Serial child killer Robert Black died in prison this week shortly before he was about to be charged with another murder from almost 40 years ago.
Grangemouth’s most notorious son had already been convicted for abducting and killing four young girls.
Following news of the 68-year-old’s death from natural causes, it emerged detectives in Devon were close to charging him with the murder of Genette Tate (13).
The papergirl vanished in 1978 and, despite Britain’s longest missing-person inquiry, her body has never been found.
Black was arrested by police in 2005 in connection with the murder, but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.
Although he had been convicted of the four murders, carried out while he was a delivery driver, detectives believe he took the lives of several other youngsters in the UK and that his crimes could have also been carried out in Europe where he visited through work.
Black was finally brought to justice in 1990 when he was spotted snatching the six-year-old daughter of a policeman from Stow, near Galashiels.
Detectives trawled through petrol station receipts to discover Black’s whereabouts at the time of other unsolved child abductions and murders in the UK.
In 1994, he was convicted for killing Susan Maxwell (11), from Northumberland, Caroline Hogg (5), from Portobello, and Sarah Harper (10), from Leeds. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 2011, Black was also convicted of abducting and murdering nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy, who had vanished in August 1981 near her home in Ballinderry, Northern Ireland.
After news of his death was announced, Susan’s parents, Liz and Fordyce Maxwell, in a statement said: “It’s a great relief to know that he will never be released from prison.
“He has been fortunate enough to die of natural causes, which is more than he deserved. All his innocent victims, including our beloved daughter Susan, died in horrific and terrifying circumstances. He brought us and the parents of the other children a lifetime of misery and will be mourned by no-one.”
Robert Black was born to single mother Jesse Hunter Black, a factory worker who put him up to be fostered within weeks. He never knew his father.
He was taken in by a foster couple, the Tulips, both in their 50s, who lived in Kinlochleven, near Glencoe. Both died within 11 years and he was brought back to this area and placed in Redding Children’s Home.
Aged 12, he was accused of trying to rape a young girl and moved to an all-boys’ home in Musselburgh.
In 1962, he moved to Greenock and within a year was accused of molesting a seven-year-old girl but was let off with a caution.
Four years later, back working as a builder in Kinlochleven, he was reported for abusing the nine-year-old daughter of the family he lodged with and sent to Polmont Borstal.
On his release he moved to London and in 1976 obtained his driving licence which allowed him to roam the country and target his innocent young victims.
His death in Maghaberry Prison has left many unanswered questions and Robert Black goes to the grave without giving up all his horrific secrets.
Timeline of Robert Black
1947: Robert Black is born in Grangemouth.
1958: His foster mother dies and he returns to the Falkirk area to live at Redding Children’s Home.
1959: Tries to rape a girl but no charges bought. Is moved to an all-boys home in Musselburgh.
1963: He chokes and molests a seven-year-old girl. Let-off with a caution.
1967: Convicted of three indecent assaults and sent to Polmont borstal for one year.
1978: Genette Tate (13) vanishes on a paper round in Devon. Van driver Black emerges as prime suspect but police lack evidence to charge him.
1981: Black was in Northern Ireland working as a delivery driver. In August Jennifer Cardy is abducted and her body is found in her family home outside Lisburn.
1982: Black abducts and murders Susan Maxwell (11) from Cornhill-on-Tweed in Northumberland.
1983: Caroline Hogg disappears from outside her home in Portobello. The five-year-old is found dead in a ditch in Leicestershire.
1986: Sarah Harper (10) is abducted as she walks from a corner shop near her home in Leeds. Her body is discovered in the River Trent in Nottingham.
1988: Black attempts to abduct Theresa Thornhill (15) in Nottingham but the schoolgirl fought him off.
1990: Black is arrested when he abducts a six-year-old girl near Galashiels.
1994: Convicted for the murders of Susan, Caroline and Sarah.
2011: Found guilty of Jennifer’s murder, 30 years after the crime.