Hard-hitting investigations. Chris Moore examines the life of murderer Robert Black, who was jailed for killing Jennifer Cardy and three other girls.
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Van driver Robert Black, one of Britain's infamous child killers,
died in Northern Ireland last month.
He never admitted to any crime, but in these actual police
interviews, he gave away some of his secrets.
Nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy was one of his victims.
The bogeyman was real, and he is out there.
The scale of Black's offences shocked experts.
His inner world was empty, bleak,
A sense of massive nothingness.
He was most definitely evil, and he had went down the road of evil
and just gathered evil as he went along.
Tonight on Spotlight, the police officer,
the predator and the end of his criminal career.
He was feeling sorry for himself. It wasn't remorse.
He has never shown remorse for what he did.
The actual voice of serial child killer Robert Black.
In these police interviews,
he's outlining what he says are his fantasies about abusing young girls.
Black was an opportunistic predator.
He snatched schoolgirls off the streets in broad daylight,
and drove off as fast as possible.
It worked for him for 30 years, until one day, he made a mistake.
Black's life of crime came to a sudden halt here in the small
Scottish village of Stow, not far from the border with England.
It was just by sheer chance that he was caught in the act of abducting
a six-year-old girl.
A neighbour raised the alarm
when he saw a van driver behaving suspiciously.
The driver jumped out with a rag in his hand.
And I was aware at this time of a child walking on the pavement towards
the back of the van.
And then the next thing he made a slight movement,
and the child seemed to disappear.
Black sped off with the child.
He found a quiet spot, parked up and sexually assaulted her.
But he made the mistake of returning to the village.
I turned to look up the road and shouted, "Oh, there's the van!"
It is almost on top of us again.
By that stage, the police were on the scene.
So the policeman ran down, in front of the van,
flagged him down, and he swerved across the road,
the far kerb, and stopped.
Policeman Ian Turnbull was on duty that day.
He took us to the exact spot where Black abducted the girl.
I went to the back of the van, found the back door was locked.
I actually ran back over to the car
and radioed in that we had got him stopped.
And it was at that stage that my colleague told me
that he thought she was in the back of the van.
Ian Turnbull was about to make the most shocking discovery of his life.
There was what looked like rags behind the driver's seat.
And in amongst that was a sleeping bag.
Inside the sleeping bag was his own daughter.
There was tape on her mouth
and her hands were tied with cord or some sort.
And, yeah, that was it.
Black had placed a cushion cover over her head,
and forced her into the sleeping bag.
-She must have been absolutely petrified.
-Oh, absolutely terrified.
Can you imagine a six-year-old lassie and a big bloke like
Robert Black? That is absolutely petrifying.
Black was found guilty of abduction and violent sexual assault
and was jailed for life.
It seemed his only regret was being caught.
Even as he comforted his daughter in the van,
Ian Turnbull recognised the man who had abducted her.
Strange as it may seem,
the 1983 incident with Caroline Hogg in Edinburgh, there was a Photofit.
And believe it or not, I actually recognised
him as a possibility for fitting that Photofit on that day.
The police image that Ian Turnbull had recognised had been released
in connection with the abduction of five-year-old Caroline Hogg.
She had disappeared from a playground in Edinburgh
seven years previously.
The similarities between her abduction
and the one in Stow sparked widespread police interest.
Robert Black was now the focus of attention of a total of seven
looking at unsolved abductions and murders going back 20 years.
And it soon became clear that Black was the chief suspect.
He was tried for the murders of Caroline Hogg
and two other girls, Susan Maxwell and Sarah Harper.
A 45-year-old man has been charged with murdering three girls.
The killings had one thing in common.
The victims had been snatched in broad daylight in seconds,
and their bodies were dumped hundreds of miles away.
'Police officers carried into court just a sample of over
'1.25 million documents prepared during the investigation.'
It was one of the biggest murder enquiries in Britain.
Police compiled 20 tonnes of documents.
At Newcastle Crown Court, Black denied everything.
It didn't look like a strong case,
but his employers had kept meticulous records of his
deliveries that placed him in the areas where the girls had been abducted.
And fuel receipts placed him close to where the bodies were dumped.
'Robert Black has been found guilty of murdering three young
'girls in the 1980s.'
