The grieving family of one of Colin Pitchfork’s victims have hit out at Sir Keir Starmer after he said the paedophile and double-murderer ‘has to be released’.
Pitchfork, 61, raped and murdered 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in the 1980s – and is now due to be released on parole.
Sir Keir told LBC Pitchfork had ‘served a long sentence and he served the sentence imposed on him by the court, and under our system that means there comes a point at which he has to be released’.
He was tonight accused of being oblivious to ‘serious deep concern across the country’, and was blasted by a victim’s family for his remarks.
Lynda’s sister Sue Gatrick, 55, told MailOnline she ‘could not believe’ someone would say what the Labour leader said, adding: ‘Perhaps Sir Keir would like to have him move next door to him – or put him up himself.
‘The police told us ”they will never let him out, he will never be released, he will die behind bars”. That was what they said after the sentencing. Now he is getting out and he is not that old. I was surprised how young he was.’
Mrs Gatrick added: ‘Most people are saying hang him or shoot him. Nobody wants him out. We as a family are angry, afraid and scared. If they let him out, he will do it again. There is no way he is not going to.’
She said that his release would ‘break’ her 73-year-old mother who ‘never got over it’.
‘I was not one for the death penalty but now I am,’ she said. ‘The possibility of him walking the earth again is unnerving – very unnerving.’
Alberto Costa, the Conservative MP whose constituency covers where Pitchfork’s two underage victims were killed, said he and local families had battled for the law to be changed.
He spoke out after listening and watching would-be Prime Minister Sir Keir – a former Director of Public Prosecutions – speak about the case.
Victims: Furious relatives of the two schoolgirls murdered by a notorious paedophile have condemned a decision to let him go free. Left: Lynda Mann, right: Dawn Ashworth
Detective Superintendent Baker, whose use of DNA evidence helped prove Pitchfork (pictured) raped and murdered 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth, said the full extent of the bakery worker’s brutality in the attacks was never revealed
South Leicestershire politician Mr Costa said the Labour leader needed to listen harder to people sickened by Pitchfork’s ‘most appalling crimes imaginable to women’.
He told MailOnline: ‘It is to be deeply regretted that Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, does not appear to understand the very serious deep concern there is across our country on the independent parole board’s decision to release double child rapist and killer Colin Pitchfork.
‘Sir Keir said ”There’s a great tendency for politicians to leap on a particular case”. With respect, the whole of south Leicestershire through me their MP have been campaigning long and hard for many years to highlight the injustice and moral dilemma of allowing someone like Pitchfork, who has committed the most egregious sexual offences and murder against women to be released.
‘My advice to Sir Keir is that he should listen long and hard to these people across our country who consider it an outrage that someone who has committed the most appalling crimes imaginable to women should be released.
‘Sir Keir may not be aware that the law has changed. If Pitchfork committed these crimes today he would most likely receive a whole life tariff with little prospect of ever being released.
‘I would urge Sir Keir to get behind our campaign to highlight the importance of getting the independent parole board in line with public thinking on these most heinous crimes.’
Pitchfork’s victims’ still-grieving families have spoken at their disgust at his impending parole so appear likely to be taken aback by would-be Prime Minister Sir Keir’s remarks to LBC.
He said on the radio station: ‘He has served a long sentence and he served the sentence imposed on him by the court, and under our system that means there comes a point at which he has to be released.
Sir Keir Starmer pictured during Call Keir, a live phone-in on LBC’s Nick Ferrari at Breakfast
South Leicestershire MP Mr Costa said the Labour leader needed to listen harder to people
‘That doesn’t make it easier for you, it doesn’t make it any easier for the families,’ he told LBC.
‘There’s a great tendency politicians are leaping on a particular case. Actually if we think the system is wrong or sentences are wrong in general we should change the law on sentencing and look at whether it should be longer sentences in some of these cases.’
The comments may be taken by Sir Keir’s critics as a sign that he is out of touch, with widespread public anger that Pitchfork could soon walk the streets again.
