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Child killer Robert Black could have died suddenly in jail at any time, autopsy showed

 

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Robert Black died in an NI jail in 2016

Robert Black died in an NI jail in 2016

Jennifer Cardy, the first known victim of Robert Black

Jennifer Cardy, the first known victim of Robert Black

Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

Susan Maxwell, Sarah Harper and Caroline Hogg

Susan Maxwell, Sarah Harper and Caroline Hogg

Genette Tate

Genette Tate

Robert Black

Robert Black

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Robert Black died in an NI jail in 2016

An Ulster coroner yesterday cautioned an inquest jury that they must be "dispassionate" as they consider the evidence relating to the death of serial child killer Robert Black in Maghaberry jail nearly three years ago.

And after giving the jurors a summary of Black's killings of four young girls, including Jennifer Cardy, from Ballinderry, Paddy McGurgan asked the jurors if there was any reason to think that they couldn't act impartially.

None of the eight men and three women on the jury said they envisaged any difficulty and they had earlier all confirmed they didn't know Black or any of his victims

The jurors at Armagh courthouse - where Black was convicted of Jennifer Cardy's murder seven years ago - were warned not to carry out any research about the case on the internet or to read anything about it on social media or discuss the evidence with anyone.

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Jennifer Cardy, the first known victim of Robert Black

Jennifer Cardy, the first known victim of Robert Black

Jonathan Porter/Press Eye

Jennifer Cardy, the first known victim of Robert Black

 

Black, who was a 68-year-old Scot with a history of heart disease, died in January 2016 in his cell in Maghaberry, where he was serving life for his murders.

No relations of any of Black's victims were in court for the opening of the inquest, which is expected to last all week.

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And Mr McGurgan said no members of Mr Black's family could be traced by the Coroner's Service, so none of his relatives were in court.

Stephen Ritchie, a barrister for the coroner, told the jury that they should know why Black was in prison, even though the evidence was "not particularly relevant" to their main function of establishing how he died.

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Susan Maxwell, Sarah Harper and Caroline Hogg

Susan Maxwell, Sarah Harper and Caroline Hogg

Susan Maxwell, Sarah Harper and Caroline Hogg

 

He said that Black, a delivery driver who travelled extensively throughout the UK, was arrested by police in Stow in Scotland in July 1990 after abducting a six-year-old girl, who was found in the back of his van.

In February 1994, Black was convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering three girls in Britain.

Susan Maxwell (11), from Northumberland, was abducted in 1982 near the Scottish border and her gagged and bound body was located 250 miles away in England.

Black's next victim was five-year-old Caroline Hogg, from Edinburgh, who was abducted in 1983 and her body was found 300 miles away.

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Genette Tate

Genette Tate

Genette Tate

 

Sarah Harper (10), from Leeds, was abducted in 1986 and her body was discovered in the River Trent, near Nottingham. But it was to be years before Black was found guilty of murdering Jennifer Cardy, who was actually his first known murder victim.

Mr Ritchie said Jennifer was cycling to a friend's house when Black abducted her and sexually assaulted her before dumping her body in a dam, near Hillsborough.

The inquest was told that Black collapsed in Maghaberry in January 2016 as he was moving his belongings into a new cell.

A prison officer tried to resuscitate him, but the CPR was to no avail, the court heard.

The prison officer's statement will be read out at the inquest, because he has since died.

Other witnesses testifying this week include doctors, nurses and police officers.

The results of an autopsy, which were read to the court yesterday, said the cause of his death was a heart attack, a sudden death that could have occurred "at any time".

The inquest heard that Black had been a heavy smoker for 51 years.

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Robert Black

Robert Black

Robert Black

 

Dr Joseph Palmer, a GP based at Maghaberry, said the killer had suffered a stroke 20 years before his death, which had left him weak on the left side, and he had also survived heart attacks, angina, and deep vein thrombosis in his right leg.

Dr Palmer said Black, who also had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, was at risk of having another cardiovascular event and he advised him to stop smoking, but despite initial assurances that he would quit, he later said he was not interested in giving up.

And that increased the likelihood of damage to his coronary artery, Dr Palmer said, adding that he urged Black to cut down on his intake of sugar, advising him that healthy food options were available at Maghaberry.

The inquest was told that Black's condition was regularly monitored in jail.

It was also revealed that he had been diagnosed with diabetes in September 2015, though medical reports said there were indications more than three years earlier that Black's blood sugar readings were high.

Black was said to have regularly drunk a sugar-filled cordial, but his diabetic condition was, in the main, well controlled by medication, according to doctors, who said the diabetes increased the risk of a heart attack, but was not a direct cause of it.

After his death, Black was cremated at Roselawn after a six-minute service conducted by a Maghaberry chaplain.

His ashes were later scattered at sea.

Police in England confirmed shortly after Black's death that they were about to charge him with the killing of Genette Tate, who disappeared in August 1978. The inquest continues.


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