Belfast Telegraph

Robert Black destroyed Jennifer Cardy’s life but 'we didn’t allow evil paedophile to destroy our family'

As notorious child killer dies in jail, the parents of slain schoolgirl speak out

Gail Walker

By Gail Walker

The father of schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy said last night that Robert Black, the serial killer who murdered his daughter and who has died in Maghaberry Prison, "would be spending eternity in the flames of Hell".

Andy Cardy, who revealed that he and wife Pat had a premonition that Black was about to die, said: "Unless he sought and found redemption with the Lord, which is very unlikely, he will be a paedophile in Hell without salvation and he will be all on his own there for the rest of time, and that will be an awful place for him to be in.

"However, Jennifer is in Heaven and we know we will meet her there again. Pat and I had both had a feeling recently that we would hear quite soon that Black had died. I can't explain it, but we both had the same idea that it was about to happen."

Speaking at their Ballinderry home, the Cardys opened their hearts about how they felt when a PSNI officer who had worked on the murder inquiry rang yesterday evening to break the news that Black had died at the high-security prison.

Mrs Cardy said that she felt "gutted" that the relatives of Genette Tate, the Devon teenager who vanished without trace in 1978, "would never see Black stand trial for her murder". Black was the prime suspect.

And Mr Cardy also called again for the return of the death penalty.

Describing Black's conviction in 2011 for the kidnap, sexual assault and murder of nine-year-old Jennifer as a relief - "at least he wasn't free to do that to another little girl" - Mr Cardy said he still felt that the killer should have paid with his own life: "There is something to be said for capital punishment. That should be on the agenda for our country."

Black (68), who was one of Britain's most notorious serial killers, was found guilty in 1994 of the murders of Sarah Harper (10), from England, and Susan Maxwell (11) and Caroline Hogg (5), both from Scotland. All the killings took place in the Eighties.

But the Cardys had to wait 30 years before they came face-to-face in an Armagh courtroom with the man who had snatched their daughter as she cycled from their home to a friend's house on August 12, 1981.

Black, who worked as a delivery driver, abducted and assaulted Jennifer before throwing her body in McKee's Dam, near Hillsborough. Already serving a life sentence at the time of his trial for her murder, he was sentenced to another 25 years and told he would be 89 before he would be considered for release.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service yesterday confirmed an inmate had died in non-suspicious circumstances.

A composed and reflective Mrs Cardy said that she and her husband were still struggling to process the news of Black's death: "It is hard to get your head around something like that when you get the call, although we had always known it could happen.

"Previously we had been told that shortly after he had been incarcerated when first convicted in England, he'd had a stroke."

But she said that his death had brought back memories of the trial, when she had found it "harrowing" even being in the same room as Black.

"That was a terrible ordeal," she added. "He saw my face, he saw Andrew's face, he watched me giving testimony. How he sat there, how he looked, how blasé he became in front of you. Maybe as a woman I felt a particular kind of connection with things... I just had an instinct about him... and I saw a man who knew Jennifer, who remembered explicitly when he had been with her and what he had done to her. I saw a man who relished his memories. When the murders in England, for which he'd been convicted, were disclosed again at the trial, he relished that.

"He wanted to hold his personal memories of what he had done so that if and when he went to bed that night he would enjoy it. I saw that in him."

She also believed that he took pleasure from witnessing her own distress, particularly on one occasion when she fled the courtroom in tears: "They were playing tapes of his interrogation and the details were gruesome. He saw me walk out and I know that pleased him.

"He would have thought that he was the only one who that could do that to me, who had that power."

Mrs Cardy said that she did not feel relief that Black was dead: "I don't feel relief because he did not hold anything over us. There was an ease that came with his conviction because essentially he was still the man he was in 1981.

"He still wanted to be out there in his van. He wanted to be looking for a little girl in white socks. He still dreamt about what he could do to her."

And she also revealed that on occasion she had considered attempting to meet Black in prison. "I don't know if when it came to it I would have had the strength to go through with it, or indeed what I would have said to him, but it is something I have thought about from time to time."

The Cardys, who are deeply religious, still think every day of the daughter they lost so tragically.

Mrs Cardy said: "Jennifer would never be far from our thoughts. It's not as if we need to sit down and deliberately think of her. She is just always here with us." The couple also have two sons, Mark and Philip, and a daughter Victoria, who was just eight months old when Jennifer was murdered and whom Mrs Cardy believes was a gift from God.

She revealed: "I had been sterilised for medical reasons on the advice of doctors one-and-a-half years before Victoria was born, so there was this great talk in the Royal when she arrived about how it could possibly have happened.

"But I believe that we were given another baby girl because the Lord knew that Jennifer would be gone. When you are Christians, the Lord works everything."

Having to get up every day and look after the baby helped pull Mrs Cardy through those dreadful early days following Jennifer's disappearance, but the toll on all the family was huge.

"Mark was just 13 at the time. He had the mind of a 13-year-old boy, not an adult man, and the ground was just taken from under him.

"And Philip was just six years old and his whole world was spinning. All he knew was that his sister was gone and that he wanted her back, but she wasn't there and she never came back."

Mrs Cardy said that the couple had been sustained throughout by their faith.

"The pain was incredible - when she was first taken, when her body was found, the post mortem - yet we were never put down with grief.

"We came through with a great reassurance and relationship with the Lord."

Remarkably, Mrs Cardy also said that she did not hate Black. "When I looked at this man, I saw a man under the power of a sin that controlled him, and he would have that dominion of sin over little girls for the rest of his life.

"He could have had a great turn in his life, that is humanly possible, but I think it is unlikely that he did so. And if he did not repent, then he has no home with the Lord.

"We could not have survived this without our faith. I know other families who have lost loved ones because of Robert Black and their lives have been destroyed.

"Thankfully, as my husband said at the end of the trial, he destroyed Jennifer's life, but he did not destroy our family."

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