Colin Pitchfork: double child killer can be released from prison once again - parole board rules

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Colin Pitchfork, who raped and strangled 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in 1983 and 1986, can now be re-released, a parole board has decided

Double child killer Colin Pitchfork can be released from prison subject to conditions, the parole board has ruled, while also slamming a decision to send him back to prison for approaching young girls in 2021.

Pitchfork was jailed for life after raping and strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986. In November 2021, Pitchfork was arrested and sent back to prison for allegedly approaching young women in the street two months after he was released, for breaching his licence conditions.

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On Thursday (15 June), the Parole Board said the decision to recall Pitchfork to custody was flawed and “made on the basis of some of the allegations not being proved and upon some incorrect information”.

The panel said Pitchfork’s behaviour for almost all his time in prison has not caused any concern and it was no longer necessary for him to remain confined for the protection of the public.

His initial 30-year minimum term was cut by two years in 2009. He was later moved to open prison HMP Leyhill in Gloucestershire, before being released three years later in September 2021.

Colin Pitchfork, now in his early 60s, was jailed for life after raping and strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.Colin Pitchfork, now in his early 60s, was jailed for life after raping and strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.
Colin Pitchfork, now in his early 60s, was jailed for life after raping and strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.

Pitchwork was initially re-arrested, as it was reported he had 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.

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Pitchfork, now in his early 60s, 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. Suggestions were raised at the time that while taking part in polygraph tests, which he was subjected to as part of his licence conditions, he may have tried to counteract the results by controlling and altering his physical responses with breathing techniques - but this was spotted by staff.

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.

‘It’s a safer place when he’s behind bars’

The announcement Pitchfork is now eligible to be re-released has already been met with outrage. Alberto Costa, MP for South Leicestershire, Tweeted he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision and said he thought Pitchfork still presented “a very real danger to the public”.

"I would like to reassure constituents that I will be writing to the Justice Secretary to ask that he seek an immediate and urgent review," he said. "It is simply unthinkable that a man who committed such egregious crimes should ever be released, and I will be asking the Government to challenge this decision in the strongest possible terms."

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He added: "My thoughts remain with the families of Lynda and Dawn at this most difficult time."

Barbara Ashworth, the mother of Pitchfork’s victim, Dawn Ashworth, said after his 2021 release: “I’m pleased that he’s been put away and women and girls are safe and protected from him now.

“It’s a safer place when he’s behind bars and I won’t have to worry about other people being hurt by him for the time being.

“But there’s always the worry that he might get out again, he seems to have a lot of people on his side who give him the benefit of the doubt.

“But for now, I have to be pleased about the news.”

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Release had caused a public outcry

The decision to release Pitchfork the first time had prompted a public outcry, withattempts 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”.

Following a hearing in March, the Parole Board ruled that Pitchfork was “suitable for release”, despite this being denied in 2016 and 2018.

In June 2021, the then Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, asked the board, which is independent of the Government, to re-examine the decision under the so-called reconsideration mechanism.

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

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Typically there are seven standard conditions for offenders leaving prison but Pitchfork had to meet a further 36 requirements.

He is on the sex offenders’ register and had to live at a designated address, be supervised by probation, wear an electronic tag, take part in polygraph – lie detector – tests, and disclose what vehicles he uses and who he spoke to, while also facing particular limits on contact with children.

He was subject to a curfew, had restrictions on using technology, and faced limitations on where he could go.

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