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Thursday, 27 October 2011

Cardy family prayed for killer Black - dignity in utmost loss

The parents of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy, who was abducted and murdered by Robert Black thirty years ago, have spoken of how they prayed for the serial killer during his trial.

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In an emotional statement, made in front of waiting press outside Armagh Courthouse, Andrew and Patricia Cardy said they had no hate for Black - only pity.

"Robert Black stole the life of our daughter Jennifer, but Robert Black didn't steal the lives of me and my family - we've lived a happy, prosperous life, but we miss Jennifer each and every day," Jennifer's dad said.

The little girl's mum added: "Robert Black has done this awful deed, but I join with my lovely husband and say that he will not destroy us.

"I will say this - murder and death and trial and trauma are no match for the grace of God."

Earlier, Mrs Cardy had broken down in tears inside the court, as the jury delivered its unanimous guilty verdict and the judge ordered 64-year-old Black to be taken down.

Just before he was taken away, Mr Justice Weatherup told the Scotsman: "You have been convicted by a jury of murder.

"There is only one sentence that will be imposed by law - that's the sentence of life imprisonment. Accordingly, I sentence you to life imprisonment."

We have had to endure and listen to how Robert Black kidnapped, sexually abused and murdered our daughter - it has been absolutely horrendous. We heard things that, in all honesty, were not even in our imagination.

Andrew Cardy, Jennifer’s dad

The jury of nine women and three men sat through weeks of harrowing evidence before deliberating and delivering their decision.

It had taken six days to find Jennifer's body, 30 years to find her killer and just four hours and 15 minutes over two days to deliver justice.

On August 12, 1981, Jennifer's body was found in McKee's dam in Hillsborough, Co Down.

It was 15 miles from her home in the quiet village of Ballinderry, where she had set out from to cycle to her friend's house on her brand new bicycle.

Before she left, the thoughtful little girl had asked her mum to wind up her watch so she would be home for Jackanory.

When she didn't arrive on time, her mum knew something was wrong.

It transpired Jennifer had never reached her friend's house and searches that united the whole community began.

After her body was found, the poignant image of her little red bike left lying in a ditch shocked the whole of Northern Ireland.

During Robert Black's trial, the Crown held that he - as a London-based dispatch driver - was in Northern Ireland on the day of Jennifer's disappearance doing delivery runs.

It further held that the kidnap and murder of Jennifer bore the hallmarks and signature of his past crimes against young girls, but Black had denied the charges.

The now 64-year-old was finally caught in Scotland in 1990, when police stopped his van in the village of Stow and found a six-year-old girl bound and gagged in a sleeping bag.

She was alive but had been sexually abused moments earlier.

Black later described that date - Saturday July 14, 1990 - as the day "the roof fell in".

Four years later, he was convicted and jailed for the murders of three young girls all carried out in the 1980s.

None of us can imagine what the Cardy family have suffered over the past 30 years or, more recently, during the past weeks of this trial when the horrific events of August 1981 were re-visited.

Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray

The van driver had been connected to the scenes of his crimes by petrol receipts, so detectives investigating Jennifer's murder trawled through 560,000 of them in a bid to secure a conviction.

Finally, they found the one piece of paper that proved crucial - a docket signed by Black at a filling station in Coventry, in a van primarily used to deliver posters in Northern Ireland.

That, prosecutors argued, could only mean one thing - he was on the way back to base after disembarking from the overnight ferry from Belfast at Liverpool docks and therefore had been in Northern Ireland at the time of Jennifer's murder.

"In the end, it was good, old-fashioned police work which brought this case to trial and secured a conviction," Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray said.

"It was attention to detail."

The senior police officer said his thoughts, and those of everyone involved in the case, were with the Cardy family - Jennifer's parents, her sister Victoria and brothers Philip and Mark.

"The Cardy family have displayed both dignity and patience which most of us would find impossible to match," he said.

"They have stayed the course of this investigation over the past three decades and now I hope they feel they've got the justice they deserve."

The investigation into Jennifer's murder has been one of the longest ever conducted in Northern Ireland, but it ends with her killer behind bars.

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