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Child killer Black charged with 1981 murder

Serial child killer Robert Black will appear in court in Northern Ireland next month charged with the 1981 murder of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy. The man described as "every parent's worst nightmare" by prosecutirs who oversaw his case is currently serving 10-life sentences at the high security Wakefield Prison in West Yorkshire for three child killings, abduction and rape.

The 63-year-old van driver was served with a court summons on Tuesday by detectives who travelled from Ulster. He was first questioned over the killing in 2005 when police launched a cold case review into one of the province's most notorious unsolved murders.Jennifer went missing at the height of the Troubles. She was snatched as she cycled to a friend's house in Ballinderry Co. Antrim. Her disappearance triggered a six day search which united both sides of the sectarian divide as local people put aside their problems to comb the countryside looking for her.

Her red bike was found in a field close to her home while her body was discovered nearly a week later by two fishermen at a lay by frequented by drivers at McKee's Dam near the village of Hillsborough, 10 miles from where she vanished. A post-mortem examination revealed she had been drowned and had been in the water for several days.

A spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: "Police have visited a 62-year-old man in prison in England and served him with a summons charging him with the murder of Jennifer Cardy in 1981." The girl's parents declined to comment on the development. He is expected to face a preliminary hearing in Lisburn in January and possibly a full trial later next year.

Black, who lived in London, was convicted at Newcastle Crown Court in May 1994 for three murders which at the time drew comparisons with the Yorkshire Ripper. The killing spree spanned four years and followed a similar pattern of abduction. Because the bodies were found close together in the so-called Midland Triangle detectives suspected a serial killer who travelled fro a living was at work.

Eleven-year-old Susan Maxwell, from Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, was seized as she left her home to play tennis in July 1982. Her body was found dumped by the side of the road near Uttoxeter in Staffordshire.

Caroline Hogg, five, from Edinburgh died in July 1983. She had been at a funfair near her home in Portobello when she was lured to an amusement arcade by Black. Her naked and badly decomposed body was found in Leicestershire.

Three years passed before ten-year-old Sarah Harper was kidnapped by Black after setting out from her home in Morley near Leeds to go and buy a loaf of bread. Her body was pulled from the River Trent near Nottingham a month later. Black was also charged with the attempted abduction of a 15-year-old girl in 1988 after a newspaper clipping reporting the attack was found in his lodgings along with a massive collection of child pornography.

Police used state of the art computer technology to piece together the case and relied on petrol and delivery receipts to link Black's movements to the murders. But the former Barnados boy only became a suspect in the three killings following an incident in 1990 near Stow in the Scottish Borders when a vigilant member of the public saw him bundle a six-year-old girl off the street and into his van.

Police launched an immediate search of the area and intercepted the vehicle as it doubled back. The girl's father was the police officer who discovered her in the back of the van. She was tied up and gagged and placed upside down in a sleeping bag. Though she was shocked she was uninjured.

It was only after he was jailed for life for the attack that detectives began to link the bearded killer to the three bodies discovered in the Midlands. Black, originally from Scotland, was ordered to serve at least 35 years in prison by the trial judge. Last year prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to charge Black in connection with the murder of 13-year-old newspaper delivery girl Genette Tate who vanished from her home village of Alyesbeare near Exeter, Devon, in August 1978. Once again his movements had been traced through petrol receipts while a witness also claimed to have seen him by Exeter Airport around the time of the girl's disappearance.