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A.K.A.: "The Black Pad Killer"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: November 21, 1983 / July 31, 1986
Date of arrest: September 19, 1987
Date of birth: 1960
Victims profile: Lynda Mann (female, 15) / Dawn Ashworth (female, 15)
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Narborough, Leicestershire, England, United Kingdom
Status: Sentenced to life imprisonment on January 23, 1988

photo gallery


Colin Pitchfork (born 1961, Bristol, England) was the first criminal convicted for murder based on DNA fingerprinting evidence and the first to be caught as a result of mass screening. Pitchfork raped and murdered two girls in Narborough, Leicestershire, on November 21, 1983, and on July 31, 1986.

He was arrested on September 19, 1987, confessed, and was sentenced to life in prison on January 23, 1988. There was a prior conviction for rape based on DNA: a nurse was convicted of raping a mentally sub normal 14 year old following DNA testing of her baby.

The crimes

On November 21, 1983, 15-year-old Lynda Mann left her home to visit a friend's house. She did not return. The next morning, Lynda was found raped and strangled on a deserted footpath known locally as the Black Pad. Using forensic science techniques available at the time, a semen sample taken from her body was found to belong to a person with type A blood and an enzyme profile that matched only 10 percent of males. With no other leads or evidence, the case was left open.

On July 31, 1986, another 15-year-old girl, Dawn Ashworth, took a shortcut instead of taking the normal route home. Two days later, her body was found in a wooded area near a footpath called Ten Pound Lane. Like Lynda Mann, Ashworth had also been raped and strangled. The modus operandi matched that of the first attack, and semen samples revealed the same blood type.

The prime suspect was a local 17-year-old boy, Richard Buckland, who revealed knowledge of Ashworth's body, and admitted the crime under questioning, but denied the first murder. Alec Jeffreys, of the University of Leicester, had recently developed DNA profiling along with Peter Gill and Dave Werrett of the Forensic Science Service (FSS) and detailed the technique in a 1985 paper.

Gill commented:

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 murders against a blood sample from Buckland which conclusively proved that both girls were killed by the same man, but not the suspect. The police then contacted the FSS to verify Jeffreys' results and decide which direction to take the investigation. Buckland became the first person to be exonerated by DNA fingerprinting.

Jeffreys later said:

I have no doubt whatsoever that he would have been found guilty had it not been for DNA evidence. That was a remarkable occurrence.

Leicestershire police and the FSS then undertook a project where 5,000 local men were asked to volunteer blood or saliva samples. This took six months, and no matches were found.

Later, a man named Ian Kelly was heard bragging that he had given a sample while masquerading as his friend, Colin Pitchfork. Pitchfork, a local baker, was arrested at his house in the neighbouring village of Littlethorpe and a sample was found to match that of the killer.

During subsequent questioning, Pitchfork admitted to flashing females over 1000 times, a compulsion that he had started in his early teens. Flashing catapulted him to sexually assault; and then to strangle his victims in order to protect his identity. He pleaded guilty to the two rape/murders in addition to another separate incident of sexual assault that he had committed. Pitchfork was preparing to move to Littlethorpe at the time of the murder of Lynda Mann, and resided at Haybarn Close in Littlethorpe at the time of the murder of Dawn Ashworth. He was sentenced to life imprisonment; concurrent terms for rape and murder; however, with no minimum sentence (thus, presenting the opportunity for release after ten years.

Successful Legal Appeal

On Thursday 14 May 2009 Pitchfork’s legal appeal was heard at the Court of Appeal at The Royal Courts of Justice, having initially been adjourned from 30 April 2009. He won his appeal against his original sentence of a minimum of 30 years' imprisonment; his hearing resulting in a two year reduction to 28 years. Consequently, Pitchfork will now be eligible for release in 2016. However the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge stated "he cannot be released unless and until the safety of the public is assured." The court heard how Pitchfork is now educated to degree level and is now an expert at the transcription of printed music into Braille. He hopes to one day help the blind. This evidence was presented as proof of the development of his character whilst incarcerated, by his legal representatives.

A sculpture that Pitchfork had produced while in prison was exhibited at the Royal Festival Hall in London in April 2009, but was subsequently removed from display after public outrage.


  • Joseph Wambaugh (1989) The Blooding ISBN 0-688-08617-9



Colin Pitchfork - first murder conviction on DNA evidence also clears the prime suspect

Two schoolgirls who were murdered in the small town of Narborough in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986 sparked a murder hunt that was only to be resolved by a intelligence-led screen, eventually leading to the conviction of a local man - Colin Pitchfork.

In 1983, a 15-year-old schoolgirl was found raped and murdered. A semen sample taken from Lynda Mann’s body was found to belong to a person with type A blood group and an enzyme profile, which matched 10 per cent of the adult male population. At that time, with no other leads or forensic evidence, the murder hunt was eventually wound down.

Three years later, Dawn Ashworth, also 15, was found strangled and sexually assaulted in the same town. Police were convinced the same assailant had committed both murders. Semen samples recovered from Dawn’s body revealed her attacker had the same blood type as Lynda’s murderer.

