Murder case man in jail for kidnapping: Defence counsel claims police created 'killer for all seasons'

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The Independent Online
A MAN accused of kidnapping and murdering three young girls was yesterday revealed to be a child molester, serving a life sentence for kidnapping a young girl in Scotland. But Robert Black's defence counsel insisted he was being wrongly charged with murder.

Black, 47, denies 10 charges relating to the abduction and killing of Susan Maxwell, 11, Caroline Hogg, 5, and Sarah Harper, 10, as well as the kidnapping of a fourth girl.

Yesterday, Ronald Thwaites QC, for the defence, told the jury at Newcastle Crown Court that the hunt for the killer of the three girls represented the 'long-term failure' by police to catch the person responsible for the worst kind of crime to be perpetrated in society.

Mr Thwaites took the highly-unusual step of telling the jury of Black's previous criminal record: that he had been convicted in Scotland of sexual offences in 1963 and 1967, and that he was serving life imprisonment for the assault and abduction of a child in the Scottish borders in 1990. Until then, the jury had known only that Black had admitted the abduction offence.

Mr Thwaites said that the events between July 1983, when Susan Maxwell vanished, until Black's arrest in July 1990 told their own 'pathetic story . . . How many police officers' reputations and spirits have been broken on the rack of these unsolved child murders?'

The investigation into what became known as the Midlands triangle murders - so-called because of where the three bodies were discovered - 'reeked of failure, disappointment and frustration', Mr Thwaites said.

He then went on to explain to the jury that police feelings after Black's capture bordered on the euphoric. Black, he said, was seen as 'a murderer for all seasons'. The police then set about dissecting the whole of Black's life and provided a 'suit' that was made to measure, becoming 'wilfully blind' to all other possibilities.

He accepted that Black was a 'wicked' and 'wretched' man who had had an unhealthy interest in young girls, as well as pornographic material which was revolting and sickening. But Mr Thwaites pointed out that, if the prosecution in the case had not been allowed to tell them about Black's involvement in the Scottish abduction, then the Crown could not have brought Black to court for any of the crimes of which he was accused.

Black, Mr Thwaites said, would not be giving evidence in the witness box, but he reminded the jury that 'as yet' that was not a presumption of guilt.

There was no scientific evidence to link Black with any of the victims. 'This case has been determined using one incidence of abduction, which he admitted, as a substitute for evidence in all the other cases. Without it, there is no direct evidence against him,' Mr Thwaites said.

He added the Crown's case was full of unproven theories, the currency of which was Black's alleged 'availability or opportunity'. The jury has already heard evidence placing Black in three areas of the abductions, described by the Crown as beyond coincidence.

The first witness to give evidence for the defence yesterday was a 14- year-old girl, who was with Caroline Hogg on the day she disappeared. The girl, who cannot be identified, said that she could not remember most of what had happened that day, only that Caroline had been a friend she had played with and had never seen again. A statement the girl had made to police when she was three years old said that she had seen a 'bad man' trying to take Caroline away.

The trial continues today.