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As double child killer wins right to a new parole hearing three years after he was dragged back to jail… REVEALED: The last time he was freed, Colin Pitchfork chatted to a lone woman in a car park


BARBARA Ashworth has carried around memories of her murdered daughter Dawn for so many years now that it is hard to believe she was 15 when she died.

Five weeks after Dawn celebrated her birthday in the summer of 1986, she was raped and strangled by double child killer Colin Pitchfork, a heinous crime which shocked the nation and snatched away Barbara’s adored child.

But while the 78-year-old mother is caught up in a lifetime of relentless grief, Pitchfork is hellbent on getting out of the life sentence he was handed in 1988 for the rape and murders of both Dawn and 15-year-old Lynda Mann, whom he had killed in 1983.

News last week that the ­murderer has won the right to yet another Parole Board hearing has, understandably, devastated the families of both the girls and caused widespread outrage among politicians and ­criminologists alike.

Colin Pitchfork walks the streets on day release in Bristol in 2017

Colin Pitchfork walks the streets on day release in Bristol in 2017

‘There’s just no way he should ever be let out,’ says Barbara. ‘It’s something that never goes away for you, losing a child like that. I just can’t get over it. And every time he is pushing and pushing to get out of jail it brings back all these terrible memories again.’

The Parole Board’s decision to give Pitchfork, 63, another chance to secure his freedom comes less than three years after he was granted parole but then ­dramatically recalled to prison just two and a half months later. The murderer had been spotted talking to a lone woman near the ‘approved premises’ where he stayed during his brief stint on the outside between September and November 2021.

There were claims that he tried to outwit lie detector tests he had agreed to take as part of the ­conditions attached to his release. And there were concerns about the way he indulged in ­‘aimless walking’ — sinister behaviour said to have been a precursor to the ­murders of both Lynda and Dawn in Leicestershire, as well as dozens of other opportunistic sexual assaults and flashings committed by Pitchfork since he was a 14-year-old boy Scout.

During those 2021 rambles in parkland and woods, the killer, who was forced to wear a GPS tracker when he went out, ­occasionally donned a hi-vis jacket and when challenged claimed he was litter picking.

As Barbara puts it: ‘It just ­beggars belief that they are ­considering letting him out again. It’s as if he’s able to make the Parole Board believe whatever he wants to say. A person like him is never safe for release.’

Professor David Wilson, a ­criminologist and former prison governor who has worked alongside some of Britain’s most prolific murderers and on several police investigations, shares this opinion. ‘I’ve seen nothing to convince me that it is safe to release Colin Pitchfork into the community,’ he told me last week.

‘We are talking about a very sophisticated, organised offender. He is calculated, cunning and ­conning. A lot of dangerous offenders cloak themselves in the guise of rehabilitation. And they say the right things and seemingly do the right things and engage in the right behaviour but they’re not rehabilitated at all.’

Indeed, an investigation by the Mail raises new and urgent ­questions about why on earth a killer as devious as Pitchfork is being considered for release at all.

Dawn Ashworth was raped and strangled aged 15 back in 1986

Dawn Ashworth was raped and strangled aged 15 back in 1986

We can reveal that during his ­previous time on parole, which started on September 1, 2021, he was sent to an ‘approved premises’ in Southampton, just a stone’s throw from a primary school and a few minutes walk from the heavily-wooded pathways of Southampton Common.

The 26-room bail hostel has a gym and a garden where former prisoners can grow flowers and vegetables, enjoy music lessons and film groups — with ‘popcorn and movie snacks’ — and take part in a cooking club as well as pool and darts tournaments.

But on his first night there, an arrogant Pitchfork boasted to the hostel manager that she ‘wouldn’t have managed such a high-profile case as his before’ and, disturbingly, left her with the impression that he was enjoying his notoriety.

He was subject to extensive ‘licensing conditions’ which meant, among other things, that he was ‘not to remain in the company of any lone female who is not known to him . . . except where that ­contact is inadvertent and not reasonably avoidable in the course of lawful daily life’.

The Mail can also reveal that, despite wearing a GPS tag, being given a specified curfew and having to comply with an unspecified exclusion zone to avoid contact with victims’ families, women and children, Pitchfork was regularly encountered by women and young girls living close to his hostel ­during the time that he was there.

One 15-year-old schoolgirl told this newspaper that she had seen him while walking home alone from school. Her 38-year-old father said: ‘I know people get a second chance when they get out of jail but I would have liked to have been told there was a murderer living over the road, especially if he killed young girls.’

Pitchfork was also ordered to undergo lie detector tests, as and when they were deemed necessary by his supervising officer.

Lynda Mann was also raped and strangled aged 15 in 1983

Lynda Mann was also raped and strangled aged 15 in 1983

Incredibly, this condition was included by the Parole Board panel because there were ‘concerns as to how transparent, forthcoming and honest he was with professionals and the difficulties they had in ­getting from him any real idea of what was actually going on in his head — whether, for example, he really did no longer continue to have deviant/unhealthy sexual thoughts as he claimed.

There was concern, ­documents seen by the Mail show, that ‘there could be more going on under the surface than he was prepared to reveal’ which couldn’t be spotted without the lie detector.

Additionally, Pitchfork’s frustration at these restrictions led him to become ‘angry and aggressive’ with his designated ‘community offender manager’. His attitude to the woman, it was said, was ‘hostile and uncompromising’.

