Fury has today erupted over the Parole Board’s decision to allow notorious child killer Colin Pitchfork to be freed from prison after 33 years.
Double-murderer Colin Pitchfork will be allowed to leave prison after being jailed for life for strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.
The Parole Board ruled that Pitchfork, now in his 60s, had ‘made progress’ while in custody and could be released with a series of conditions imposed.
But it has sparked anger from local MP Alberto Costa, who described him as ‘dangerous’ and said his constituents would be ‘appalled’ by the Parole Board’s decision.
The Tory MP South Leicestershire told the BBC: ‘I, like many of my South Leicestershire constituents, am appalled at this decision that the Parole Board has made.
‘Even though some 30 years have passed this isn’t the sort of crime that one can ever forget.
‘My constituents remember the victims, people who went to school with these victims, and they look to me as the member of Parliament to do everything I can to inform the state that it would be immoral, wrong and frankly dangerous to release this disgraceful murderer of two children.’
Pitchfork’s release also comes ahead of a new policy which stopped him ever being eligible for parole.
Under new legislation, proposed by the Government, murderers who kill multiple people, or who kill children, would face a starting point of a ‘Whole Life Order’.
Unlike life-sentences, which are set with a minimum sentence to be served in prison, whole life orders mean a person will never leave prison.
Pitchfork, who at the time was a baker and known to police as a serial flasher, attacked his victims and dumped their bodies on dark, secluded footpaths in Leicestershire.
One of Britain’s most evil child killers Colin Pitchfork will learn next month if he will be released from jail
Pitchfork – the first person ever to be snared by DNA evidence – was jailed for life in 1988 for raping and murdering 15-year-old Leicestershire schoolgirls Lynda Mann (left) and Dawn Ashworth (right) in 1983 and 1986
How a revolutionary DNA trial helped to snare child killer Colin Pitchfork
DNA evidence – then in its early use in criminal cases – played a key role in solving the murders of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth.
It was first used in the investigation following the death of Pitchfork’s first victim – Lynda Mann.
Then 15, Lynda was grabbed, raped and murdered as she walked home from babysitting earlier that day.
DNA was used at the start of the investigation, when a sample of semen taken from her body was found to be from a person with type-A blood.
It also matched an enzyme profile of just 10 per cent of males.
But with few leads and no direct suspects, police left the case open.
In 1986, a second 15-year-old girl, Dawn Ashworth, left her home to visit a friend’s house.
When she did not return, a search was launched and, like Lynda, her body was found having been raped.
Police again found similar DNA, and with the murder having been carried out in a similar way, detectives realised they were looking for a double murderer.
Officers had another suspect in mind at the time, Richard Buckland – a teenager with learning difficulties who had confessed to the second murder and had knowledge of the first. He would later be exonerated.
But it wasn’t until Sir Alec Jeffreys, a genetics researcher at nearby Leicester University, became involved that his innocence was proved.
Sir Alec first developed genetic profiling along with Peter Gill and Dave Werrett.
And he used it to compare DNA samples found on both bodies.
It proved the killer was the same person – but not Buckland.
Later, police launched a DNA drive and up to 5,000 men in three villages were asked to volunteer blood or saliva samples.
However, no matches were found.
But in 1987 a bakery colleague of Pitchfork was overheard boasting how he was set to receive £200 to pose as Pitchfork and give a sample.
The conversation was reported to the police and Pitchfork was later arrested.
Pitchfork raped and strangled Lynda in Narborough after dropping his wife off at an evening class and while his baby son slept in the back of his car.
Three years later he raped and murdered Dawn in a similar attack in nearby Enderby.
The killer was the first criminal to be caught by the revolutionary DNA profiling process pioneered by Sir Alec Jeffreys at the University of Leicester.
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.
No matches were found. But in 1987 a bakery colleague of Pitchfork was overheard boasting how he was set to receive £200 to pose as Pitchfork and give a sample.
The conversation was reported to the police and Pitchfork was later arrested.
Pitchfork was jailed for life in 1988.
He admitted two counts of murder, two counts of rape, two of indecent assault and one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
His minimum term of imprisonment was set at 30 years, later reduced to 28 years in 2009 on appeal.
Pitchfork’s case was most recently refused by the Parole Board in 2018. Since then, he has been kept in an open prison.
In accordance with the law the Parole Board must review cases every two years.
Today Mr Costa accused the Parole Board of ‘playing politics’ and said he would be lobbying the Justice Secretary.
‘The Parole Board has received criticism before in the past – let’s not forget only three years ago the John Worboys fiasco that the Parole Board went through when they tried to release that repugnant individual,’ Mr Costa said.
‘The Parole Board back then had the opportunity of hearing Pitchfork but because of representations that I made to the then secretary of state for justice, they acted politically as a Parole Board and chose to delay listening to having a hearing for Colin Pitchfork, so the Parole Board aren’t short of playing politics in this as well.’
