(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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
By Sarah Chalmers - DailyMail.co.uk
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Bringing Music To Life? If only it were so easy to
bring two innocent young schoolgirls back to life.