Robert Black: Coroner wants to trace child killer's relatives

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Image source, PSNI
Image caption,
Robert Black was a delivery driver who had a history of abducting and murdering young girls

A coroner is seeking to trace relatives of a child killer to establish if they want to participate in his inquest.

Robert Black was convicted of four child murders. He died of heart disease in Northern Ireland in 2016.

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

At a preliminary hearing, in Belfast ahead of an inquest later this year, the coroner said relatives should have the chance to give evidence.

"I think all efforts need to be made to trace the next of kin," he said.

A lawyer for the Coroners Service said he believed some relations may live in Northern Ireland.

The coroner suggested lawyers who represented Black in trials prior to his death might be able to help trace relatives.

"I think it's important that the family are given every opportunity to participate fully in this inquest," he said.

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

The killer was caught by police in 1990 with a six-year-old girl who was hooded, bound, gagged and stuffed in a sleeping bag in the back of his van in the Scottish village of Stow.

Image caption,
Robert Black was convicted of murdering (clockwise from top left) Jennifer Cardy, Sarah Harper, Susan Maxwell and Caroline Hogg

Once in custody, the predator was linked 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.

Image caption,
Jennifer Cardy was abducted while she cycled to a friend's house near her County Antrim home in 1981

Black, who lived out his last days in Maghaberry prison in County Antrim, was also suspected of involvement in other killings and unexplained disappearances and had long been the prime suspect in the case of missing 13-year-old Genette Tate, who was last seen in a rural lane in Aylesbeare, Devon, in 1978..