It was enough to get him three life sentences, to add to the
one he was already serving in Scotland.
Robert Black's pattern of offending had now been
established in England and Scotland.
It was a pattern that also fitted
one unsolved murder case in Northern Ireland.
It was a bright, sunny day in August 1981 when Robert Black
drove down the A1 to Newry to deliver billboard posters.
Jennifer Cardy had got a new bike, and had set off after lunch to
visit a friend before going on holiday the next day.
So, she was all hyped and excited.
And this would have been her last day out, and because it was a new
bicycle, she was so looking forward to doing that.
And she wouldn't be out on it for another couple of weeks.
This would be the last time.
Pat Cardy set the time
on Jennifer's watch before she left the house.
It was 1:40.
She was due home by four, but when she didn't show up,
initially there was no panic.
I, in all honesty, wasn't terribly worried
because youngsters are youngsters, and the word paedophile was
not in our vocabulary even then, I wouldn't have known
what a paedophile was.
And it's very hard sometimes to explain to younger people
what it was like in them days. And there was no danger.
Children cycled everywhere.
And there was no danger, so I really wasn't...
I wasn't unduly worried,
but as the night wore on, then obviously we were, so we were.
We then went out, and I started to search everywhere
that we thought she would have went. And she never arrived anywhere.
Jennifer's older brother Mark has never spoken
publicly about what happened to his sister.
I think it was around about 9pm.
I remember my father driving up in the car, he came over to me.
I wondered, "What's going on?"
He said, "Did you see Jennifer, do you know where Jennifer is?"
Jennifer's bicycle was found thrown over
a hedge into a field about a mile from her home.
Her bike was found, I think it was about...just about 12:30.
You know, just after midnight that evening.
I think then, of course, you had a sense of worry.
And you didn't know what would happen.
Up this lane-way here, and on we go.
In the coming days, there was a huge search, with friends,
family and strangers joining in.
The police carried out a reconstruction.
The search for the missing
schoolgirl from County Antrim has been widened to Britain.
Posters and descriptions of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy, who
disappeared from her home at Ballinderry near Lough Neagh last week...
Time goes on and you think that every day without news
means you've some hope left.
But yet, every day without news seems to take some hope away.
So you try and face the inevitable.
After six days came the news that the Cardy family was dreading.
It was really, really hard, for every one of us,
and for the wider family. It was really hard.
But on that day, um, I...
We just knew we couldn't go on any longer. And...
As a Christian, I just brought this again to the Lord
and just said, "I can't go on."
And really made a particular...
prayer about it, and she was found that day.
We had come to the point that we knew that, after six
days, that there wasn't going to be a good outcome.
And I think that we were expecting what we did eventually learn.
Around the house it was, er, quiet.
You know, just a quiet... I can't...
I can't really put my finger on, you know...
Of course, it was quite traumatic, but it was very quiet, you know,
because we knew what had happened.
Robert Black had killed Jennifer
and left her body here at McKee's Dam,
a lay-by on the main Belfast to Newry road.
Her watch had stopped at 5:40.
Police believe that was the time her body had been put in the water.
Robert Black then drove off to get the overnight ferry home.
We lived six days without knowing what had happened to our child,
but at least at the end of six days
we found out that she was passed away.
I went to the morgue and identified her,
and it was like a reunion in lots of ways.
And it did, in lots of ways, give me relief, even though
she was now dead. At least we knew.
Let us pray.
Mark Cardy was 13 when Jennifer died.
I remember the funeral. I remember the funeral day.
I remember the coffin...
I think was carried the full way to the graveside,
because a lot of people wanted to, you know, carry the coffin.
At least we weren't going to live the rest of our lives
wondering what happened.
And the awfulness of that for the families that have not
recovered bodies, or know exactly what happened to them.
It's just so awful. It's just a living nightmare.
McKee's Dam is hidden from view, well away from passing cars.
It was exactly the sort of place Black liked to take his victims.
He had driven the Belfast-Newry Road at least a dozen times.
And he would have known that it was only a few steps
to the water's edge.
It would take another 30 years before Robert Black
would face trial for killing Jennifer in 1981.
But, after such a long gap in time,
would it be possible to prove the case?
Robert Black was born in Stirlingshire in Scotland in 1947.
