News Ireland daily BLOG by Donie

Sunday 26th October 2014

Notorious serial killer Black was in Donegal when Mary Boyle disappeared


Mary Boyle left, Robert Black centre & Mary’s Mother Anne & her late  father Charlie.

Despite the questioning of a man last week, pedophile Robert Black remains the main suspect in the disappearance of the seven-year-old

The arrest and questioning last week of a 64-year-old man serving a two-year sentence for the sexual abuse of two brothers in Donegal in the 1970s has thrown no new light on the disappearance of Mary Boyle, according to Garda sources.

The man’s name came up in a review of Mary’s case as he was working in Finner Army camp in Donegal at around the time of her disappearance.

The boys he abused were, however, known to him and apart from prolonged sexual abuse outlined in evidence in his case there was no further suggestion he was aware of, or had anything to do with, Mary Boyle other than he lived in the general area where she disappeared.

The man, who was questioned over two days, had been a reclusive figure and had not previously figured in any of the investigation and re-investigation of Mary’s case. His abuse of the boys only emerged four years ago and he had not come to the attention of Gardai before in relation to Mary Boyle.

The geographical link of his living in south Donegal at the time of Mary’s disappearance was a matter that Gardai felt had to be examined in the absence of other evidence in Mary’s case.

The main suspect in the Mary Boyle case still remains a Scottish man, Robert Black, who began attacking young girls when still in his teens and went on to become the worst paedophile and child killer in British history.:00 / 01:59

His first serious offence was in Greenock, outside Glasgow, in 1962 when, aged only 15, he partially strangled and sexually assaulted a seven-year-old girl. He was convicted of “lewd and libidinous behaviour” and received only a good behaviour warning.

Two years later he received a year’s sentence in borstal for a sexual assault on another seven-year-old, the daughter of a couple he was rooming with in another Scottish town, Kinlochleve.

Thereafter, Black disappeared off the British police radar as he embarked on what is now believed to have been a 25-year career of kidnapping and murdering young girls.

At the time police constabularies in Britain did not have coordinated records on sex offenders and Black roamed Britain, Ireland and parts of northern Europe in his job as a delivery van driver. It may never be known how many murders he was responsible for.

He was only apprehended in July 1990 after he was spotted by a motorist snatching a local policeman’s six-year-old daughter off a roadside outside the village of Stow in Scotland. The local police, including the girl’s father, were alerted and gave chase stopping his van some miles away. They found the child tied up, gagged with tape and stuffed head-first into a sleeping bag.

With Black’s arrest and imprisonment for life on a charge of abduction, British police began working through the first computerised data base of serious crime that had been brought into use in the hunt for the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, sentenced to life imprisonment in 1981 for the murders of 13 women, several of them street prostitutes.

After Black’s arrest, police re-examined the cases of three girls who had been abducted raped and murdered and discovered, through examination of Black’s van delivery schedules that he had been in the same areas at the same times when the abductions occurred.

Police were able to establish enough evidence to convict Black of three murders.

He raped and strangled 11-year-old Susan Maxwell whom he snatched off a bridge on the English-Scottish border at Coldstream in July 1982. Black drove her body 250 miles across England before dumping her by the side of a road in Staffordshire.

He was identified as a man last seen holding hands with five-year-old Caroline Hogg near her home outside Edinburgh in July 1983 shortly before she disappeared. Her body was found 300 miles away from her home in a ditch in Leicestershire 10 days later.

He was also convicted of the murder of Sarah Harper (10) whose body was found in the River Trent near Nottingham in April 1986, a month after she disappeared.

The bodies of the three girls were dumped within an area with a radius of just 26 miles and were already believed to be linked.

Black is the main suspect in the murders of two other girls: April Fabb (13) who disappeared in Norfolk in April 1969 and Genette Tate, also 13, who disappeared from near her home in Devon in August 1978.

Within a short time of his arrest for abducting the young Scottish girl in 1990, Black became a person of interest for the Royal Ulster Constabulary in the murder of nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy in August 1981. Her body was found in an old flax dam six days after she disappeared from her home in Co Down. They established that Black regularly travelled to the northern counties of Ireland as part of his delivery job.

Jennifer had been sexually assaulted and an attempt was made to burn her remains prior to being dumped in the dam. It would take nearly 30 years and the advances in DNA science to finally link Black to her murder. He was sentenced to a minimum 25 years imprisonment at Armagh Crown Court in October 2011 which means, if he lives, he will be 89 before he will be eligible to apply for parole.

The RUC, and subsequently PSNI, investigation into Jennifer Cardy’s murder drew Black into the investigation into the disappearance of Mary Boyle.

Gardai discovered that Black was a reasonably regular visitor to Donegal, delivering commercial posters and may have visited and stayed in Annagry, not far from the Boyle home at Kincasslagh on the coast.

