'So upsetting': Victim's mother speaks out against Colin Pitchfork prison release

8 June 2021, 08:29 | Updated: 8 June 2021, 10:54

The mother of one of Colin Pitchfork's victims has hit out against his eligibility for release
The mother of one of Colin Pitchfork's victims has hit out against his eligibility for release. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

The mother of one of the victims of double murderer Colin Pitchfork has warned he "will always present a danger" following the news he may be released from prison in the coming weeks.

Colin Pitchfork was jailed for life after strangling 15-year-old schoolgirls Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.

Pitchfork, then in his 20s, became the first man convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence and was jailed for life at Leicester Crown Court in 1988. He was sentenced to serve a minimum of 30 years.

A hearing took place in March to consider whether he was suitable for release and the decision to greenlight his parole was published on Monday.

READ MORE: Colin Pitchfork can be freed from prison, parole board says

His minimum term was cut by two years in 2009 and he was moved to an open prison three years ago, following numerous attempts to get an early parole hearing which were rejected.

Dawn's mother Barbara Ashworth told the Daily Mail: "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."

Dawn Ashworth, 15, was found raped and murdered in a Leicestershire village in 1983
Dawn Ashworth, 15, was found raped and murdered in a Leicestershire village in 1983. Picture: PA Images

Pitchfork was eventually caught after the world's first mass screening for DNA, where 5,000 men in three villages were asked to volunteer blood or saliva samples.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of murder, two of rape, two of indecent assault and one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Mrs Ashworth, 75, from Liskeard, Cornwall, said: "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."

Lynda's sister Sue Gratrick, 55, said she did not believe Pitchfork could ever be rehabilitated.

Mrs Gratrick told the Mail: "As a family we are so upset by this news. I don't believe somebody guilty of acts such as those he did is capable of being rehabilitated.

"Every time he comes up for parole, or there is some other development such as him being granted day release, our pain is heightened once more."

The parole panel considered more than 1,100 pages of information, victim statements and heard evidence from Pitchfork himself - who is now in his 60s - as well as his probation officers, police and a psychologist.

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".

During his time behind bars, the parole board heard he has taken part in several courses to address his behaviour and that his behaviour since "had been positive and had included extensive efforts to help others", including learning skills to help disabled people.

Colin Pitchfork has challenged the length of his sentence on multiple occasions
Colin Pitchfork has challenged the length of his sentence on multiple occasions. Picture: PA Images

Pitchfork's release would be subject to strict licence conditions, the document said, meaning he will have to live at a certain address, take part in probation supervision, wear an electronic tag, take part in lie detector tests and disclose what vehicles he uses and who he speaks to, while also facing 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.

But Conservative South Leicestershire MP Alberto Costa, who raised concerns about Pitchfork's release with the Parole Board, said he was "appalled" by the decision, adding that the killer should be "kept behind bars for life".

Mr Costa added that he would be lobbying Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to appeal the decision, which remains provisional for the next three weeks.

The Government is said to be seeking legal advice over the decision but it is understood Ministry of Justice (MoJ) officials did not oppose the release because it was felt the risk Pitchfork posed had sufficiently reduced and the restrictions he would be subjected to were suitable.

The Parole Board document said: "The Secretary of State's representative was party to the proceedings and also asked questions of witnesses."

Potential grounds for contesting the decision include whether it is felt the process was flawed or that key information was not considered.

A Parole Board spokesman said: "Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority."

An MoJ spokesman said: "We understand this will be an extremely upsetting decision for the families of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth and our heartfelt sympathies remain with them.

"If Colin Pitchfork is released, he will be closely supervised by the probation service for the rest of his life and can be brought back to prison if he breaks the strict conditions he will be subject to."