He was abandoned at birth by his mother
and brought up by foster parents.
They died when he was 11 and he was sent to a council home.
-How are you?
Thank you very much for agreeing to talk to us.
Pleased to meet you.
'Psychiatrist Dr Richard Badcock knew Robert Black better than most
'and regularly met him in prison.
'He believed he was damaged early on
'by an isolated and difficult childhood.
'And had been sexually abused before the age of five.'
There's no doubt at all in my mind
that he was seriously sexually abused as a child.
Bill Nichol arrived at the same children's home at the age of 14.
Among the boys sharing his dormitory was one two years younger.
That was that boy, Robert Black, who we knew as Bobby Black.
He wasn't a great friend of mine.
we didn't have very much in common at all.
Apart from the fact he was very more forward
than he possibly should have been for his age,
he didn't seem a total mess at all.
He didn't seem a monster in the making, as it were.
But, in fact, he was already showing signs of sexual violence by then.
At the age of 12, he was kicked out of the home
after he attempted to rape a young girl, who also lived there.
Black moved out very quickly.
Nothing, nothing was spoken about.
Not even between us, the children.
You know, all the people who were there who knew each other. And...
Nobody... No one ever said to me,
"Did you hear what Bobby Black tried to do to so-and-so?"
He was swiftly dispatched to another care home.
Black later told psychiatrists
he was regularly abused there by a member of staff.
Whatever the truth of his early life, by the time he left care
in the early '60s, at the age of 15,
he was already sexually dangerous.
He lured a seven-year-old girl into an air raid shelter
on the pretext of showing her some kittens.
Once he'd got her there,
he strangled her until she lost consciousness
and then he sexually assaulted her.
That would be the blueprint of his offending for the next 30 years.
But a psychiatric report at the time concluded
that this was an isolated incident
and that Black would be unlikely to reoffend.
Back then, I don't think people
so automatically connected early abuse with later offending.
But, again, now, it would be
very clear to most people, I think,
that a child in that position,
doing those things,
was acting out
something left over from
a highly adverse previous personal experience of a sexual nature.
Today, that would be attempted murder.
But Black got away with just a rap on the knuckles.
That was a missed opportunity to stop Black in his tracks.
A year later, he assaulted a nine-year-old girl.
Again, the courts took a lenient view.
A year in borstal.
Those failures of the Scottish legal system
paved the way for Black to go on offending for three decades.
And the question is,
how did he get away with it for so long?
When he got out of borstal,
Black decided it was time to leave Scotland.
In 1970, he moved to the anonymity of London
and lodged here in an attic room in Stamford Hill.
He got a job as a van driver,
delivering billboard posters all over the UK.
He wasn't a very sociable colleague,
but he was on the darts team.
He didn't go out with any of the mates in the team.
Not as a social, like....
He'd just...he was a loner.
He done his own thing.
We used to say, like,
"Don't let him near your kids". But...
it was kind of a joke. A semi-joke.
He may have been regarded as odd,
but he managed to keep his dark side hidden
under the veneer of an ordinary life.
His job as a van driver was to provide the perfect opportunity
for a serial offender.
His van was like a second home.
He lived and slept in it.
His job allowed him to...
In fact, his job kind of encouraged him, even,
to develop that...
in the sense that he was a reasonably long distance van driver,
so he was away for long periods of time,
so it was quite natural for him to sort of base his whole life
around his vehicle.
And he got a lot of satisfaction from the fantasising he could do
while he was driving around in the cab.
And he soon became obsessed with those fantasies.
He volunteered for the long-haul routes
that his work colleagues turned down.
Among them, the Scotland and Northern Ireland deliveries.
He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the U.K.'s road network
and liked to explore minor country roads.
A total of seven police forces had questioned Black.
He was serving four life sentences,
but had never confessed to any crime.
By 2005, 24 years after Jennifer Cardy was killed,
it was the turn of the PSNI.
If the PSNI were to have any chance of cracking him,
they would need to be clever.
Detective Constable Pamela Simpson
had 12 years' experience of dealing with sex abuse victims
in the PSNI Care Unit.
There wasn't an awful lot that I hadn't
heard about throughout interviews.
And you learn not to show shock.
You learn not to show horror.
And you learn not to show emotion,
whenever you are listening to things like that.
