23 March 1960
|Criminal status||Recalled to prison|
Span of crimes
Colin Pitchfork is a British double child-murderer and rapist. He was the first person convicted of rape and murder using DNA profiling after he murdered two girls in neighbouring Leicestershire villages, the first in Narborough, in November 1983, and the second in Enderby in July 1986. He was arrested on 19 September 1987 and was sentenced to life imprisonment on 22 January 1988 after pleading guilty to both murders, with the judge giving him a 30-year minimum term (only for Pitchfork to challenge the minimum term and see it reduced to 28 years on appeal). He was granted parole in June 2021, and was released on licence on 1 September that year. On 19 November the same year, he was recalled to prison for breach of licence conditions.
Pitchfork lived in Newbold Verdon, attending school in Market Bosworth and Desford, until his marriage in 1981 to a social worker, after which he lived in Littlethorpe. The Pitchforks had two sons.
Pitchfork had obtained work in Hampshires Bakery in Leicester, in 1976, as an apprentice. He continued to work there until his arrest for the murders. He became particularly skilled as a sculptor of cake decorations and had hoped, eventually, to start his own cake decorating business. According to his supervisor, he was "a good worker and time-keeper, but he was moody ... and he couldn't leave women employees alone. He was always chatting them up."
On 21 November 1983, 15-year-old Lynda Mann took a shortcut on her way home from babysitting instead of taking her normal route home. She did not return and her parents and neighbours spent the night searching for her. The next morning, she was found raped and strangled on a deserted footpath known locally as the Black Pad. Using forensic science techniques available at the time, police linked a semen sample taken from her body to a person with type A blood and an enzyme profile that matched only 10% of males. With no other leads or evidence, the case was left open.
On 31 July 1986, a second 15-year-old girl, Dawn Ashworth, left her home to visit a friend's house. Her parents expected her to return at 9:30 pm; when she failed to do so they called police to report her missing. Two days later, her body was found in a wooded area near a footpath called Ten Pound Lane. She had been beaten, savagely raped and strangled. The modus operandi matched that of the first attack, and semen samples revealed the same blood type.
An initial suspect was Richard Buckland, a local 17-year-old with learning difficulties who, while innocent of both crimes, revealed knowledge of Ashworth's body, and admitted to the Ashworth crime under questioning, denying the first murder.
I was responsible for developing all of the DNA extraction techniques and demonstrating that it was possible after all to obtain DNA profiles from old stains. The biggest achievement was developing the preferential extraction method to separate sperm from vaginal cells – without this method, it would have been difficult to use DNA in rape cases.
Using this technique, Jeffreys compared semen samples from both murder victims against a blood sample from Buckland and conclusively proved that both girls were killed by the same man but not by Buckland. Buckland became the first person to have his innocence established by DNA fingerprinting.
Jeffreys later said:
I have no doubt whatsoever that he [Buckland] would have been found guilty had it not been for DNA evidence. That was a remarkable occurrence.
Leicestershire Constabulary and the FSS then undertook an investigation in which more than 5,500 local men were asked to volunteer blood or saliva samples. This took six months, and no matches were found.
Arrest and conviction
On 1 August 1987, one of Pitchfork's colleagues at the bakery, Ian Kelly, revealed to fellow workers in a Leicester pub (The Clarendon) that he had taken the blood test while masquerading as Pitchfork. Pitchfork had told Kelly that he wanted to avoid being harassed by police because of prior convictions for indecent exposure. A woman who overheard the conversation reported it to police.
On 19 September 1987, Pitchfork was arrested. During questioning, Pitchfork admitted to exposing himself to more than 1,000 women, a compulsion that began in his early teens. He later progressed to sexual assault and then to strangling his victims. Pitchfork said this was in order to protect his identity. The Crown rejected this, viewing the motivation for the strangulations as ‘perverted sadism’. During his interviews with the police he admitted his crimes, but lied about the level and nature of the violence he had inflicted on his victims. He pleaded guilty to the two rapes and murders in addition to another incident of sexual assault, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. A psychiatric report prepared for the Court described Pitchfork as possessing a psychopathic personality disorder accompanied with a serious psycho sexual pathology. The Lord Chief Justice at the time of his sentencing said: "From the point of view of the safety of the public I doubt if he should ever be released." The Secretary of State set a minimum term of 30 years; in 2009, Pitchfork's minimum term sentence was reduced on appeal to 28 years.
