Double child killer Colin Pitchfork recalled to prison

The double child killer and rapist Colin Pitchfork has been arrested and recalled to prison two months after he was released, the Ministry of Justice has said.

It is understood he was returned to custody on Friday over a breach of his licence conditions – which he had agreed to observe on his release – and his rerelease will be a matter for the Parole Board.

It is understood his behaviour was a cause for concern for probation officers who were monitoring him under a strict regime.

Pitchfork, now in his early 60s, was the first man convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence in 1988 when he confessed to the rape and murder of two schoolgirls. He received a life sentence for raping and killing Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth, both 15, in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.

A Probation Service spokesperson said: “Protecting the public is our No 1 priority so when offenders breach the conditions of their release and potentially pose an increased risk, we don’t hesitate to return them to custody.”

There was an outcry when Pitchfork was released from prison in September following an unsuccessful campaign to keep him behind bars.

It is understood the breach of his licence conditions did not involve a fresh criminal act and nor did it require police to become involved, other than to arrest him so he could be returned to prison. Officials declined to say what the concerning behaviour was and it is understood the families of his victims were being contacted to be briefed.

Typical licence conditions for a serious offender such as Pitchfork include regular reporting to police and probation, restrictions on where they can go and declaring all electronic devices in their possession.

At the time of his release, Dawn’s mother, Barbara Ashworth, spoke out against the decision to free him, saying: “Life should have meant life.”

On Friday, she told the PA Media news agency: “I’m pleased that he’s been put away and women and girls are safe and protected from him now. It’s a safer place when he’s behind bars and I won’t have to worry about other people being hurt by him for the time being. But there’s always the worry that he might get out again, he seems to have a lot of people on his side who give him the benefit of the doubt. But for now, I have to be pleased about the news.”

Pitchfork was caught after the world’s first mass screening for DNA, when 5,000 men in three villages were asked to volunteer blood or saliva samples, although he initially evaded justice by getting a colleague to take the test for him.

The Parole Board ruled he was “suitable for release” at a hearing in March despite this being denied in 2016 and 2018. He was placed on the sex offender register and was subject to other licence conditions.

In July the Parole Board rejected calls from the government to reconsider the decision. Robert Buckland, the then justice secretary, had formally asked it to reconsider the move on the grounds there was an arguable case the decision was “irrational”.

The government plans to overhaul the parole system, with the findings of a review expected later this year. It has also sought to change legislation so child killers face life behind bars without parole.

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