However, Mary and her family were visiting her grandparents at her uncle’s home outside Ballyshannon, more than an hour’s drive away from Kincasslagh on the day she disappeared.

Her disappearance was baffling. She had been barely 500 yards from her uncle’s house at a neighbour’s and had been making her way home when she disappeared. No one noticed anything suspicious and extensive searches and digs of the bogland and the draining of a local lake revealed nothing.

Cashelard, where she disappeared, is not on a main road but inland several miles from the main coastal route and a similar distance north of the main road from Ballyshannon to Enniskillen.

But, Ballinderry where Jennifer Cardy was abducted and murdered by Black is also several miles away from the nearest main road, the MI south out of Belfast.

Black’s other victims were taken from small towns and villages, lightly populated areas where the potential for witnesses was slight.

By 1977 when Mary disappeared Black was 30 years old and almost certainly seasoned at his practices. He had almost certainly abducted, murdered and secretly buried April Fabb seven years earlier. She had been riding her bicycle along a quiet country road between the villages of Metton and Roughton in Norfolk. Genette Tate disappeared and was never seen again minutes after talking to friends as she rode her bike along another country lane near her home in the village of Aylesbeare in Devon.

The three girls he was convicted of murdering in Britain were also taken in rural areas: Sarah Harper from outside the village of Morley, four miles from Leeds; Caroline Hogg from Portabello, a village on the coast five miles from Edinburgh; and Susan Maxwell from near her home in the border village of Cornhill-on-Tweed.

Black’s modus operandi suggested he was aware that cities and towns held too many witnesses and the countryside also offered hidden places to rape, murder and hide his victims. He chose his prey well away from busy roads where he and his van or car would also be spotted. Parents in relatively crime-free country areas were also less worried about their children’s safety than those in cities.

These events happened before the advent of widespread CCTV or national and international data bases of sex offenders.

The early signs of Black’s increasing menace to young girls were ignored and by the time he had progressed through borstal to manhood he had evolved and learned how to avoid capture.

After his trial, a picture emerged of a man who had dedicated his life to the pursuit and destruction of young girls. His filthy flat was full of paedophile pornographic magazines, his van equipped with the implements and bindings he used on his victims which he carried at all times.

Police in Britain believe Black was probably responsible for up to 12 murders including Susanne Lawrence (14) who disappeared in Essex in 1979; Pamela Hastie (16) from Johnstone in Scotland who disappeared in 1981; and Patsy Morris (14) last seen in west London in 1990.

He is also a suspect in the murders of four schoolgirls who were abducted and murdered in countryside outside Paris in 1987 and of another seven-year-old girl in Holland in 1986.

Black, now 67, has been questioned repeatedly by police since his incarceration in 1990 in Wakefield high security jail but has never admitted involvement in any murders, not even those for which he was convicted.

Here’s to the bank of mum and dad for Bank loan deposits?


During the boom years, it was possible to borrow money from credit unions under the radar. At the time, most credit unions were not members of the Irish Credit Bureau (ICB) – which is used by banks to check the credit history of those who apply for mortgages.

No surprise then that many people took out credit union loans back then to cover the cost of the then sky-high stamp duty – or indeed to get money towards the deposit

As almost eight out of ten credit unions are now members of the ICB, your chances of borrowing the money for a house deposit from a credit union without your bank copping on are pretty slim. Not that this would be a good idea anyway as you would only be adding to your debt burden.

So with house prices continuing to power ahead, you may well be considering heading to the bank of mum and dad to get the deposit towards your home – rather than to take a year or two to save up the deposit. Should your parents decide to borrow that money themselves from a credit union, the average interest rate charged on credit union loans is about 10.3%, though it can be as low as 6%, according to a spokeswoman for the Irish League of Credit Unions.

The spokeswoman said it would be unlikely that a credit union loan would be used to fund the deposit on a home because such a loan would be larger than the typical one borrowed from credit unions. “The average credit union loan last year was just over €6,000,” she said.

Should your parents decide to head to a bank to borrow €60,000 for your house deposit, AIB would charge 8.94% interest, Bank of Ireland would charge 9%, and Permo would charge either 7.5% or 10.5% interest. The interest alone would cost your folks between €11,795 and €14,184 if they repaid the loan over five years, depending on the bank.

That’s a big ask. A cheaper way for your parents to raise the money (if they deem it wise to do so) would be to top up their mortgage or get an equity release loan. Bank of Ireland charges 4% interest on equity release.

The windowless plane set for take-off in the near future?


UK developer working on replacing heavy aircraft windows with uber-light smartscreen panels to cut fuel consumption and slash air fares

Head in the clouds? UK developers are working on removing windows in planes to save weight and fuel, replacing them with smartscreen panels broadcasting the view.