On October 14, 2021 — a month and a half into his stay at the hostel — the polygraph produced an ‘inconclusive’ result when Pitchfork was asked about an encounter with a lone woman in the car park outside the probation office.

He dismissed it as ‘just a passing conversation’ and said he was merely ‘trying to be helpful’ by ­giving the woman advice on where she might get a better view of the ships moored in nearby ­Southampton dock.

A second polygraph test a month later gave a similarly inconclusive result. The polygraph tester then expressed concerns that Pitchfork was trying to outwit the machine by controlling his breathing, something Pitchfork denied, saying it was ‘a way to manage my anxiety’.

After two warning letters about his conduct, a furious Pitchfork was returned to prison in mid-November 2021. The wonder is, of course, given the extent of his crimes and the obvious distrust of the authorities, how anyone thought it was safe to let him out in the first place.

The murders of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth were as brutal as they were calculating. Both his ­victims lost their lives on dark, secluded footpaths near their homes in the villages of ­Narborough and ­Enderby in Leicestershire ­during brutal attacks committed nearly three years apart.

Married father-of-two Pitchfork, who once worked as a volunteer for the children’s charity Barnardo’s and was already known to police as a serial flasher, raped and strangled Lynda in November 1983 after dropping his wife off at an evening class and while his baby son slept in a carrycot in his parked car.

Three years later, the ­Leicestershire miner’s son raped and killed Dawn just a stone’s throw from the spot where Lynda’s body was found.

He went to extraordinary lengths to cover up his hideous crimes. When DNA profiling led police to embark on a mass screening of 5,000 local men, Pitchfork ­persuaded a colleague at the ­bakery where he worked to give a sample in his place and doctored his ­passport, required as proof of ­identity, using a scalpel to cut away the photograph and replace it with one of the colleague.

He might never have been caught if the man who stood in for him hadn’t been overheard bragging about it in a pub. It is this deceitfulness, say experts, which makes Pitchfork so dangerous.

Author and former police ­detective Joseph Wambaugh, whose book The Blooding is widely regarded as the definitive work on the case, has told me that ­Pitchfork is a ‘psychopath’ who would have killed again if he hadn’t been caught and ‘will be a danger until he’s too old to be and he’s far from that’.

And Professor David Wilson, who describes Pitchfork’s crimes as ‘pathological’, says: ‘Given how criminogenic he was, in terms of the murders, the rapes, the way he manipulated people and avoided the DNA test, I would argue that he is a very dangerous man. The most worrying thing about him is the level of deviousness in which he’s engaged over the years. Even as a penal reformer and someone who believes in rehabilitation, I would not release Colin Pitchfork.’

Professor Wilson points out that if Pitchfork was sentenced for his crimes today he would, in all ­likelihood, receive a whole-life ­sentence — with no prospect of parole — rather than the fixed-term life sentence he received in 1988.

In accordance with the practice at the time, the then-Home ­Secretary, Douglas Hurd, set his minimum term as 30 years. It was reduced to 28 years for good ­behaviour in 2009.

This week, one of his former fellow prisoners phoned London radio station LBC recalling a disturbing incident which took place in HMP Full Sutton, a high-security prison in East Yorkshire.

Both the man and Pitchfork had volunteered to take part in a project organised by the Samaritans who sent staff into the jail to train inmates to become ‘listeners’ for vulnerable prisoners. According to the caller, Pitchfork, who was the only prisoner in attendance from the sex offenders’ wing, was found ‘indecently touching himself in front of female Samaritans’ who asked for him to be removed.

The Parole Board’s own reports also suggest significant and ‘unknown’ concerns about him, including a ‘stark absence of ­current information regarding sexual attitudes, beliefs, thoughts and behaviours and the extent to which the ideation which caused the applicant once to do as he did still persist. There are also questions about his secrecy and how sound are his internal controls’.

Professor Wilson also questions why, if he wanted to change, Pitchfork has never spent time at HMP Grendon in Buckinghamshire, which is dedicated to offering intensive therapy to serious criminals — mostly sex offenders and paedophiles — who volunteer to go there and is one of the UK’s most successful prisons in terms of reducing reoffending rates.

Since being returned to jail in 2021, Pitchfork, who now goes by the name of David Thorpe, has redoubled his efforts to get out again. In June last year he was again given the green light for parole after successfully arguing that the polygraph tests he had been forced to undergo on the outside were an ‘unlawful condition’. The Parole Board said it was ‘no longer necessary for the protection of the public to keep him behind bars’.

That decision was challenged by Justice Secretary Alex Chalk and, at a hearing in December last year, the Parole Board decided he was not being ‘open and honest’ and that his release would not be ‘safe for the protection of the public’.

But after complaining that the panel did not take comments from his offender manager into account, he has now been granted a fresh hearing in front of a panel of three.

For Barbara Ashworth, this endless merry-go-round of hearings is torturous. After Dawn’s death, she moved from Leicestershire and lives in the South-West of England but can never escape the endless grief that Pitchfork inflicted on her. Dawn, she says, was a joyful and caring child, who loved school, wanted to play the clarinet and every week spent some of the money she earned from her job at the local paper shop on a bunch of flowers for her mother.

‘She was only 15 for five weeks,’ says Barbara. ‘You watch over them just imagining this life ahead of them. You imagine grandchildren and things like that and it’s all just swept away.

‘It takes everything from you. Lock him up and throw away the key. That’s how I feel. Just shut him away where no one can see him or hear him.’



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