A notorious paedophile already serving life imprisonment for the killings of three young girls was convicted in a Northern Ireland court of murdering a fourth thirty years ago.
A jury found Robert Black, who has been in prison since 1990, guilty of kidnapping and murdering Jennifer Cardy, who was nine years old when she disappeared in 1981.
Black was, as he has been for years, uncommunicative and impassive as the verdict was announced and a further life sentence was imposed on him. He denied the charges and did not give evidence during his trial.
The serial child killer gave the authorities no help over the years with the Cardy murder or with other unsolved cases around the UK. This, and his previous convictions for a number of other non-lethal incidents, means suspicions remain that he may have been responsible for other attacks.
According to court reporter David Young: "Black never betrayed one flicker of emotion. Arms often folded, sometimes yawning, occasionally raising his eyes to the ceiling, the killer was an unwavering picture of cold indifference."
Black, a Scotsman, snatched Jennifer Cardy as she cycled to the home of a friend in the County Antrim village of Ballinderry. A full-scale hunt failed to locate her until her body was found in a local dam six years later.
The court heard graphic and distressing details relating to the Cardy abduction and to his three other murders. The prosecution argued that many of the details amounted to Black's "signature" of a "deviant and gross" pattern of behaviour.
In police interviews Black made no admissions but outlined a "fantasy" of abducting and abusing young girls in the back of his van. At one point he described a scene closely resembling the location of Jennifer Cardy's death.
A prosecution lawyer declared: "We say this was no fantasy - this was a retelling of what he had done."
In poignant statements outside the court Jennifer's father Andy said: "For six weeks we have had to endure and listen to how Robert Black kidnapped, sexually abused and murdered our daughter. It has been absolutely horrendous.
"We heard things that, in all honesty, were not even in our imagination.
"We had a faith, and particularly throughout the trial we had a promise from God that he would never forsake us. He has given us a peace that surpasses all understanding. We have been able to live without bitterness. The wonderful thing is that one day we will be reunited with Jennifer."
His wife Pat, who burst into tears as Black was led away, described their daughter as "the happiest little girl that I have ever known." She added: "Robert Black has done this awful deed but he will not destroy us. I don't think we will ever have closure because our daughter is gone."
The court heard that at the time of Jennifer's disappearance Black was working as a van driver, occasionally making deliveries to Northern Ireland. His past crimes were only disclosed to the jury after a credit card receipt for petrol signed by him was taken as evidence that he had been in Northern Ireland.
Detectives investigating the Cardy case had discovered this while sifting through 22 tons of documentation amassed during previous investigations of Black.
Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray said of the Cardy family: "None of us can imagine what they have suffered over the past 30 years or, more recently, during the past weeks of this trial when the horrific events were re-visited.
"Robert Black preyed on the most vulnerable, most innocent and most cherished members of society, our children, devastating families and communities along the way. Today's conviction will ensure he remains behind bars for a long time to come."
His first lengthy sentence came after a six-year-old girl was found in his van in 1990, hooded and stuffed into a sleeping bag after he abducted her in a Scottish village. It was said she might have died within fifteen minutes had he not been stopped by police trying to find the child.
Black is already serving life sentences for the 1982 murder of eleven-year-old Susan Maxwell in Cornhill-on-Tweed, the killing of five-year-old Caroline Hogg near Edinburgh the following year, and the death in 1986 of ten-year-old Sarah Harper at Morley, Leeds.Reuse content