Colin Pitchfork: Child killer to be released from prison after Govt challenge rejected

13 July 2021, 11:15 | Updated: 13 July 2021, 12:21

Colin Pitchfork was convicted of the murder and rape of two 15-year-old girls.
Colin Pitchfork was convicted of the murder and rape of two 15-year-old girls. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Colin Pitchfork, who raped and murdered two schoolgirls in the 1980s, will be released from prison after the Parole Board rejected a government challenge against its ruling.

Pitchfork, now 61, was jailed for life after raping and strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.

He was the first man to be 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.

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Pitchfork was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 30 years. Sentencing him, judge Lord Lane said: "From the point of view of the safety of the public I doubt if he should ever be released."

However, the minimum term was reduced to 28 years in 2009 by the Court of Appeal to take into account the "exceptional progress" Pitchfork had made in custody.

Appeals for release were denied by the Parole Board in 2016 and 2018, but following a hearing in March the Parole Board ruled he was "suitable for release".

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.

Mr Buckland told LBC in late June: "I've looked at this carefully, have taken the fullest advice and have decided in these circumstances to refer the matter back to the Parole Board for their reconsideration."

But on Tuesday the board announced the application had been "refused" based on the risk Pitchfork poses to society after 33 years in prison.

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A spokesperson for the board 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."

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Pitchfork's release is subject to strict licence conditions. He will have to live at a certain address, take part in probation supervision, wear an electronic tag, take part in polygraph - lie detector - tests and have to disclose what vehicles he uses and who he speaks to, while facing particular limits on contact with children.

Pitchfork will also be subject to a curfew, have restrictions on using technology and limitations on where he can go.