The prime suspect was a local boy, who after questioning revealed previously unreleased details about Dawn Ashworth’s body. Further questioning led to his confession but he denied any involvement in the first murder – that of Lynda Mann.

Convinced that he had committed both crimes, officers from Leicestershire Constabulary contacted Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys at Leicester University who had developed a technique for creating DNA profiles. Dr Jeffreys - along with Dr Peter Gill and Dr Dave Werrett of the Forensic Science Service (FSS) - had jointly published the first paper on applying DNA profiling to forensic science. Significantly, in 1985, they were the first to demonstrate that DNA could be obtained from crime stains, which proved vital in this case.

Dr Gill said: "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 Dr Jeffreys compared semen samples from both murders against a blood sample from the suspect, which conclusively proved that both girls were killed by the same man, but not the suspect. The police then contacted the FSS to verify Dr Jeffrey’s results and decide which direction to take the investigation.

Peter Gill said: "Since the technique had not been used in criminal casework before, the FSS were asked by the police to confirm Dr Jeffrey’s conclusions. Accordingly, we carried out further tests and indeed demonstrated that the prime suspect could be excluded."

This suspect became the first person in the world to be exonerated of murder through the use of DNA profiling. Professor Alec Jeffreys said " I have no doubt whatsoever that he would have been found guilty had it not been for DNA evidence. That was a remarkable occurrence."

The police then decided to undertake the world’s first DNA intelligence-led screen. All adult males in three villages – a total of 5,000 men - were asked to volunteer and provide blood or saliva samples. Blood grouping was performed and DNA profiling carried out by the FSS on the 10 per cent of men who had the same blood type as the killer.

The murderer almost escaped again by getting a friend to give blood in his name. However, this friend was later overheard talking about the switch and that he’d given his sample masquerading as Colin Pitchfork.

A local baker, Colin Pitchfork was arrested and his DNA profile matched with the semen from both murders. In 1988 he was sentenced to life for the two murders.


Work of art or monstrous cynicism?

Convicted paedophile creates extraordinary paper sculpture in bid to win freedom

By Sarah Chalmers -

11th April 2009

By any artistic standard, it is a striking piece of sculpture: an entire choir and orchestra created in meticulous miniature detail by folding, cutting and tearing the score of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Yet no degree of close inspection by concert-goers at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank - where the work has been exhibited - could reveal the ugly truth behind the delicate, almost vulnerable figures.

For the creator of this intricate, some would say beautifully exquisite, work is a double rapist and child-killer, two-thirds of the way through a prison sentence for having committed two of the most deplorable crimes of modern time.

Initially exhibited anonymously as part of a show by offenders' art charity The Koestler Trust (founded by novelist Arthur Koestler and which runs an awards scheme for prisoners), the identity of the sculptor was finally revealed this week to the astonishment and fury of crime victims' groups.

For not only has Colin Pitchfork gained financially from the work (he was given about £300 of the £600 sale proceeds), he also stands to win something far more valuable: his freedom.

At the end of this month, Pitchfork is due to appeal for early release (after serving just 20 years of the 30-year minimum term recommended by the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard, in 1994).

According to his legal team, Pitchfork has changed dramatically in prison and is no longer a threat.

The Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice will decide his fate, but for many in the court of public opinion the beauty of a man's art has no bearing on his soul.

This move to try to win the release of one of the country's most notorious child sex killers comes at a time when Justice Secretary Jack Straw has mooted a 'public acceptability test' to decide whether offenders can be released into the community.

But, after decades of criticism of this country's justice system, many will view the campaign for Pitchfork's freedom as clear proof that nothing has changed and that penal reform do-gooders champion killers rather than victims.

Colin Pitchfork gained notoriety in 1988 when, aged 27, he became the first criminal in the world to be convicted of murder based on DNA fingerprinting, following the first mass screening of 5,000 men in three neighbouring villages.

The case revolutionised police work worldwide.

On November 22, 1983, the body of 15-year-old Lynda Mann was found raped and strangled on a deserted footpath running between a cemetery and a psychiatric hospital in the Leicestershire village of Narborough. Lynda had left home the night before to visit a friend and, when she did not return, her family alerted police.

Almost three years later, in July 1986, the body of another 15-year-old, Dawn Ashworth, from nearby Enderby, was found in almost identical circumstances in a wooded area, less than a mile from the scene of Lynda's murder.

The dead girl had been taking a shortcut home from school instead of her usual route, but there can be little doubt that her assailant, believing he had 'got away with it' once, was on the look-out for other teenagers to assault, terrorise and murder in the same way.

Initially, a local man confessed to the second murder and his blood was found to be the same group as blood found at the scene. There can be no doubt that had it not been for advances in science, he would have been convicted while Colin Pitchfork remained free.

However, two years later, semen samples found at the crime scenes were used to match the DNA of Pitchfork, a baker and convicted flasher. The court later heard that the night after Dawn's killing, he callously returned to his home in the village of Littlethorpe and baked a cake.

