Double child killer Colin Pitchfork can be freed from jail, says Parole Board

A man who raped and killed two schoolgirls can be freed from prison, the Parole Board has said.

Colin Pitchfork was jailed for life after strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.

A hearing took place in March to consider whether he was suitable for release and the decision was published on Monday.

Pitchfork, then in his 20s, became the first man convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence and was jailed for life at Leicester Crown Court in 1988. He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 30 years.

He was eventually caught after the world’s first mass screening for DNA, as 5,000 men in three villages were asked to volunteer blood or saliva samples.

Pitchfork pleaded guilty to two offences of murder, two of rape, two of indecent assault and one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. His minimum term was cut by two years in 2009.

Although he was denied parole in 2016 and in 2018, Pitchfork was moved to an open prison three years ago.

Dawn Ashworth
Dawn Ashworth (Topham/PA)

A document detailing the Parole Board decision said: “After considering the circumstances of his offending, the progress made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was satisfied that Mr Pitchfork was suitable for release.”

The panel considered more than 1,100 pages of information, victim statements and heard evidence from Pitchfork – who is now in his 60s – as well as his probation officers, police and a psychologist.

According to the document, at the time of his offending Pitchfork thought “about sex a lot”, used “violence and excessive force” and “sex to demonstrate power and control over women”.

He also struggled to cope with anger, loneliness and had a willingness to “seek revenge”.

During his time behind bars he has taken part in several courses to address his behaviour and the panel heard Pitchfork’s “behaviour in custody had been positive and had included extensive efforts to help others”, including learning skills to help disabled people, the document said.

Pitchfork’s release is subject to strict licence conditions.

He will have to live at a certain address, take part in probation supervision, wear an electronic tag, take part in polygraph – lie detector – tests and have to disclose what vehicles he uses and who he speaks to, while facing particular limits on contact with children.

Colin Pitchfork arrives at court, charged with the rape and murder of two Leicestershire schoolgirls, he is greeted by jeers from local factory workers, Leicester Magistrates Court, Monday 21st September 1987.
Colin Pitchfork arrives at court, charged with the rape and murder of two Leicestershire schoolgirls, he is greeted by jeers from local factory workers, Leicester Magistrates Court, Monday 21st September 1987.

Pitchfork will also be subject to a curfew, have restrictions on using technology and limitations on where he can go.

South Leicestershire MP Alberto Costa, who raised concerns about Pitchfork’s release with the Parole Board, said he was “appalled” by the decision and freeing him would be “dangerous”.

The Conservative MP told the BBC: “Even though some 30 years have passed, this isn’t the sort of crime that one can ever forget.”

He accused the Parole Board of “playing politics” and said he would be lobbying the Justice Secretary Robert Buckland.

The decision is provisional for 21 days, subject to the approval of the Justice Secretary who has the power to appeal against the decision.

It is understood the Government will seek legal advice over the decision.

A Parole Board spokesman said: “Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.

“Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.”