It is a glimpse into the future that will inspire wonder in some people but perhaps strike terror into the heart of the nervous flyer: a windowless plane that nonetheless allows passengers to see what’s going on outside, as well as checking their email and surfing the net.

In a vision of what the next generation of commercial aircraft could look like in little more than a decade, windows would be replaced by full-length screens allowing constant views of the world outside. Passengers would be able to switch the view on and off according to their preference, identify prominent sights by tapping the screen or even just surf the internet.

The early-stage concept for the windowless plane, based on technology used in mobile phones and televisions, hails from the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), an organisation with sites across north-east England that works with companies to develop new products. It imagines how large, hi-definition, ultra thin and lightweight displays could form the inside of the fuselage, displaying images of the exterior from cameras mounted on the plane’s exterior.

But the real ambition echoes a constant quest in the aviation industry: how to reduce weight, which would cut fuel consumption, thereby bringing down fares. According to the CPI, for every 1% reduction in the weight of an aircraft, there is a saving in fuel of 0.75%.

The idea came about after discussions about how printable electronics, in which the centre specialises, could be used. “We had been speaking to people in aerospace and we understood that there was this need to take weight out of aircraft,” said Dr Jon Helliwell of the CPI. By putting windows into a plane, the fuselage needed to be strengthened, he added, and by omitting them in favour of walls of screens on panels, the fuselage would be lighter.

“Follow the logical thought through. Let’s take all the windows out – that’s what they do in cargo aircraft – what are the passengers going to do? If you think about it, it’s only really the people that are sitting next to windows that will suffer.”

These futuristic plans would involve screen panels reflecting whatever view of the outside the passenger wanted, changing in accordance with the direction of their eyes.

The screens would be made using organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) – a combination of materials that give out their own light when activated by electricity. The problems with the technology involve price and their sensitivity to moisture, which means they are generally encased in inflexible glass, mostly in mobile phones and televisions.

The key development, said Helliwell, would be flexible OLEDs, which would allow the creation of screens suitable for an aeroplane. Electronics company LG recently posted a video of an 18-inch (46cm) screen which bends and contorts while the images on screen are broadcast uninterrupted.

“What would be great would be to make devices based on OLEDs that are flexible. We can make transistors that are flexible but if we can make OLEDs that are flexible, that gives us a lot of potential in the market because we can print OLEDs on to packaging, we can create flexible displays,” he said.

The CPI is one of seven bodies under the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, an umbrella group which receives government funding to drive growth in manufacturing. Part of the way the CPI operates is to identify challenges in industry – such as the windowless plane – and develop ways to overcome them, according to Helliwell.

Using £35m worth of advanced equipment in its Sedgefield facility, the CPI says it working on technologies to advance flexible OLEDs and tackle problems of cost and durability.

This could lead to the development of the OLEDs and the windowless plane, but could also be used in “smart packaging” for medicines or food which would contain information that could be displayed on a mobile phone.

One of the first steps in developing OLEDs is a mask which helps treat eye disease among people with diabetes. The device from PolyPhotonix, which was developed at the CPI, aims to stop the breakdown of blood vessels during sleep as a result of the disease. Using the device, the eye is fooled into thinking that it is daytime, when there is not the same problem with blood vessel breakdown.

The concept for the plane, said Helliwell – letting passengers see outside while allowing a lighter fuselage – followed discussions with the aerospace industry. The idea of having the displays lining the inside of the plane could become reality in 10 years, after other “building blocks” in the development of OLED are completed, he added. “We are talking about it now because it matches the kind of development timelines that they have in the aerospace industry.

“So you could have a display next to a seat if you wanted it; you could have a blank area next to a seat if you wanted it; you would have complete flexibility as to where you put [the panel screens]. You could put screens on the back of the seats in the middle and link them to the same cameras.”

What are OLEDs: OLEDs are a combination of advanced materials that give out their own light when activated by electricity and are typically used to make screens and lighting. Unlike LCD and plasma displays, they do not need a backlight, meaning that they use less energy and can be much thinner than other displays, while also displaying a higher contrast. Among ambitions for OLEDs involve printing them on sheets or wallpapering them on rooms, effectively turning the walls into lights.

Cancer-killing stem cells engineered in lab a step forward for new cancer therapy


Genetically engineered, toxin-packing stem cells could bring new therapies to treat brain tumors, researchers report. Stem cells could be “mini-pharmacies” inside a patient’s brain, they say.

U.S. researchers say they’ve been successful in genetically engineering one-of-a-kind stem cells capable of producing and secreting a toxin that can kill brain cancer cells.

Scientists at Harvard University report experiments in which the toxin-carrying stem cells were used to kill cancer cells left behind in the brains of mice after the main tumor had been removed.