If the girls had lived, they would now be in their 40s, perhaps with teenage daughters of their own. Lynda Mann's mother, Kath, said paying her daughter's 'evil, wicked and cruel' killer for his work showed a 'lack of conscience'.

'For a man who did that to be rewarded for making paperwork art - good or bad - is not right.

'This man is supposed to be in prison as a punishment for what he did. He raped and killed two 15-year-old girls just because "they were there" and we should never forget that.'

Kelvin Donaghey, who knows Dawn Ashworth's family and created a memorial website to the dead girls, told the Mail: 'Lynda was good at art and so was Dawn. They never got the chance to have their works exhibited, yet the man who took their lives away not only has that, but earns money from it, too.'

Yet, despite the manner of their murders, the charity that promoted Pitchfork's work remains proud of its stance.

Tim Robertson, chief executive of the Koestler Trust, said: 'It's not relevant to us what the person's offence is. What's relevant to us is how good the art is.'

He said the charity makes no distinction between prisoners' crimes and releases artists' names only when it has the written permission of the inmates themselves and the Prison Service.

In the case of Pitchfork, the charity did not have that permission and refuses to confirm his identity as the artist.

Mr Robertson, who criticised the Press for making public the exhibition of Pitchfork's work, said: 'We are extremely sorry if the display has caused offence to victims of crime.

'Our aim is to reduce the number of victims of crime and we would never have released the artist's name and caused offence to relatives.'

However, officials at the Royal Festival Hall this week removed the artwork from display. A spokesman apologised for any offence caused and said it respected the Koestler Trust's policy of anonymity, but would be reviewing future policy.

It is understood that Pitchfork completed the work in his cell at Frankland Prison, Durham, before being moved to Full Sutton, near York. Having previously studied Beethoven for an Open University Degree, he used a photocopy of the composer's sheet music to fashion his piece over a number of weeks.

In accordance with the charity's practice, he received 50 per cent of the sale price for his sculpture, with 40 per cent retained by the charity and 10 per cent going to Victim Support.

Former Cabinet minister and ex-prisoner Jonathan Aitken, who served 18 months for perjury and used his time behind bars to study New Testament Greek, sees nothing wrong in the arrangement.

'Mr Pitchfork is rebuilding his life behind bars through rehabilitation, including, in his case, artistic endeavour. Society should be pleased by that rather than condemning him or trying to stop him from benefiting from the proceeds,' he says.

'The Royal Festival Hall has made the wrong decision in withdrawing the work, for while I deplore the serious crime in this case, the sentence is the punishment. There also has to be rehabilitation.'

But some disturbing questions remain. Rehabilitation of this kind - the opportunity to produce art and then gain recognition and remuneration for it - will be seen by many as a privilege only for lesser criminals and one that should be denied to the more serious offenders, just as their freedom is withheld.

How can it be right that two innocent children lose their lives while their murderer loses his liberty for a relatively short space of time and emerges from incarceration having earned money and with the potential for a new career?

Why, also, do the artists under this scheme have to be paid (£300 may not be a lot of money in the outside world, but it is a substantial sum for a prisoner who has no outgoings while residing at Her Majesty's Pleasure). After all, most prisoners have to work while in jail, but those in the laundry or canteen are not being paid hundreds of pounds.

Pitchfork is not the first criminal to produce art in a prison cell. A series of eight landscapes painted on prison issue cards by East End gangster Ronnie Kray while incarcerated in the Seventies sold for £16,550 at auction.

Also, Jimmy Boyle, dubbed 'the most violent man in Scotland', turned to sculpture while in jail and later wrote his autobiography, which became a film.

And Charles Bronson, the murderer known as 'Britain's most dangerous inmate' and about whom a controversial film was released last month, boasts no fewer than 11 Koestler awards for his art and poetry.

But it is Pitchfork's cunning that should cause most alarm. He was, and is, a clever man.

The timing of the display of his work, Bringing Music To Life, and subsequent unveiling of him as the artist, coincides neatly with his forthcoming High Court appeal in which his lawyers will try to show he could be an upstanding member of society.

Let us not forget that although he was arrested and finally convicted on DNA evidence, he initially bribed someone else to give a DNA sample in his place. The 'substitute', Ian Kelly, switched passport photos, learned to forge Pitchfork's signature and became word-perfect on the killer's family history. This attempted deceit was revealed only after Kelly bragged to friends in a pub.

In a message beside the sculpture, Pitchfork wrote eloquently: 'Without this opportunity to show our art, many of us would have no incentive, we would stay locked in ourselves as much as the walls that hold us.'

Yet despite this clever bid to sway public emotions, it is an inescapable fact that the dead victims have neither the 'opportunity' nor ' incentive' their murderer writes about.

The judge at his trial, Mr Justice Otton, described Pitchfork as 'callous and cunning'. More than 20 years on, it is hard not to still agree. Even the sculpture's title seems calculated to offend.

Bringing Music To Life? If only it were so easy to bring two innocent young schoolgirls back to life.


Pitchfork, Colin



DATE(S): 1983/86

VENUE: Leicester, England


MO: Rape-slayer of 15-year-old girls

DISPOSITION: Double life term on guilty plea, 1988.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans



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