If you haven’t heard of Colin Pitchfork, you should have. His case has been discussed here previously but more importantly he was the first murderer, indeed the first criminal per se to be brought to book by DNA profiling.
He was paroled in September 2021 but was recalled to prison 2 months later. In the UK, when paroled, convicted murderers remain on licence for the rest of their lives and can be recalled to prison at any time if they breach the terms of release. This does not necessitate committing a crime. For example, a parolee may be required to live in a certain area, to not live in or visit a certain area, be barred from contacting certain people or doing certain things. A man who has a drink problem may be banned from frequenting public houses.
Although the families and friends of victims are almost always opposed to it, many convicted murderers are given a second chance. A lifer may serve less than fifteen years, some a lot less than that.
Since the abolition of the death penalty before most of you reading this were born, locking people up until they die or releasing them at some point are the only two options.
Colin Pitchfork was arrested August 1, 1987 and was behind bars until 2017 when he was moved to an open prison. In November of that year he was allowed out on his own and was photographed by a tabloid newspaper, something that caused no little outrage. But, if many murderers deserve a second chance, does he not too? Let us see.
In November 1983, he raped and strangled a 15 year old girl. If that had been his only crime, appalling though it was, there might have been an arguable case for paroling him in 2021 or even in 2017, but…in July 1986, he raped and strangled another 15 year old girl. Most rational people would argue that this was his second chance and he blew it. Unfortunately, there is a lot more.
His second victim was Dawn Ashworth, that is her in this photograph wearing a shirt. The girl wearing the jumper is Pitchfork’s first victim, Lynda Mann.
Dawn’s body was found near a footpath not far from her Narborough, Leicestershire home. A teenage boy who was hanging around the crime scene caught the attention of the police and was arrested. Although he wasn’t given the third degree or even roughed up a bit, Richard Buckland was none too bright, and the police extracted a confession from him which resulted in him being charged with murder.
Due to the similarity with the murder of Lynda Mann, he was also questioned about that murder, even though he would have been no more than fourteen at the time. Buckland refused to confess however, enter Alec Jeffreys. Professor – now Sir – Alec Jeffreys is the man responsible more than any other for genetic fingerprinting. The police brought him in, and he was able to give them what they undoubtedly regarded as bad news. The individual who raped Lynda Mann was the same one who had raped Dawn Ashworth, but that individual was not Richard Buckland. The youth was then released. Buckland was charged with murder on August 11 and had spent over three months in custody before the penny dropped. Pitchfork could have stepped forward and cleared this poor kid, but he didn’t. That was his third chance.
Then the police decided to test every able-bodied male in the area, over five thousand of them. Pitchfork persuaded a (stupid) friend to pose as him and submit to a DNA test. He was caught out only by chance. That was his fourth chance.
Additionally, in October 1977 he was fined £30 for indecently exposing himself to a schoolgirl; in 1979 he sexually assaulted a 16 year old girl; and in October 1985 – in between the two murders – he committed what can only be described as a serious sex attack on another girl. How many chances is that?
While you are counting, here is the really bad news, next month, he is to have another hearing before the Parole Board, a body that appeared to have lost its collective mind when it recommended the release of serial rapist John Worboys, who is now behind bars for life thanks only to a massive public outcry.
No reasonable person would suggest decisions of this nature should be taken by mob rule, but nor should they be taken by idiots. Colin Pitchfork must remain behind bars not because he may or may not be a danger to the public but because to release him again would be to spit on the graves of his two young victims.