Previous clinical trials which attempted to introduce cancer-destroying toxins into patients’ brains failed because of toxin-delivery issues, leading the Harvard scientists to turn to stem cells as possible delivery “vehicles.”

“Cancer-killing toxins have been used with great success in a variety of blood cancers, but they don’t work as well in solid tumors because the cancers aren’t as accessible and the toxins have a short half-life,” says research leader Khalid Shah of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.

While it has long been assumed that stem cells could be utilized to continuously deliver therapeutic toxins to brain tumors, the challenge has been to create stem cells that would not themselves be killed by the toxins, the researchers said.

The solution, the researchers report in the journal Stem Cells, was to create stem cells possessing a mutation that keeps the toxins from acting inside the cell.

“Now, we have toxin-resistant stem cells that can make and release cancer-killing drugs,” Shah says.

Once in the brain, the specially-tagged toxins will only enter cancer cells displaying certain specific surface molecules, so the cancer can be attacked with any risk to normal cells, the researchers reported.

“After doing all of the molecular analysis and imaging to track the inhibition of protein synthesis within brain tumors, we do see the toxins kill the cancer cells,” Shah says.

Other cancer scientists said the Harvard work could signal the introduction of a new regimen of cancer therapies.

Such therapies could help increase survival rates and drive progress in the treatment of brain cancers such as glioblastoma, the most common brain tumor in adult human, they said.

“It shows you can attack solid tumors by putting mini pharmacies inside the patient which deliver the toxic payload direct to the tumor,” said Chris Mason, professor of regenerative medicine at University College London.

Shah said therapies using genetically modified stem cells to deliver cancer drugs directly to the brain could see human clinical trials in the next 5 years, and that he and his team are currently seeking FDA approval for such trials.

Ireland’s territorial waters to be remeasured down to the centimetre


For the first time in almost 60 years the exact measurements of the country’s water borders are being taken

Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands in Galway Bay has an area of 31 square kilometres and a population of approx 850

Ireland is recalculating its claim to potentially oil and gas rich Atlantic waters – down to the very centimetre.

For the first time in almost 60 years the exact measurements of the country’s territorial waters, including part of the disputed Rockall Bank, are being taken from 50 specially selected points.

Operation Baseline will help chart more accurate maritime maps and be used to cement claims to the continental shelf up to 350 miles from shore.

Over the last few weeks the Air Corps winched geographers on to some of the most inaccessible headlands and islands on our shores to mark co-ordinates first given to the United Nations in 1959.

A Department of Foreign Affairs official said the new measurements will accurately record Ireland’s shores and seas down to centimetres.

“The new coordinates will be used to update electronic maritime charts and the project will also allow the outer limits of the State’s maritime zones to be determined with much greater accuracy,” she said.

“More accurate mapping is important for a range of matters including exploration, licensing and law enforcement.”

As part of the operation, an Ordnance Survey Ireland (OSi) team used GPS to pinpoint the 50 locations and permanently marked them with brass plates.

The most northerly is Scart Rocks off Malin Head, with the western extremities including an unnamed rock beside Black Rock lighthouse off Mayo and the Great Foze Rock off the Blasket Islands in Kerry.

Along the south coast Bream Point on Cape Clear in Cork and Carnsore Point in Wexford are on the limits.

Andy McGill, Operation Baseline co-ordinator with the OSi, said the job could not have been done without Air Corps pilots and winchmen and the Navy on standby.

“Basically it is redefining the territorial limits,” he said.

“But it was extremely exhilarating. We had guys out there for 10-12 hours and it would take another six hours for them to calm down once they were back in – the adrenaline really gets going. You are working in an extremely hazardous environment.

“We didn’t expect to get access to all the points but the guys in the Air Corps and Navy made it so easy.”

Ireland has a 12 mile territorial sea, a 200 mile exclusive economic zone before any additional claims are made to the continental shelf including the Rockall Bank.

The Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) says potential territorial waters stretch to 898,442km sq – an area bigger than the oil rich North Sea.

But claims to Rockall – the pudding shaped remnants of an extinct volcano in North Atlantic and the inspiration for a rebel song – are virtually pointless under international law.

Ireland has never attempted to seize the rock but it has made claims for some of the potentially oil rich sea bed around it up to 500 nautical miles from shore and known as Hatton-Rockall.

The claim has been agreed with the UK but is rejected by the Faroe Islands.

Ireland has successfully claimed an extra 39,000 km sq of seabed off the west coast beside the Porcupine Bank and a second claim for a swathe of the Celtic Sea and Bay of Biscay is being negotiated with France, Spain and the UK.

Another 15 points will be marked as part of Operation Baseline in separate weather dependent missions over the next few weeks.


Comments are closed.