And that was exactly what I did
whenever I was speaking to Robert Black.
Was it difficult sometimes?
It was extremely difficult.
She now found herself face to face
with a convicted child killer.
'It wasn't what I expected.
'Knowing what I knew about the man,'
I was expecting a harsh, gruff sort of man.
-'..during the interview.
'Are you happy enough with that?
-'Yeah, so far.
He was very softly spoken.
He had a soft Scottish lilt
and, in fact, was very easy listening.
Psychiatrist Dr Richard Badcock
had advised the PSNI on how to question Black.
'He didn't like the word...'
he was not someone to admit to anything.
So, whenever we were interviewing him,
when the questions were put to him, it was,
"Do you accept that you were here that day?"
Pamela Simpson was surprised that he was willing to engage with her.
'I think everyone was surprised at that,
'because nobody knew before we went into the interviews
'whether he was even going to talk at all.'
And, for some unknown reason,
he felt comfortable talking to myself.
'She was open with him,
'she gave him sort of direct, immediate feedback'
and he responded to that very positively.
The police had worked on a strategy for their interviews with Black.
'We had a very clear strategy, in that respect,'
that, whenever we were speaking to him,
we wanted him to open up about...
his sexual preferences, his fantasies.
And, basically, that is the strategy
that we went into the interview with.
The PSNI officers interviewed Black for three days.
Their strategy started to pay off
and he began to describe his fantasies.
Dr Badcock, in his role as psychiatric adviser to the PSNI,
had listened in to the 2005 interviews
from an adjoining room.
We played the interviews for him again.
'The bit about sort of trying to guess the age of the child,'
that's not the whole story.
Because he would...
..he would make a judgement about that immediately.
Erm, I think what he's...
what he's thinking about is,
"What would she look like undressed?"
Pamela Simpson kept encouraging Black to talk.
The police knew that children wouldn't willingly engage
with Black in this way.
The police asked Black about how, in his fantasy,
he would get a young girl into his van.
Jennifer Cardy had been wearing trousers when she went missing.
Pamela Simpson's question was aimed at getting Black
to discuss his abduction of her.
He had carefully dodged the question.
-And that very long pause.
Do you attach any significance to that?
Oh, yeah, course. Yes.
All Robert's pauses are significant.
It's not because he's thinking about the answer,
it's because he's trying not to give stuff away.
With the use of the term "passively compliant",
it was becoming clear to the police that Black was starting to describe
some of his actual crimes,
in which he rendered the girls unconscious.
In the situation where he is sexually aroused,
he doesn't want another presence at all.
It's important to him that he is the only presence there.
Hoping that the child would enjoy it is...
again, it's something that...
that he would...
perhaps like to be the case.
But it isn't.
And he knows it isn't.
You know, he wants the child not there.
Just the body, really.
Here, Black was describing what happened in Stow,
when he put a cushion cover over the head of the six-year-old girl
he'd forced into his van.
-I say, in your fantasies,
you never pick up an awkward customer.
-You're lucky that way.
Black had no shame in describing his sexual desires for young girls.
But he seemed to get embarrassed
when Pamela Simpson asked him about sex aids found in his van.
They were used for sadomasochistic purposes
to inflict pain on himself, as he was driving.
This is one of the areas which he acknowledges is deeply personal.
A lot of the very personal things he doesn't acknowledge.
But this area is one.
You know, because he has devoted a considerable part of his life
to pursuing it.
That was the one moment where he appeared to lose his cool,
when she was questioning him about the sex aids
that he carried in his van.
He was ashamed in front of Pamela.
She was a very good interviewing officer.
She had a very naturalistic, non-judgemental style.
And he responded to that very positively.
But even though his scenarios represented as fantasies,
the police soon realised he was in fact describing reality.
Whenever we looked at the case after the interviews,
we felt that in actual fact he had put himself back into that
position and that he was actually there.
If you go by the description that he had given in his fantasy,
the high hedges and the roads sweeping down and up to the left,
that is exactly the same scene where Jennifer was taken from.
The final interview, my colleague was putting everything to him
that we had proved throughout the previous interviews.
It was evident, as we were going through those last interviews,
that Black realised himself that he had said too much.
The head went down, he lost eye contact with us.
