No relatives traced for dead child killer Black

Robert Black at court
Robert Black at court

A failure to trace any relatives of child serial killer Robert Black may see his inquest proceed without family participation, a coroner has said.

Nine months of efforts by the Coroner Service for Northern Ireland to find relations of the late Scottish paedophile have come to nothing, corner Patrick McGurgan was told today.

Black, who was convicted of four child murders but suspected of many more, died of heart disease in a Northern Ireland prison in 2016 aged 68.

The loner from Grangemouth near Falkirk was a delivery driver who stalked the roads of the UK searching for victims.

Black was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea after prison authorities in Northern Ireland revealed no one wanted his remains.

An inquest is being held into his death to establish if there were any issues with the medical care he received while incarcerated.

At a preliminary hearing in Belfast, a lawyer for the Coroners Service updated Mr McGurgan on efforts to find any relations to participate in the inquest.

“They can’t be traced,” he said. “There’s not much more that can be done it seems.”

It was initially believed some relations might live in Northern Ireland.

Addressing the legal representatives involved in the case, the coroner added: “Are we content that we could proceed in the absence of next of kin? It’s not unheard of.”

One of the lawyers agreed that such a move was not without precedent.

The coroner said the absence of a relation at the full hearing in December might make it difficult to officially record some personal details about Black.

The killer’s long 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.

In 1994, Black was found guilty of three child murders in the 1980s – 11-year-old Susan Maxwell from the Scottish Borders, five-year-old Caroline Hogg from Edinburgh, and Sarah Harper, 10, from Morley near Leeds.

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

Black, who lived out his last days in Maghaberry, was put up to be fostered within weeks of his birth in 1947.

A couple from the West Highlands who took him in both died and Black spent the rest of his childhood in residential homes.

The full inquest into Black’s death is scheduled to start on the week commencing Monday, December 3, in Armagh.