On 22 April 2016, the Parole Board for England and Wales heard Pitchfork's case for early release on parole. Pitchfork's advocates presented evidence of his improved character, noting that Pitchfork had furthered his education to degree level and had become expert at the transcription of printed music into braille, for the benefit of the blind. The families of victims Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth opposed his release on parole.
On 29 April 2016, the Parole Board announced that Pitchfork's application for release on licence had been refused, but recommended that he be moved to an open prison. In June 2016, Michael Gove, then Justice Secretary, agreed with the board's recommendation, and at some point prior to 8 January 2017, Pitchfork was moved to an undisclosed open prison.
On 3 May 2018, Pitchfork was refused release on licence. The Parole Board said Pitchfork would be eligible for a further review within two years. Lynda's mother said the Parole Board had "listened to us before the murderer". In 2017, it emerged Pitchfork would be released from open prison on unsupervised days out.
2021: release and recall
On 7 June 2021, Pitchfork was granted release on conditional licence. However, under the terms of the Parole Board Reconsideration Mechanism, introduced in 2019, the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, had a short time to apply for a review if it was believed the decision was "procedurally unfair" or "irrational". Buckland did apply for a review, and Pitchfork remained in custody pending the outcome. On 13 July 2021 it was reported that the review had been refused and that Pitchfork would therefore be released. He was released on 1 September 2021.
In November 2021, Pitchfork was recalled to prison for breaching his licence conditions by "approaching young women" while on walks from his bail hostel, although he had committed no offences since his release. His second victim's mother, Barbara Ashworth, told BBC News that she was pleased "he's been put away and women and girls are safe and protected from him now". There are complaints the parole Board were insufficiently cautious in allowing Pitchfork's release. Dominic Raab has promised a Parole Board review. David Baker, a former police detective who helped capture Pitchfork, believes Pitchfork could deceive the Parole Board and pretend it was safe to release him. Baker maintains Pitchfork is a psychopath and it will never be safe to release him.
2022: consideration for release
In autumn 2022 the Parole Board is to consider releasing Pitchfork again. The options available will be to refuse his release, grant release or recommend he moves from a closed prison to an open prison. Alberto Costa MP opposes releasing Pitchfork.
In April 2009, a sculpture that Pitchfork had created in prison and which was exhibited at the Royal Festival Hall, Bringing the Music to Life, depicted an orchestra and choir. The sculpture was exhibited as part of a venture by the Koestler Trust, having been purchased by the Festival Hall for £600. Following outrage in the papers and from victim-advocate groups, it was removed from display.
In 2014, ITV commissioned a two-part television drama, Code of a Killer, based on Pitchfork's crimes and the creation of DNA profiling. It starred John Simm as researcher Alec Jeffreys and David Threlfall as David Baker, the lead police detective. Pitchfork was played by Nathan Wright. The drama was the first broadcast in two 90-minute episodes, on 6 and 13 April 2015. It was subsequently reformatted as three episodes and released on DVD.
The New Tricks episode "Dark Chocolate" refers to Pitchfork several times and it is ultimately the similarities between Pitchfork's case and the case the UCOS team are currently investigating that leads to the criminal's arrest.
Pitchfork's crimes are also the focus of an episode of the Sky series How I Caught the Killer.
