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Tuesday 16 September 2014

Serial child killer Robert Black prime suspect in unsolved schoolgirl murder

Published 02/06/2014 | 08:33

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Robert Black must serve a minimum of 25 years for murdering schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy in 1981
Police and prosecutors are in new talks about the prime suspect in the 1978 murder of schoolgirl Genette Tate, it has been reported. Devon and Cornwall Police have long suspected serial child killer Robert Black of murdering 13-year-old Genette. Handout/PA Wire
Police and prosecutors are in new talks about the prime suspect in the 1978 murder of schoolgirl Genette Tate, it has been reported. Devon and Cornwall Police have long suspected serial child killer Robert Black of murdering 13-year-old Genette. Handout/PA Wire
Serial killer Robert Black is to appeal against his conviction for kidnapping and murdering schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy in August 1981 (PSNI/PA)

Police and prosecutors are in new talks about the prime suspect in the 1978 murder of schoolgirl Genette Tate, it has been reported.

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Devon and Cornwall Police have long suspected serial child killer Robert Black of murdering 13-year-old Genette, who was last seen in a rural lane in Aylesbeare, Devon, in 1978 but whose body has never been found.

There is now new hope of a prosecution in the case after Black last year lost an appeal against his latest conviction for the murder of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy.

He had argued that his trial was prejudiced because details about three other child murders he had already been jailed for were revealed to the jury.

Police told the BBC they are now liaising with the Complex Case Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service to see if the the appeal court ruling has "any bearing on the Genette Tate case".

It could pave the way for police to launch a case against Black based on his previous convictions.

Devon and Cornwall Police told the BBC they were "liaising with the Complex Case Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service to ascertain if the 2013 Court of Appeal judgement following the murder of Jennifer Cardy in Northern Ireland [in which Black's conviction and the use of bad character evidence was upheld], has any bearing on the Genette Tate case".

The force added: "This liaison is still at a very early stage and will take some time to complete."

Black was found guilty in 1994 of the three child murders in the 1980s - those of 11-year-old Susan Maxwell, from the Scottish Borders, five-year-old Caroline Hogg, from Edinburgh, and Sarah Harper, 10, from Morley, near Leeds.

His reign of terror finally ended in 1990 when he was caught red-handed with a six-year-girl hooded, bound, gagged and stuffed in a sleeping bag in the back of his van in the Scottish village of Stow. He had sexually assaulted her moments earlier.

But in 2012 he was prosecuted for a fourth murder, that of Jennifer, who was snatched as she cycled to a friend's house in Ballinderry, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in 1981.

The paedophile is serving a total of 12 life sentences for murder and kidnap.

Genette's father, John Tate, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that he hoped police had not overlooked any other suspect by spending time focusing on Black.

Asked how he had coped in the decades since Genette went missing, Mr Tate said it had been difficult as the incident was never far from his mind.

"You look at everything that it could possibly be to do with her. You just cope very poorly sometimes."

Mr Tate said he believed the police had coped very well with the case, adding: "It's been pretty good... they wanted her DNA and it was taking forever and then we had a new Chief Constable, a female, and within two weeks she had it.

"She put it in a different way, she went privately with it and it worked out perfectly.

"I haven't been disenchanted with them apart from their lack of contact sometimes but what do you do?"

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