And at the very end of the interview, whenever the tapes
were off, he knew at that stage that he had said too much.
It was clear that although the questions were about his fantasies,
which he was happy to talk about,
what he was actually talking about were his exact decision-making
processes during actual offences.
And you could tell that from his naturalistic language and his
body language and the whole way in which he presented information.
So that was very helpful, because that did fill in a few gaps,
really, about what had actually happened.
In 2011, Robert Black went on trial in Northern Ireland
for the murder of Jennifer Cardy.
There was no forensic evidence, no admission and no eyewitnesses.
The recorded police interviews would be crucial in getting a conviction.
Black listened impassively from the dock. A short distance away in the
public gallery, Jennifer's father, mother, two brothers and sister
were joined by a large group made up of other family members and friends.
The Cardy family came face-to-face with Black 30 years after
he had taken Jennifer.
We went to this court not wanting to be there,
not wanting to see his face.
I thought we were going to hear a pathetic excuse of his bad
upbringing, which made him do these things.
And OK, there may be just cause for that.
But I didn't want to hear that.
I didn't want to hear of somebody being neglected in their childhood.
And because of that... Or being abusing their childhood.
And because of that, having it ingrained in them
that they would do this to others.
The first time I saw him, I don't know what I thought, you know,
you just saw someone who's probably killed my sister.
And... I never felt hatred, I would have liked to maybe
just understood, to just know, why would he do that?
-Did Black ever look at you?
Never once in Armagh Court, never once did he ever look at any of us.
He walked up from underneath... The cells were underneath the floor.
He came up the staircase and turned round and
went and sat in his seat and just looked in front of him, expressionless.
And he never once, never once looked at us.
It was quite harrowing to see the man that you know was
the last human being your daughter seen.
And when I saw him walking and seen how old-looking he was,
same age as me, a year older than me, and how old-looking he was,
and he was quite pathetic-looking in lots of ways, you know?
What the Cardy family learned in court about Black
was beyond their comprehension.
We had to listen to what he had in the van.
Instruments that he could use on these children.
And it just broke your heart. We just sat and cried. It was...
It broke your heart to see
and know that a man had done things that were beyond your imagination.
It wasn't even in your imagination to do what he wanted to do and did,
and it just broke your heart.
There's no doubt Black's recorded interviews were harrowing to hear.
But they were a crucial part of the evidence presented in court.
Well, he went further than he ever, ever would have wanted to go,
and there was no taking that back.
It added to the whole similar fact,
bad character, and out of his own mouth, he nailed himself.
-That's the way I look at it.
The police interview strategy had worked.
In 2011, Black was convicted of Jennifer Cardy's murder
and given another life sentence.
This time he was sent to Maghaberry Prison.
By now, he was serving five life sentences.
Satisfaction knowing that Robert Black will never again
walk the streets of Great Britain.
Never again will be able to torture little girls.
Because that's what he did. He tortured little girls, so he did.
So there's a lot of satisfaction in today.
It is not just the convicting of killing Jennifer, it's just, you know...
How many times has he done it?
We know he had three murder convictions before,
this is the fourth one.
And we know there's a number of suspected ones,
maybe dating from as far back as 1969.
Knowing that someone could have done that,
and done that year upon year upon year and not have got caught.
After 30 years of secret offending,
Robert Black's crimes were finally made public.
What's never really been made clear is what turned this
opportunistic predator into a murderer.
He has to take responsibility for what he did in terms of offending.
The person who abused him
has to take responsibility for starting the process.
Or the PERSONS who abused him
have to take responsibility for starting it off.
-By the time he was an adult, it was too late.
-I think so.
So, by the time he was an adult,
had he developed that instinct to kill as well as to sexually assault?
It seems a terrible thing to say,
but I believe he had no interest in killing children.
What he had an interest in, in fact an obsession
and fascination for, was in possessing the body
of a child for a period long enough for him to be able to
develop, or enact, fantasies.
Whatever caused Black to become a serial killer of young girls,
he never appeared to show remorse.
However, he did seem to have a complicated insight
into his own behaviour.
Do you think, though, that that
was the closest perhaps he ever came to showing any kind of remorse at all?
No. My attitude to that was that
he was feeling sorry for himself.
It wasn't remorse. He's never shown remorse for what he did.
