The mother of one of Colin Pitchfork’s murder victim has slammed the Parole Board’s decision to reject an appeal against his release.
Double child killer Colin Pitchfork is set to be freed from prison after the Parole Board rejected challenge from the Ministry of Justice against its ruling.
Pitchfork, now in his early 60s, was jailed for life after raping and strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.
He became the first man convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence in 1988 after admitting two murders, two rapes, two indecent assaults and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Barbara Ashworth, the mother of Dawn, said: ‘Well obviously I’ve had 33 years of it and it’s all been said and as far as I’m concerned he’s going to be out in amongst the public so it speaks for itself. He can’t hurt me any more.’
Asked if the Parole Board’s decision was disappointing, Mrs Ashworth said: ‘Well, would it be for you? Obviously it’s disappointing for me, yes.’
Double child killer Colin Pitchfork (pictured in 1988) is set to be freed from prison after the Parole Board rejected the Ministry of Justice’s challenge against its ruling to release him
Victims: Colin Pitchfork, now in his early 60s, was jailed for life after raping and strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann (left) and Dawn Ashworth (right) in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986
Killer ‘gave chocolates to female shopworker while out on licence’
Concerns were raised about Pitchfork’s ‘capacity to manipulate and deceive’ during a bid to keep him behind bars for longer.
Papers detailing the reasons for keeping the sexual predator in jail, and why the Parole Board stood by its decision to free him, also disclose how, while out on temporary licence from jail, he gave a female shopworker chocolates and told her lies.
The Parole Board considered more than 1,100 pages of information, victim statements, evidence from Pitchfork and his probation officers, police and a psychologist before making that decision.
The Government challenged the decision to free him on the following grounds:
– That professional witnesses said he had the ‘capacity to manipulate and deceive the professionals he had worked with’.
– That a security report from November 2020 detailed allegations from another prisoner that Pitchfork had been involved in an ‘incident’.
– Pitchfork’s request to have access to a smartphone while out on temporary licence.
– That he lied to a female shopworker while out of prison on temporary licence, telling her he was married when he was not, after giving her chocolates ‘to thank her for fixing his phone’.
– There was an absence in the decision of any consideration as to whether he showed ‘genuine remorse’.
Senior Parole Board judge Michael Topolski QC, who considered the application to review the decision, found none of the professionals believed his capacity to manipulate and deceive ‘made him unsuitable for release’.
All agreed that strict licence conditions, including being made to take polygraph – lie detector – tests, would be ‘effective in managing his risk in the community’.
Pitchfork will also have to live at a certain address, take part in probation supervision, wear an electronic tag and have to disclose what vehicles he uses and who he speaks to, while facing particular limits on contact with children.
He will also be subject to a curfew, have restrictions on using technology and limitations on where he can go.
‘Little or no weight’ should be given to the prison incident allegation, ‘not least because there were grounds for believing it was malicious’, the body said.
While there were concerns about Pitchfork’s ‘negative attitude’ towards a number of probation officers and over his request for a smartphone, the Parole Board said: ‘It is clear the witness did not consider it something that affected her recommendation that Mr Pitchfork should be released into the community.’
Pitchfork reported the lie to the shopworker himself. The incident raised questions as to whether this was an ‘attempt at humour’ or an ‘example of a concerning grandiose lie’ suggestive of how Pitchfork might behave if released.
The original panel ‘did not express a view about this incident nor make any finding about it’.
Judge Topolski accepted it is ‘arguable that it might have been preferable if they had done so’ but said this was further evidence of the need for Pitchfork to be subject to lie detector tests while on licence.
Although the decision did not refer to remorse, it mentions his ‘changed attitudes, insight into his offending, accepting of responsibility and motivation not to re-offend’, he added.
The Parole Board said it welcomes the reconsideration mechanism as a ‘crucial safeguard in the system which allows an avenue for people to scrutinise our decisions’.
Following a hearing in March, the Parole Board ruled he was ‘suitable for release’, despite this being denied in 2016 and 2018.
But last month Justice Secretary Robert Buckland asked the board, which is independent of the Government, to re-examine the decision under the so-called reconsideration mechanism.
On Tuesday the Parole Board announced the application had been ‘refused’.
A spokesman said in a statement: ‘The Parole Board has immense sympathy for the families of Dawn Ashworth and Lynda Mann and recognises the pain and anguish they have endured and continue to endure through the parole process.
‘However, Parole Board panels are bound by law to assess whether a prisoner is safe to release.
‘It has no power to alter the original sentence set down by the courts. Legislation dictates that a panel’s decision must be solely focused on what risk a prisoner may pose on release and whether that risk can be managed in the community.
