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Notorious serial killer was in Donegal when Mary Boyle vanished


Mary Boyle

Mary Boyle

Memories: Anne Boyle, Mary’s mother, holds photos of her late husband Charlie, and Mary. Photo: Jason McGarrigle

Memories: Anne Boyle, Mary’s mother, holds photos of her late husband Charlie, and Mary. Photo: Jason McGarrigle

Mary Boyle

Mary Boyle

Ann Boyle, whose life has been filled with grief since the disappearance of her daughter

Ann Boyle, whose life has been filled with grief since the disappearance of her daughter


Mary Boyle

The arrest and questioning last week of a 64-year-old man serving a two-year sentence for the sexual abuse of two brothers in Donegal in the 1970s has thrown no new light on the disappearance of Mary Boyle, according to garda sources.

The man's name came up in a review of Mary's case as he was working in Finner Army camp in Donegal at around the time of her disappearance.

The boys he abused were, however, known to him and apart from prolonged sexual abuse outlined in evidence in his case there was no further suggestion he was aware of, or had anything to do with, Mary Boyle other than he lived in the general area where she disappeared.

The man, who was questioned over two days, had been a reclusive figure and had not previously figured in any of the investigation and re-investigation of Mary's case. His abuse of the boys only emerged four years ago and he had not come to the attention of gardai before in relation to Mary Boyle.

The geographical link of his living in south Donegal at the time of Mary's disappearance was a matter that gardai felt had to be examined in the absence of other evidence in Mary's case.

The main suspect in the Mary Boyle case still remains a Scottish man, Robert Black, who began attacking young girls when still in his teens and went on to become the worst paedophile and child killer in British history.

His first serious offence was in Greenock, outside Glasgow, in 1962 when, aged only 15, he partially strangled and sexually assaulted a seven-year-old girl. He was convicted of "lewd and libidinous behaviour" and received only a good behaviour warning.

Two years later he received a year's sentence in borstal for a sexual assault on another seven-year-old, the daughter of a couple he was rooming with in another Scottish town, Kinlochleve.

Thereafter, Black disappeared off the British police radar as he embarked on what is now believed to have been a 25-year career of kidnapping and murdering young girls.

At the time police constabularies in Britain did not have co-ordinated records on sex offenders and Black roamed Britain, Ireland and parts of northern Europe in his job as a delivery van driver. It may never be known how many murders he was responsible for.

He was only apprehended in July 1990 after he was spotted by a motorist snatching a local policeman's six-year-old daughter off a roadside outside the village of Stow in Scotland. The local police, including the girl's father, were alerted and gave chase stopping his van some miles away. They found the child tied up, gagged with tape and stuffed head-first into a sleeping bag.

With Black's arrest and imprisonment for life on a charge of abduction, British police began working through the first computerised data base of serious crime that had been brought into use in the hunt for the 'Yorkshire Ripper' serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, sentenced to life imprisonment in 1981 for the murders of 13 women, several of them street prostitutes.

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After Black's arrest, police re-examined the cases of three girls who had been abducted raped and murdered and discovered, through examination of Black's van delivery schedules, that he had been in the same areas at the same times when the abductions occurred.

Police were able to establish enough evidence to convict Black of three murders.

He raped and strangled 11-year-old Susan Maxwell whom he snatched off a bridge on the English-Scottish border at Coldstream in July 1982. Black drove her body 250 miles across England before dumping her by the side of a road in Staffordshire.

He was identified as a man last seen holding hands with five-year-old Caroline Hogg near her home outside Edinburgh in July 1983 shortly before she disappeared. Her body was found 300 miles away from her home in a ditch in Leicestershire 10 days later.

He was also convicted of the murder of Sarah Harper (10) whose body was found in the River Trent near Nottingham in April 1986, a month after she disappeared.

The bodies of the three girls were dumped within an area with a radius of just 26 miles and were already believed to be linked.

