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‘Throw away the key’: mother of murdered schoolgirl’s anger as child rapist Colin Pitchfork to have parole hearing

A grieving mother has called for the government to “throw away the key” after it was announced that double child murderer Colin Pitchfork has been granted a fresh parole hearing – as the Justice Secretary seeks an urgent meeting over the decision.

Pitchfork, 63, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 30 years – later reduced to 28 – for raping and strangling 15-year-old schoolgirls Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in 1983 and 1986.

In December, the parole board said he was too much of a risk to be released – but he is making a fresh bid for freedom after he successfully challenged their decision.

It comes after the killer, who was the first murderer to be convicted using DNA evidence, was briefly released in 2021 but recalled two months later after approaching young women in the streets.

In a statement on Monday, the parole board said the rapist’s application for his case to be reconsidered had been granted because the 2023 panel had failed to take his prison offender manager’s recommendation into account or give adequate reasons for disagreeing with them.

He will now face a fresh panel of three parole board members who must decide if he will be freed in a “complete re-hearing”.

“This panel will complete its own review of Mr Pitchfork’s case, including hearing oral evidence and will decide whether he meets the legal test for release,” the parole board said.

“Release can only be directed by the parole board if the new panel is satisfied that it is no longer necessary for the protection of the public that Mr Pitchfork remain confined in prison. Mr Pitchfork has, and will continue to, remain in prison until this case has fully concluded.”

Colin Pitchfork was the first person to be convicted using DNA evidence (PA)
Colin Pitchfork was the first person to be convicted using DNA evidence (PA)

But the heartbroken mother of one of his victims has hit out at news of the fresh hearing, expressing her anguish that he has been granted another bid for freedom.

Dawn Ashworth’s mother Barbara said: “Words fail me now. He seems to want to fight no matter what.

“I just don’t know where to go next to be honest. He’s killed two schoolgirls. I know what I’d do, I’d throw away the key.”

Meanwhile, justice secretary Alex Chalk is seeking an urgent meeting with the parole board in the wake of the decision.

A government source said: “It is deeply concerning that having made one flawed decision, the parole board have made another, causing immense distress to the families of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth.

“They are again left with no certainty and the lord chancellor has sought an urgent meeting with the parole board.”

Conservative MP for South Leicestershire Alberto Costa, who has been campaigning to keep Pitchfork behind bars, blasted the parole board for the “irrational decision” – adding that Pitchfork is a “dangerous man”.

He added: “Once again, the parole board is demonstrating its utter inability to appropriately deal with this dangerous man who we must never forget brutally raped and strangled two young women.”

Mr Costa said the parole board rules are “so opaque” that in effect Pitchfork has a “limitless” amount of appeals on every decision. Every time the parole board rules against him, Pitchfork can appeal, Mr Costa said, claiming this was “getting to the point of madness”.

The MP plans to apply for Pitchfork’s hearing to take place in public in a bid to ensure proper scrutiny of the parole board decision process.

However, parole board chairwoman Caroline Corby rejected a request for his previous hearing to be held in public and it was heard behind closed doors.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our heartfelt sympathies remain with the families of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth at this difficult time.

“This government is reforming the parole system to add a ministerial check on the release of the most dangerous criminals and are changing the law so that for society’s most depraved killers, life means life.”