Mr Buckland has the power to urge the Parole Board to reconsider the decision – though the MoJ would not be drawn on whether he would or would not in this case.
A source close to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told the BBC that government would take legal advice to explore the use of the ‘reconsideration mechanism’.
Ahead of his December hearing, MP for South Leicestershire, Alberto Costa had raised concerns to Chief Executive of the Parole Board for England and Wales Martin Jones.
He said he met Mr Jones to reiterate the grave concerns of his constituents about Pitchfork’s potential release.
Speaking in November last year, Mr Costa said: ‘I am of course hugely concerned at the prospect of convicted child-killer Colin Pitchfork being released on parole.
Volunteers taking tests in 1987 to help police find the murderer of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth
Police initially arrested another man on suspicion of murdering Dawn Ashworth, but he was later exonerated. Pictured: A police van transports the other prisoner in August 1986
‘Code of a Killer’: The TV drama which detailed the DNA investigation into Colin Pitchfork’s murders
The investigation into the Colin Pitchfork’s murders had a huge impact for DNA testing in police operations.
So much of an impact did it have, that the investigation was turned into a TV drama.
Produced for ITV, ‘Code of a Killer’ dramatised the real-life work of Sir Alec John Jeffreys – a British geneticist known for developing techniques for genetic fingerprinting and DNA profiling.
It was Sir Alec’s work that was used by real-life detective Detective David Baker in the Pitchfork murder investigation.
Baker, convinced the murderer was local, approached Jeffreys to utilise his scientific technique as a way to solve the murders.
The first ever DNA manhunt and blood testing of many men followed – all in the aid of catching the killer.
The ITV drama, which aired in 2015, starred ‘Life on Mar’s actor John Simm as Sir Alec.
‘Shameless’ star David Threlfall starred as Detective Baker.
‘His abhorrent crimes cast a shadow over parts of South Leicestershire for many years, and while the tragic of murders of Lynda and Dawn were some decades ago, they continue to live long in the memory of many of my constituents.
‘I have consistently raised the issue of public safety with successive justice ministers, and with Pitchfork’s hearing now due on the horizon I was pleased to make further representations to the Chief Executive of the Parole Board for England and Wales’.
Speaking in November last year, Chief Executive of the Parole Board for England and Wales Martin Jones said the decision was up to the independent parole board.
In a statement released today to MailOnline, a Parole Board spokesman said: ‘We can confirm that a panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Colin Pitchfork following an oral hearing.
‘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.
‘A panel will carefully examine a huge range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as explore the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.
‘Members read and digest hundreds of pages of evidence and reports in the lead up to an oral hearing.
‘Evidence from witnesses including probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, officials supervising the offender in prison as well as victim personal statements are then given at the hearing.
‘The prisoner and witnesses are then questioned at length during the hearing which often lasts a full day or more.
‘Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority.
‘The decision is provisional for 21 days.’
Pitchfork raped and strangled Lynda (pictured left as a schoolgirl and right aged 15) after dropping his wife off at an evening class and while his baby son slept in the back of his car. Three years later he raped and murdered Dawn in a similar attack.
The panel, who met in March before releasing their findings today, considered more than 1,100 pages of information, victim statements and heard evidence from Pitchfork as well as his probation officers, police and a psychologist.
A spokesperson said that there will be 35 separate conditions Pitchfork will have to abide by including tagging, polygraph testing, extensive exclusion zones, bans on contact with children, victims, as well as restrictions on electronic devices and vehicles.
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.
How Colin Pitchfork would have faced a Whole Life Order under new laws proposed by the Government
At the time of Colin Pitchfork’s conviction in 1988, he was handed a life sentence.
As part of the life sentence, he was given a 30-year minimum jail term – later reduced to 28-years on appeal.
But life sentences in the UK do not necessarily mean life in prison. After serving the minimum sentence, in Pitchfork’s case 28-years, a prisoner becomes eligible for parole.
This is subject to the decision of the Parole Board – who decide if a prisoner provides a significant risk to the public.
They do not have to release a person if they believe they are still a risk and therefore a person can in fact spend their life in prison.
Even if a prisoner is released, they are still subject to conditions and can be recalled to prison if necessary.
This means that, although they may not spend their life in prison, they are still subject to their sentence for the rest of their life.
Life sentences are sometimes confused with Whole Life Orders – in which prisoners do spend the rest of their life in prison.
In the UK, such orders are rare, and only apply to the very worst types of offences.
As of June 2020 there were 63 whole-life prisoners and an additional three life prisoners being treated in secure hospitals.
One prisoner serving a whole life order is Rosemary West.
But under new legislation proposed by the Government, there could soon be more.
As part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Government proposes to move up the starting point for those who commit multiple murders, or those who kill children, to a whole life order.