THE parents of a murdered schoolgirl spoke words of forgiveness yesterday after the serial child killer who took their daughter's life was told he would be jailed until he was at least 89.
Robert Black, now 64, was told he must serve a minimum 25 years for murdering nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy, who was snatched as she cycled to a friend's house in Ballinderry, Co Antrim, in 1981.
The murderer, who has been convicted of killing four young girls and is being investigated over a fifth disappearance, is now serving at least 12 life sentences at Wakefield Prison in Yorkshire.
This includes the jail terms for murder and kidnapping handed down by Mr Justice Ronald Weatherup at Belfast Crown Court, which effectively added a further seven years to the date at which Black could be considered for release.
The former delivery driver abducted Jennifer while on a work trip and dumped her body in water close to the main Belfast-Dublin road near Hillsborough, Co Antrim, before catching a ferry home.
Mr Justice Weatherup, who earlier heard the killer's own lawyer offer no plea for mercy, said it was a "wicked deed".
Outside the court, Jennifer's parents, Andy and Pat, said they were satisfied that, in real terms, Black would spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Mr Cardy said his family's faith in God sustained them, adding: "It has been an emotional couple of hours. It has been a long, long journey. It has been 30 years of a journey."
Of the sentence, he said: "We are very, very pleased. We think that justice has been done. We don't think Robert Black will ever be out of jail again to assault wee girls. He will never be able to torture little girls."
Mrs Cardy, who also has two sons -- Philip and Mark-- and a daughter, Victoria, said: "There is absolutely no bitterness.
"I have never been asked personally to forgive Robert Black."
But Mrs Cardy, who was in a wheelchair following a recent car accident, added that if he asked for forgiveness: "I would meet him face to face."
Black was convicted of Jennifer's murder in October at Armagh Crown Court.