- Kirk Bloodsworth – the first American sentenced to death to be exonerated post-conviction by DNA testing
- Patrick Mackay – a British man who confessed to have murdered up to 13 people, who has been considered for release since 1995
- Allan Grimson – British murderer believed to have murdered up to 22 people, whose release is imminent
- John Cannan – suspected murderer of Suzy Lamplugh, eligible for parole in 2022
UK cold cases where the offender's DNA is now known:
- Murder of Deborah Linsley
- Murders of Eve Stratford and Lynne Weedon
- Murders of Jacqueline Ansell-Lamb and Barbara Mayo
- Murder of Lindsay Rimer
- Murder of Janet Brown
- Murder of Linda Cook
- Murder of Melanie Hall
- Batman rapist, subject to Britain's longest-running serial rape investigation
- "Everything you need to know about child murderer Colin Pitchfork and his release from prison on parole". www.scotsman.com.
- Wambaugh, Joseph (29 November 2011). The Blooding. Open Road Media. ISBN 9781453234235.
- Evans, Colin (1998). The Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World's Most Baffling Crimes. London: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 62. ISBN 978-0471283690.
- Graff, Vincent (4 April 2015) "DNA of a killer", Radio Times, Pages 24-27
- McCrery, Nigel (1 September 2014). Silent Witnesses: The Often Gruesome but Always Fascinating History of Forensic Science. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781613730058.
- Cobain, Ian (7 June 2016). "Killer breakthrough – the day DNA evidence first nailed a murderer". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- O'Connor, Craig O. (1 January 2008). A Novel Forensic Approach to DNA Database Construction and Population Genetic Analysis. ISBN 9780549619871.
- "Memories of Colin Pitchfork's second murder - 30 years on". Leicester Mercury. 31 July 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2017.[permanent dead link]
- "Pitchfork, R v  EWCA Crim 963 (14 May 2009)".
- Wambaugh, The Blooding (1989)
- "No parole for Colin Pitchfork: First killer caught by DNA". BBC News. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- Shaw, Danny (27 April 2015). "'DNA' child killer Colin Pitchfork gets parole review". BBC News. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- Pitchfork, R v  EWCA Crim 963
- "Colin Pitchfork: First killer caught by DNA "should move to open prison"". BBC News. 8 June 2016. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- "Colin Pitchfork: Fears after child killer moved to open prison". BBC News. 8 January 2017. Retrieved 4 February 2017.
- Davies, Natasha (13 November 2017). "Child killer allowed to go shopping on his own in Bristol city centre". Bristol Post. Bristol: Local World. Archived from the original on 13 November 2017. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
- "Colin Pitchfork: Double child killer denied parole". BBC News. Retrieved 3 October 2018.
- "Colin Pitchfork: Double schoolgirl murderer can be released". BBC News. Retrieved 7 June 2021.
- "Double child murderer Colin Pitchfork to be released from prison despite Government challenge". inews.co.uk. 13 July 2021.
- "Colin Pitchfork: Double child killer's release confirmed". BBC. 13 July 2021. Retrieved 30 August 2021.
- "Double child killer Colin Pitchfork has been released from prison". The Daily Telegraph. 1 September 2021. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
- "Colin Pitchfork recalled to jail after approaching young women". BBC News. 22 November 2021. Retrieved 22 November 2021.
- "Colin Pitchfork: Double child killer arrested and recalled to prison after 'breaching licence conditions'". Sky News. 19 November 2021. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
- "Double child killer Colin Pitchfork sent back to prison". BBC News. 19 November 2021. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
- Colin Pitchfork: Justice Secretary Dominic Raab pledges parole review BBC
- Colin Pitchfork: Parole hearing for double child killer and rapist BBC
- "Anger over child killer's artwork". BBC News. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 9 April 2009.
- Marlow, Lee (31 October 2014). "Code of a Killer: ITV film crew shoot in Leicester for two part drama on how DNA profiling snared double-child killer". Leicester Mercury. Leicester: Local World. Archived from the original on 1 November 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
- "How I Caught The Killer". Sky.
Cited works and further reading
- Cawthorne, Nigel; Tibballs, Jeffrey (1994). Killers. Boxtree. pp. 338–341. ISBN 978-0-7522-0850-3.
- Evans, Colin (1996). The Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World's Most Baffling Crimes. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN 978-0-471-07650-6.
- Wambaugh, Joseph (1990). The Blooding: True Story of the Narborough Village Murders. Bantam Books. ISBN 978-0-553-76330-0.