It comes as the Labour leader struggles in the polls. Last week his ratings plunged to the same low as Jeremy Corbyn.
Satisfaction with Sir Keir’s performance has tumbled to minus 29 – on a par with the figure recorded by his left-wing predecessor after 14 months in charge of the party.
Nearly half of Labour supports think he is doing a bad job, and crucially for the Red Wall he is seen as far less patriotic than Boris Johnson.
Meanwhile a focus group organised by the Times found that he is seen as ‘a bit of a toff’, despite his working class roots, while Old Etonian Boris Johnson is seen as ‘one of the lads’.
When the caller to the station – a mother herself – said she believed the killer should not get parole, host Nick Ferrari pressed him on whether it was right.
Sir Keir told him: ‘He qualifies because the law says he does.’
Ferrari asked him again if it was right that he did, before suggesting justice secretary Robert Buckland had the power to examine the case again.
But Sir Keir did not seem convinced at first, telling the host: ‘Well I don’t know if Rob Buckland will call this in or not. Possibly he should have another look at it, possibly. Possibly he should have another look at it.’
Ferrari seemed frustrated by his guest’s reluctance to give a straight answer and said: ‘Why possibly Sir Keir, either it is a yes or a no’.
The politician still was reticent to nail his colours to the mast and said: ‘This is a terrible case, I dedicated a lot of my life to prosecuting cases like this.’
Ferrari tried again and explained: ‘That’s why you are in the crosshairs of my questioning, I can’t allow ‘possibly’ from you. It’s a yes or a no for the justice secretary.’
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer seen arriving to participate in phone-in at LBC Radio
Mugshot of Colin Pitchfork, the first murderer convicted and jailed using DNA evidence
Retired officer David Baker said he was not consulted by Parole Board members before they approved Colin Pitchfork’s release on licence
The double child killer snared by DNA whop 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.
Finally Sir Keir replied: ‘He should have another look at it, he should have another look at it. Call it in.’
Pitchfork was cleared for release this month, unless the government successfully appeals against the decision.
Last week the detective who snared the murderer slammed the decision and said he remains a danger.
Retired officer David Baker said he was not consulted by Parole Board members before they approved Pitchfork’s release on licence.
He warned that even in his 60s the paedophile remained physically capable of attacking girls again.
Echoing the warnings of Dawn’s mother Barbara Ashworth, Mr Baker, 85, said he fears Pitchfork could ‘pull the wool over people’s eyes again’.
He said: ‘I understand the Parole Board claims to have spoken to the police as part of the process that led to their decision, but they certainly have not spoken to me.
‘As the chief investigating officer in the case, I know what kind of person Pitchfork is and the extent to which he tried to evade arrest.
‘Because of his guilty pleas, what never came out at any court hearing was the levels of violence he caused to the two girls. You wonder if the Parole Board are aware of exactly what he did to the girls.
‘While he has been in jail he has been out of temptation’s way, but once freed he will be back in the community where there are countless young girls to tempt him.’
Pitchfork was jailed for life for the two rapes and murders in 1988 and given a minimum tariff of 30 years, later reduced to 28.
Barbara Ashworth, whose daughter was strangled to death after a ‘particularly violent rape’ in 1986 as she walked home in Enderby, told of her heartache over the release.
She said: ‘This news is so upsetting. There are still 15-year-old girls wandering around and this man could still have 20 years of his life to abuse them.
‘He can’t hurt me any more than he has done – Pitchfork ripped my family and I apart – but he can hurt other young girls. I can’t understand how he has suddenly been judged fit for release when he was turned down before.’
‘This is a man who has displayed psychopathic tendencies – a man who thought he was clever enough to outwit police at the time of the murders by dodging the mass blood testing exercise. He nearly succeeded.
‘I wouldn’t put it past him to have duped the authorities into believing he was reformed and rehabilitated now. He will always be a danger.’