Colin Pitchfork: Child killer recalled to prison after he approached young women

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Child killer Colin Pitchfork was arrested and recalled to prison after approaching young women in the street, it has emerged.

Pitchfork was jailed for life after raping and strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.

His 30-year minimum term was cut by two years in 2009, he was moved to an open prison three years ago and was then released in September.

Dawn Ashworth and Lynda Mann

But just two months later Pitchfork, now in his 60s, is back behind bars after probation staff raised concerns about his behaviour.

He is understood to have approached young women on multiple occasions while out on walks from the bail hostel where he was living and was thought to be trying to establish a connection with them.

Downing Street suggested a “root-and-branch” review of the parole system may be necessary, in light of the Pitchfork case.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “He was subject to extremely strict licence provisions and close supervision, and that resulted in him being returned to custody,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

“We have already introduced some reforms – we introduced this process whereby Parole Board decisions can be appealed as part of a reconsideration mechanism.

“We are considering conducting a root-and-branch review of the parole system to make it work better for victims and restore people’s faith in its ability to keep them safe.”

After being released, Pitchfork was also observed to generally have a “bad attitude” because he was not as engaging and open with officials as they would want him to be.

There were also suggestions that while taking part in polygraph tests, which he is subjected to as part of his licence conditions, he may have been trying to counteract the results.

Although officials said Pitchfork was not recalled for committing any further offences, the step was taken as a preventative measure after the string of incidents raised fears of a concerning pattern of behaviour.

Dawn Ashworth’s mother Barbara told the Daily Mail: “It is worrying that he is approaching young women in this manner. It just goes to show that a leopard never changes its spots.”

Retired detective chief superintendent David Baker, the officer who caught Pitchfork but said he was not consulted on his release, is reported in the newspaper as describing the incident as being “expected” and not a surprise.

The decision to release Pitchfork prompted a public outcry amid attempts to keep him behind bars.

When those failed, he was subjected to more than 40 licence conditions, which the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) described as some of the strictest “ever set”.

A court artist's impression of Colin Pitchfork, 48, appealing the length of his sentence at the Court of Appeal in London.

Officials including probation officers and a prison psychologist “all supported his release”, the board said, adding that the then justice secretary Robert Buckland was represented at the hearing and “did not oppose release” at that time.

Then in June, in the wake of public concern about the release, Mr Buckland asked the board to re-examine the decision under the so-called reconsideration mechanism.

But the Parole Board rejected the government’s challenge against its ruling the following month, announcing that the application to reconsider the decision had been refused.

Concerns had been raised by professionals he worked with about Pitchfork’s capacity to “manipulate and deceive”.

While out on temporary licence, he tried to get access to a smartphone, gave a female shop worker chocolates and told her lies.

But senior Parole Board judge Michael Topolski QC, who considered the application to review the decision, found officials did not find this “made him unsuitable for release”.

Pitchfork’s case now has to be referred to the Parole Board within 28 days.

Sometimes the circumstances of a recall to prison are considered “on paper”, meaning by solely reviewing documents but given the seriousness of this case, there will most likely be a parole hearing.

This is anticipated to take place within six months and will determine whether Pitchfork should stay in a closed prison, be transferred to an open prison or be released.

If he is not freed after that hearing, his next parole review would be in about two years’ time.

A Parole Board spokesman said: “We fully support any recommendations which will allow us to improve the openness and transparency around the Parole Board’s judicial decision-making and improve access to the process for victims.”

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