No family members claim serial killer Robert Black

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No family members of serial killer Robert Black have come forward to claim him, despite the Coroner Service searching for more than six months.

A coroner in Belfast is seeking to trace Black’s relatives to establish whether they want to participate in his inquest.

In January, Coroner Patrick McGurgan said “all efforts need to be made to trace the next of kin”.

He said that they should be offered the opportunity to give evidence.

On Friday, a preliminary hearing heard that none have yet been found.

“Inquiries have been ongoing (in the search for the next of kin), but no-one can be traced at present,” counsel to the Coroner told the short hearing.

Scottish-born Black, who was convicted of four child murders but suspected of many more, died of heart disease in a Northern Ireland prison in 2016 aged 68.

Robert Black death
Robert Black was convicted of four child murders but suspected of many more (PA)

Black was cremated and his ashes were scattered at sea after prison authorities in Northern Ireland revealed no one wanted his remains.

The killer’s long reign of terror was ended in 1990 when he was caught red-handed by police with a barely alive six-year-old girl hooded, bound, gagged and stuffed in a sleeping bag in the back of his van in the Scottish village of Stow.

He had sexually assaulted her moments earlier.

Once in custody, the predator was linked to a series of unsolved crimes in the previous decade.

In 1994, Black was found guilty of three child murders in the 1980s, those of 11-year-old Susan Maxwell, from the Scottish Borders, five-year-old Caroline Hogg, from Edinburgh, and Sarah Harper, 10, from Morley, near Leeds, as well as a failed abduction bid in Nottingham in 1988.

Maghaberry Prison
Robert Black spent his last days in HMP Maghaberry (Michael Cooper/PA)

Black, who lived out his last days in Maghaberry high security prison in Co Antrim, was also suspected of involvement in other killings and unexplained disappearances and had long been the prime suspect in the case of missing 13-year-old Genette Tate, who was last seen in a rural lane in Aylesbeare, Devon, in 1978.

The killer was put up to be fostered within weeks of his birth in 1947.

A couple from Kinlochleven in the West Highlands who took him in both died within 11 years and Black spent the rest of his childhood in residential homes in Falkirk and Edinburgh.

The full inquest into Black’s death is scheduled to start on the week commencing Monday December 3 in Armagh.

Another preliminary hearing will take place on Friday September 14.

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