No family traced for inquest into serial killer Robert Black

Serial killer Robert Black. Picture: TSPL
Serial killer Robert Black. Picture: TSPL

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 yesterday.

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 paedophile, from Grangemouth near Falkirk, was a delivery driver who stalked the roads of the UK.

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 find out 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,” the lawyer said. “There’s not much more that can be done it seems.”

It was initially believed some of Black’s relations might live in Northern Ireland.

Noting previous media coverage of efforts to locate the family members, the coroner said issuing a formal public appeal could be an option.

But he 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 such a move was not without precedent. Mr McGurgan 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.

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, ten, 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 in county Antrim.