Double child killer Colin Pitchfork can be released from jail

Colin Pitchfork, who raped and murdered two schoolgirls, can be released from jail, the Parole Board has confirmed.

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

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Pitchfork has spent 33 years in prison after being last denied parole in 2018.

So, who is Colin Pitchfork?

Here is everything you need to know.

Who is Colin Pitchfork?

Pitchfork, now 61, was a baker who grew up in rural Leicestershire and lived in the small town of Littlethorpe.

Married with two sons, he was 22 when he murdered 15-year-old Lynda Mann in Narborough when she was making her way to a friend’s house.

In November 1983, he left his son to sleep in the back of his car before raping and strangling the schoolgirl.

Afterwards, he drove home and put his baby to bed.

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Three years later, Pitchfork raped and murdered Dawn Ashworth, who was also 15, from Enderby.

The second killing happened less than a mile from where Lynda died.

How was Pitchfork caught?

Pitchfork became the first murderer in the world to be convicted using DNA evidence.

However, the initial police investigation led to the wrong suspect - a local 17-year-old who falsely said he had committed one of the murders.

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The world’s first mass screening for DNA ensued, with 5,000 men from three villages asked to volunteer blood or saliva samples.

This technique, which was pioneered by Sir Alec Jeffreys at the University of Leicester, is known as “DNA profiling”.

It allowed experts to prove the 17-year-old boy’s innocence.

Pitchfork wasn’t immediately caught through the use of the DNA technology, though, as he evaded justice by persuading a colleague to take the test for him, even replacing his passport photo.

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But he was overheard boasting about the case down at the pub and was eventually arrested.

Thanks to his DNA profile, he pleaded guilty to two offences of murder, two of rape, two of indecent assault and one of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in September 1987.

In January the following year, Pitchfork was sentenced to life, with the judge calling the killings “particularly sadistic”.

Yet his 30-year life sentence was reduced by two years in 2009 for “exceptional progress” in custody, although Lynda’s mother Kath Eastwood strongly criticised the decision.

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Pitchfork was moved to an open prison in 2017 following an assessment by probation officers and specialists.

He was then cleared for unescorted days out of prison, but was denied parole for a second time in 2018.

Why can he be released from prison?

The Parole Board said it was satisfied Pitchfork was suitable for release following an oral hearing which took place in March.

It cited the “progress made while in custody” and the “evidence presented at the hearing” as reasons for the decision.

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However, the decision is provisional for 21 days and subject to conditions.

Pitchfork, once released, would remain on licence for the rest of his life and have his movements restricted, including a stipulation that he would not be allowed anywhere in Leicestershire or knowingly approach any of the victims’ relatives.

He may also be given a new identity, it has been reported.

"We can confirm that a panel of the Parole Board has directed the release of Colin Pitchfork following an oral hearing," a Parole Board spokesman said.

"Parole reviews are undertaken thoroughly and with extreme care. Protecting the public is our number one priority."

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