definitely not mad," said Jennifer's father, Andy.

"He was most definitely evil and he went down the road of evil and just gathered evil as he went along."

Jennifer's mother, Pat, said she regretted never getting to confront Black.

"I always wanted to talk to Robert Black," she said.

"I wanted to say to him, 'Look, you're the same age as me, you've never done anything good with your life. Why can you not do just one thing good? To tell one family where the body of their child is. You know you can do that.' That's what I would like and I never got the chance."

Police believe Black may be responsible for up to 12 other murders. The families have never recovered the bodies or received justice.

Black died in Maghaberry prison on January 12. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered at a secret location at sea without any mourners or ceremony.

Belfast Telegraph


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