‘As made clear in the reconsideration decision, release was supported by all of the Secretary of State’s witnesses during Mr Pitchfork’s review.’
The reconsideration mechanism, introduced in July 2019, allows people to challenge the board’s decision if they believe them to be ‘procedurally unfair’ or ‘irrational’.
However, the provisions make clear that ‘being unhappy with the decision is not grounds for reconsideration’.
The result of the latest legal review, carried out by senior Parole Board judge His Honour Michael Topolski QC, was made public this morning.
The Parole Board issued a statement, including the following comments by the judge.
He said: ‘This was and remains a case of considerable seriousness, complexity and notoriety.
‘The terrible consequences of the brutal rapes and murders of two innocent girls will forever darken the lives of the families concerned.
‘A highly experienced and expert panel comprising of two judicial and one psychologist member had in essence two questions to decide.
‘First, did the respondent need to remain in prison to complete any further offending work and secondly, could his risk be safely managed in the community?
‘For the reasons I have given, I do not consider that the decision was irrational and accordingly, with my thanks to the parties for their submissions, the application for reconsideration is refused.’
The statement from the Parole Board added: ‘We welcome this crucial safeguard in the system which allows an avenue for people to scrutinise our decisions.’
Pitchfork raped and murdered Lynda, 15, in November 1983, leaving her body near the Black Pad footpath, in Narborough.
He took 15-year-old Dawn’s life in July 1986, and left her in Ten Pound Lane, also in Narborough.
Robert Buckland said last month he was taking advice on the matter and considering the case ‘very carefully’.
It is understood the intervention was made on the grounds the board’s decision may have been irrational.
Once the MoJ’s application was received, the board decided whether its original decision to release Pitchfork should be formally reconsidered.
The threshold for reconsideration is high, and the same as is required for a Judicial Review.
Pitchfork, who was in his 20s at the time of the attacks, became the first man convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence and was jailed for life at Leicester Crown Court in 1988.
An artist’s file impression of Pitchford appealing the length of his sentence at the Court of Appeal in London. Following a hearing, the Parole Board said he was ‘suitable for release’
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.
He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 30 years.
Although he was denied parole in 2016 and in 2018, Pitchfork was moved to an open prison three years ago.
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, as well as his probation officers, police and a psychologist.
A police van containing Richard John Buckland, a learning disabled man who pleaded guilty to murdering Dawn but was later exonerated after DNA evidence proved it was Colin Pitchfork
Pictured: Volunteers take tests to help the investigating police officers find the murderer of Leicestershire schoolgirls Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth on January 5 in 1987 (file photo)
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 had been subject to strict licence conditions.
Kath Eastwood, of Leicester, holding a picture of her murdered daughter Lynda in 2010 after Pitchfork became the first criminal to be caught and convicted as a result of DNA identification
Pictured: Dawn Ashworth whose body was found in a wooded area, less than a mile from the scene of Lynda’s murder
Lynda’s sister, Rebecca Eastwood told Leicestershire Live last month: ‘I don’t have any confidence at all in the justice system if they are prepared to let someone like him out.
‘It comes down to the justice system looking at someone who has done the things this man has done and thinking ‘he’s done his time, let’s give him a chance and let him out’.
‘They can’t give a 100 per cent guarantee he will not offend. Even if it’s only a small chance that he will commit more crimes, it’s not a risk worth taking.’
The double child killer snared by DNA who terrified the community
The crimes of Colin Pitchfork created terror in the local communities where he had struck.
On November 22, 1983, the body of 15-year-old Lynda Mann was found raped and strangled on a deserted footpath running between a cemetery and a psychiatric hospital in the Leicestershire village of Narborough.
Almost three years later, in July 1986, the body of another 15-year-old, Dawn Ashworth, from nearby Enderby, was found in almost identical circumstances in a wooded area, less than a mile from the scene of Lynda’s murder.
The dead girl had been taking a shortcut home from school instead of her usual route, but there can be little doubt that her assailant, believing he had ‘got away with it’ once, was on the look-out for other teenagers to assault, terrorise and murder in the same way.
Initially, a local man confessed to the second murder and his blood was found to be the same group as blood found at the scene. There can be no doubt that had it not been for advances in science, he would have been convicted while Colin Pitchfork remained free.
However, two years later, semen samples found at the crime scenes were used to match the DNA of Pitchfork, a baker and convicted flasher.
He became the first criminal in the world to be convicted based on DNA fingerprinting, following the first mass screening of 5,000 men in three neighbouring villages.
After his arrest he confessed to his crimes and when asked why he is said to have shrugged to detectives and said: ‘Opportunity. She was there and I was there’.
He was given life and a minimum sentence of 30 years, reduced to 28 years on appeal, which he has now served.