Paedophile convicted of 'Babes in Wood' killings

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The Independent Online

A convicted paedophile yesterday admitted to sexually assaulting and strangling to death two children in the notorious "Babes in the Wood" murders 30 years ago.

Ronald Jebson, 62, was given two life sentences at the Old Bailey after he confessed to killing the two friends, Gary Hanlon, 12, and Susan Blatchford, 11, who had gone for a walk near their homes in Enfield, north London on 1 March 1970.

Jebson is already serving a life sentence for the murder of an eight-year-old girl he had strangled months after killing Gary and Susan.

Following yesterday's court case, the children's mothers spoke of their torment and said he should never be freed.

Earlier they sat in the Old Bailey and heard that Jebson gave cannabis to their children before sexually assaulting and killing them. The bodies of the children were found covered in twigs in a copse on the fringes of Epping Forest 11 weeks later.

A pathologist had told the subsequent inquest that the cause of death was "unascertainable" because the bodies were badly decomposed. An open verdict was recorded.

The case was sensationally reopened in 1996 after new evidence came to light. Jebson later confessed to the killings.

Sentencing Jebson, Judge David Stokes told him yesterday: "Thirty years ago you abducted, sexually assaulted and brutally murdered two young children. What they went through before they died does not bear thinking about.

"You are a truly wicked and perverted man."

Jebson showed no emotion throughout the hearing in which he admitted murdering both children.

Described as a manipulative loner he finally confessed to police because he felt he could die shortly "and did not want to go into his grave knowing the murder of the two young friends was still unsolved. He wanted to clear his conscience", said Richard Whittham, for the prosecution.

The children disappeared from their homes after Susan called for Gary. They were last seen laughing together as they strolled across fields.

Jebson, who had previous convictions for sexually assaulting children, told police he picked them up and drove them to a location where he gave them some cannabis.

He said he then drove them to Epping Forest and took them into a copse on Lippitts Hill where he sexually assaulted and strangled them both.

Their bodies were found by a man walking his dog on 17 June 1970.

Four years later - their deaths unsolved - Jebson was sentenced to life at St Alban's Crown Court for the murder of Rosemary Papper. Jebson - known then as Ronald Harper - had picked up the eight-year-old from school, bought her sweets and raped her before strangling her with a piece of twine in a field in Hertfordshire. He had been staying with Rosemary's parents in Hatfield and the day before the murder he had been told to leave.

But it was not until 1996 that Jebson gave the first indication to a prison officer that he knew about the other murders.

A new investigation was launched during which Susan's body was exhumed in March last year. Following a series of police interviews Jebson eventually confessed to the murders.

The mothers of the dead children yesterday spoke of their grief. Beryl Hanlon, 66, said: "Gary's death has destroyed my family. I have nine grandchildren and I am paranoid about history repeating itself. Jebson has not served a life sentence - we have.

"I can only hope the Home Secretary will never let him come out... He is a monster."

Muriel Blatchford, 79, saidher pain was renewed when her daughter's coffin was dug up. She said: "It brought it all back. To me she was a special girl."

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