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Colin Pitchfork to be freed after 1980s schoolgirl rapes and murders as government loses challenge

Written by on 13/07/2021

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

Pitchfork was given a life sentence with a minimum 30-year term after strangling Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth, both 15, in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986 respectively.

The government had challenged the Parole Board‘s decision that Pitchfork was “suitable for release” following a hearing in March. But in a statement on Tuesday, the board said the appeal had been refused.

Pitchfork, who is now in his early 60s, was sentenced to life in 1988 after pleading guilty to two murders, two rapes, two indecent assaults and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

He was the first person in UK history to be convicted on the basis of DNA evidence.

Schoolgirl Dawn Ashworth was found raped and murdered in the village of Narborough. Pic: Topham/PA Archive/PA Images
Image: Schoolgirl Dawn Ashworth was one of Pitchfork’s victims. Pic: Topham/PA Archive/PA Images

In 2009, the Court of Appeal ruled he had made “exceptional progress” while in prison and had his term reduced to 28 years, therefore becoming eligible to be considered for release in 2015.

Despite being denied freedom in 2016 and 2018, he was moved to an undisclosed open prison.

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The March ruling that he could be released was strongly criticised by his victims’ families and led to Justice Secretary Robert Buckland’s request to the Parole Board.

But their statement read: “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.”

 Sky News

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