Robert Black (serial killer)

Robert Black (serial killer)

Infobox Serial Killer
name=Robert Black

caption=Robert Black mugshot
birth= birthdateandage|1947|04|21
location= Grangemouth, Scotland
country= United Kingdom
apprehended= July 14, 1990
penalty= Life imprisonment

Robert Black (born April 21, 1947 in Grangemouth, Scotland) is a Scottish serial killer and child molester. He kidnapped, raped and murdered three girls during the 1980s, kidnapped a fourth girl who survived, attempted to kidnap a fifth, and is the suspect in a number of unsolved child murders dating back to the 1970s throughout Europe.

Early life

His natural mother (Jessie Hunter Black) refused to put the father's name on his birth certificate and had him fostered. She subsequently married Francis Hall, had four more children and died in 1982, when Robert was just 35. Black never had any further contact with his half-siblings.

Locals and neighbours report that Black was often heavily bruised during his childhood, and acquaintances from primary school say he was "a bit of a loner but with a tendency to be bullied". He preferred to spend time with younger children and was known for committing random, sudden acts of sexual violence. Aside from a propensity for violence, Black developed a sexual awareness at an early age. He claims to have compared genitalia with a girl about the age of four.

In addition to this propensity for petty violence, Black was also developing a precocious sexual self-awareness. Years later Black would recall practicing anal stimulation when he was a child living with his foster family, the Tulips. "I used to push things up my anus," Black told psychologist Ray Wyre. "I was eight years old." This behaviour would continue, and intensify, as he matured. Black loved the sensations from inserting objects up his anus, including a wine bottle, table leg and even a telephone-handset. He also had always felt that he would have preferred to have been born female, and he hated his penis. [ cite web|url= |title=Robert Black: The 'Dirty' Part |accessdate=2008-09-09 |last=Gekoski |first=Anna |work=Crime Library] His favourite job was that of swimming-pool attendant, where he was sometimes able to go underneath the pool and remove the lights to look at little girls as they swam. He continued to indulge in anal fantasies when at night he used to break into the baths and swim lengths - with the sensation of a broom-handle firmly lodged up his anus. [ cite web|url= |title=Robert Black: Cycle of Fantasay |accessdate=2008-09-09 |last=Gekoski |first=Anna |work=Crime Library ]

Early crimes

When Black was 11 years old his foster mother, Margaret Tulip, died. It was while at this second foster home that he first attempted rape at the age of 12 along with two other boys. They failed; the authorities were notified and Black moved again, this time to the Red House in Musselburgh. While there, a male staff member sexually abused him. While at Red House he also entered Musselburgh Grammar School, where he developed an interest in football and swimming, the latter of which remained a lifelong love.

At age 15, Black left Red House and found a job working as a delivery boy in Greenock near Glasgow. He reports that while on his rounds, he molested 30-40 girls with various degrees of success. None of these incidents seem to have been officially reported until his first conviction at age 17, when he lured a seven-year-old girl to a deserted building, strangled her until she lost consciousness and then masturbated over her body. He was arrested and convicted of "lewd and libidinous" behaviour for this offence, but received only an admonishment.

After this, Black moved back to Grangemouth and got a job with a builders' supply company. He also found a girlfriend, Pamela Hodgson; he was devastated when she ended the relationship several months later. In 1966, Black's sexual desires resurfaced when he molested his landlord's nine-year old granddaughter. The girl eventually told her parents. They took no legal action, but Black was ordered to leave the house.

At this time, Black moved to Kinlochleven, where he was raised. He took a room with a couple who had a seven-year-old daughter. As before, Black molested the girl. This time, however, when the sexual abuse was discovered, the police were notified and Black was eventually sentenced to a year of borstal training at Polmont.

On his release, Black left Scotland and moved to London. His abuse of young girls subsided for a time when he discovered child pornography — when police searched his home after his arrests for murder, they discovered more than 100 child pornography magazines and 50 videos. In London, Black found work as a swimming pool attendant and would sometimes go underneath the pool, remove the lights and watch young girls as they swam. Soon, a young girl complained that Black had touched her; while no official charges were brought, Black lost his job.


On July 30, 1982, Black kidnapped 11-year-old Susan Maxwell from her home village of Cornhill on Tweed, on the English side of the English/Scottish border. He raped and strangled her and dumped her body by the side of a road near Uttoxeter, in central England.

On July 8, 1983, he kidnapped five-year-old Caroline Hogg from Portobello, Edinburgh. Her body was found 10 days later in a ditch in Leicestershire, England. The cause of death could not be determined due to decomposition (as had been the case with Susan Maxwell), but the absence of clothes suggested a sexual motive.

Three years later, on March 26, 1986, 10-year-old Sarah Harper vanished from Morley near Leeds, West Yorkshire. Black had kidnapped, raped and murdered her. Her body was found dumped in the River Trent near Nottingham a month later.

The three murders were connected by police at this stage because of the way the girls had been snatched from, and dumped in, locations that were far apart, suggesting a killer who travelled as part of his occupation - possibly a lorry driver. An enormous police operation was launched.

Capture and first trial

Black was arrested on July 14, 1990, near Stow, Scotland. He was seen snatching a six-year-old girl off the street and bundling her into his van. An alert member of the public called the police who chased after the van and subsequently apprehended Black. The little girl's father was one of the police officers on the scene and was the one who discovered the child in the back of the van, tied up, gagged and stuffed into a sleeping bag. Apart from suffering from shock, the girl was uninjured. A search of Black's home revealed a large collection of child pornography.

The following month, Black was convicted of abduction and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Murder trial

Police suspected Black of the murders of Susan Maxwell, Caroline Hogg and Sarah Harper. They checked his petrol receipts and eventually charged Black with all three murders, in addition to the attempted kidnapping of a 15-year-old girl who had escaped the clutches of a man who had tried to drag her into a van in 1988.

Black stood trial at Newcastle upon Tyne Moot Hall on April 13, 1994 and denied the charges. The prosecution was able to place him at the scenes and show the similarities between the three killings and the kidnap of the six-year-old girl who had been rescued. Juries are not usually allowed to know of a defendant's current or past convictions, but in this case the judge allowed it.

On May 19, the jury found Black guilty on all counts, and he was sentenced to life imprisonment and told that he should serve at least 35 years. This would keep him behind bars until at least 2029, when he would be 82.

Police have asked Black about the disappearance of up to nine other girls whose fates remain unknown, including papergirl Genette Tate, who disappeared in 1978. So far they have made no progress, and the files on all these missing children remain open.


External links

* [ Robert Black at the Crime Library]
* [ Robert Black Northern Ireland Murder]
* [ Robert Black - The Child Serial Killer] ITV Local

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