Again, that was the ilk of the man.
He was feeling sorry for himself.
Over the years, Black was examined by numerous psychiatrists
and psychologists. He once asked one of them
if he was evil or mad.
He was never diagnosed as insane.
I think Robert Black was most definitely not mad.
He most definitely was evil. And he had went down the road of evil
and just gathered evil as he went along.
And I would have said that he was just 100% evil
but he certainly wasn't mad.
I think he was actually quite intelligent, so he was.
But Black did have what mental health experts viewed
as a personality disorder, making him devoid of normal emotions.
Why did he have no conscience?
Well, the thing about sadomasochistic psychopathology is
that over time it empties you of the things that make us human,
because the things that make us human are essentially
relationships with the outside world,
relationships with other people, so he was lost.
His inner world was empty, dystonic,
disturbingly frightening, overwhelming,
a sense of massive nothingness, a deadness.
If you like, what he was trying to escape all the time
was a sense of deadness that was growing within him.
'Bill Nicol, whose childhood briefly overlapped with Robert Black's in the Scottish care home,'
went on to have a distinguished military career.
Were you surprised, then,
whenever Black emerged as a serial child killer?
Did that come as a shock to you?
Oh, absolutely horrendous shock.
As I say, it took a while
for it to register with me that
it was the person that I could remember.
I mean, all the photographs that came into the media,
they did try and portray him as a monster and looking like a monster.
Black was convicted of four murders,
but police believe he was responsible for as many as 12 more,
among them Genette Tate from Devonshire,
Silke Garben from Germany,
and Sabine Dumont from Paris,
and those families never got answers.
Black died in Maghaberry Prison last month.
He died, as he lived, alone.
There was no-one to claim his body.
He was cremated secretly at Roselawn Cemetery in Belfast,
outside normal hours.
His ashes were scattered at sea.
There were no mourners.
As a final act of cruelty, Black chose not to reveal
where he left the bodies of his other victims.
His secrets died with him.
This will be on my heart forever.
I always wanted to talk to Robert Black.
Can I say that?
And I wanted to say to him, "Look... You're the same age as me.
"You've never done anything good with your life.
"Why can you not do just one thing good,
"to tell one family where the body of their child is?"
-"You know you can do that."
That's what I would like.
And I never got the chance.
The family of the policeman who rescued his six-year-old daughter
from Robert Black's van continue to count their blessings.
Because it ended the way it did
and we actually got our daughter
back again, we actually look on it
as good fortune rather than anything else.
We dinna dwell on it in any way, shape or form.
So I just sort of spotted it coming back down the drive...
'Ian Turnbull's daughter has recovered well from her ordeal
'and has got on with her life. The day we interviewed him'
he heard the news that she had given birth to a child of her own.
For the Cardy family, there is a life sentence of grief.
The place where Jennifer was taken is just a mile from the family home.
We felt an impact, especially when
it comes up to things like holiday times and Christmas times, you know,
of course you felt the loss.
Sometimes we went on maybe caravan holidays at that stage
and...and now, the back seat of the car wasn't full.
There was two in the back seat of the car and not three.
I remember Jennifer very fondly.
She was a very caring person and we had our times together,
you know, bickering of course playing together. We had good times.
And what sort of games would you play?
Well, sometimes, there was the wee set,
and I kept a couple of the wee instruments.
We played with this here, this is a wee, like a wee village
-and sometimes we would play...
-Was that yours?
No, that is actually Jennifer's and I've kept that,
I've kept that, I never...
I was never one for, you know, having shrines,
and none of our family are, but we all have our wee special pieces
and that's... I've kept that, that's my wee special piece.
That's your special memory of Jennifer?
Yes, I have great memories of playing with that with Jennifer.
Memories of Robert Black still cast a shadow over many lives.
It's something that I think about quite a lot
and I travel the A1 carriageway several times in week
past McKee's Dam, and there's not a time that I don't go past that dam
when I don't think of Jennifer and her last moments
and the Cardy family.
So, yes, it is something that I will take to my grave with me.
It took 30 years to convict child killer Robert Black for the murder of Jennifer Cardy. The Co Antrim child was one of four girls murdered by Black in the UK. Following his recent death in a NI prison, Chris Moore looks back at his life of crime.