Black is the main suspect in the murders of two other girls: April Fabb (13) who disappeared in Norfolk in April 1969 and Genette Tate, also 13, who disappeared from near her home in Devon in August 1978.

Within a short time of his arrest for abducting the young Scottish girl in 1990, Black became a person of interest for the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the murder of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy in August 1981. Her body was found in an old flax dam six days after she disappeared from her home in Co Down. They established that Black regularly travelled to the northern counties of Ireland as part of his delivery job.

Jennifer had been sexually assaulted and an attempt was made to burn her remains prior to being dumped in the dam. It would take nearly 30 years and the advances in DNA science to finally link Black to her murder. He was sentenced to a minimum 25 years imprisonment at Armagh Crown Court in October 2011 which means, if he lives, he will be 89 before he will be eligible to apply for parole.

The RUC, and subsequently PSNI, investigation into Jennifer Cardy's murder drew Black into the investigation into the disappearance of Mary Boyle.

Gardai discovered that Black was a reasonably regular visitor to Donegal, delivering commercial posters and may have visited and stayed in Annagry, not far from the Boyle home at Kincasslagh on the coast.

However, Mary and her family were visiting her grandparents at her uncle's home outside Ballyshannon, more than an hour's drive away from Kincasslagh on the day she disappeared.

Her disappearance was baffling. She had been barely 500 yards from her uncle's house at a neighbour's and had been making her way home when she disappeared. No one noticed anything suspicious and extensive searches and digs of the bogland and the draining of a local lake revealed nothing.

Cashelard, where she disappeared, is not on a main road but inland several miles from the main coastal route and a similar distance north of the main road from Ballyshannon to Enniskillen.

But, Ballinderry where Jennifer Cardy was abducted and murdered by Black is also several miles away from the nearest main road, the MI south out of Belfast.

Black's other victims were taken from small towns and villages, lightly populated areas where the potential for witnesses was slight.

By 1977 when Mary disappeared Black was 30 years old and almost certainly seasoned at his practices. He had almost certainly abducted, murdered and secretly buried April Fabb seven years earlier. She had been riding her bicycle along a quiet country road between the villages of Metton and Roughton in Norfolk. Genette Tate disappeared and was never seen again minutes after talking to friends as she rode her bike along another country lane near her home in the village of Aylesbeare in Devon.

The three girls he was convicted of murdering in Britain were also taken in rural areas: Sarah Harper from outside the village of Morley, four miles from Leeds; Caroline Hogg from Portabello, a village on the coast five miles from Edinburgh; and Susan Maxwell from near her home in the border village of Cornhill-on-Tweed.

Black's modus operandi suggested he was aware that cities and towns held too many witnesses and the countryside also offered hidden places to rape, murder and hide his victims. He chose his prey well away from busy roads where he and his van or car would also be spotted. Parents in relatively crime-free country areas were also less worried about their children's safety than those in cities.

These events happened before the advent of widespread CCTV or national and international data bases of sex offenders.

The early signs of Black's increasing menace to young girls were ignored and by the time he had progressed through borstal to manhood he had evolved and learned how to avoid capture.

After his trial, a picture emerged of a man who had dedicated his life to the pursuit and destruction of young girls. His filthy flat was full of paedophile pornographic magazines, his van equipped with the implements and bindings he used on his victims which he carried at all times.

Police in Britain believe Black was probably responsible for up to 12 murders including Susanne Lawrence (14) who disappeared in Essex in 1979; Pamela Hastie (16) from Johnstone in Scotland who disappeared in 1981; and Patsy Morris (14) last seen in west London in 1990.

He is also a suspect in the murders of four schoolgirls who were abducted and murdered in countryside outside Paris in 1987 and of another seven-year-old girl in Holland in 1986.

Black, now 67, has been questioned repeatedly by police since his incarceration in 1990 in Wakefield high security jail but has never admitted involvement in any murders, not even those for which he was convicted.

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