Fears of Genette Tate's father as suspected killer Robert Black dies in prison


Genette Tate's father fears he will never be able to lay his daughter to rest after her suspected murderer - serial child killer Robert Black - died in prison.

Black, 68, died in non-suspicious circumstances in Maghaberry high security jail in Northern Ireland, where he was serving multiple life sentences for the murders of four schoolgirls in the 1980s and a number of other crimes.

The delivery driver was long suspected of murdering Genette, 13, who vanished from a rural lane in Aylesbeare, Devon, in August 1978 and was likely to have been charged with her murder in a matter of weeks, police have said.

The newspaper delivery girl's body has never been found.

Genette's father, John Tate, said he feared Black's death meant he will never find out what happened to his daughter, and will not be able to give her a proper funeral.

He told ITV News: "It's hard [to grieve] because there's a tiny little bit of me that hopes she's alive somewhere.

"I basically hoped that we were going to find out what actually happened to her and to rule out once and for all that she is alive somewhere."

Mr Tate said he had also unsuccessfully attempted to visit the sex attacker in prison, adding: "I never got an opportunity - he wouldn't see me and we dropped it in the end."

A reinvestigation into the disappearance began in 2014, after a court of appeal hearing a year earlier, and a team of 10 has been working "extensively" on the case.

Detective Superintendent Paul Burgan, of Devon and Cornwall Police said: "We were in the process of submitting a full evidential file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which would have been submitted in February of this year."

The CPS had previously indicated that Black would have been charged over the disappearance, he said, adding that the file would still be submitted.

The Scottish-born sex attacker stalked the roads of the UK searching for victims.

His reign of terror was ended in 1990 when he was caught red-handed by police with a barely-alive six-year-old 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.

Once in custody detectives were able to link the predator to a series of unsolved crimes in the previous decade.

In 1994 Black was found guilty of 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 - as well as a failed abduction bid in Nottingham in 1988.

In 2011 he was found guilty of the 1981 murder of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy, from Ballinderry, Co Antrim.

There was new hope of a prosecution for Genette's murder after Black lost an appeal against his conviction for Jennifer's murder.

Critically, the appeal court ruled that Black's offending was so unique that bad character evidence could be used to identify the offender at the scene - opening the door for detectives to revisit Genette's disappearance.

Black first became a suspect in 1994 and was initially interviewed by officers about it in 1996.

In 2002, a large scale investigation took place and was linked with one the Police Service of Northern Ireland were conducting into Jennifer's murder.

Following the Court of Appeal decision in 2013, Devon and Cornwall Police launched a reinvestigation into Genette's murder.

Officers have since identified potential witnesses in the case.

Mr Burgan said Black's death came as a "complete shock" and there was a provision in place to allow officers to speak to him about Genette's disappearance if he was in poor health.

He added: "From what we can ascertain he has just collapsed in prison."

A CPS spokesman said: "This is a very large and complex case, with an extremely long history, and the CPS has worked closely with Devon and Cornwall Police.

"We have been in close discussions with the police about the evidence that they have submitted, and the police are now making their final inquiries in the case, which would have enabled a charging decision to be made."