Double child killer Colin Pitchfork has walked free from prison after bids to keep him behind bars for longer failed.
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.
He became the first man convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence in 1988 as he admitted two murders, two rapes, two indecent assaults, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Pitchfork’s 30-year minimum term was cut by two years in 2009. He was moved to an open prison three years ago and released on Wednesday.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Our heartfelt sympathies remain with the families of Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth following the independent Parole Board’s decision to release Colin Pitchfork.
“Public safety is our top priority, which is why he is subject to some of the strictest licence conditions ever set and will remain under supervision for the rest of his life.
“If he breaches these conditions, he faces an immediate return to prison.”
Barbara Ashworth, mother of Dawn Ashworth, told the PA news agency: “Well it was on the books that he was going to be released, but I don’t think he should be breathing the same air as us.
“It goes without saying that life should have meant life in his case, because he said he was guilty of the offences, the murders of both the girls … and he did a lot more besides.”
Asked if she was surprised Pitchfork had become eligible for release, Ashworth said: “Yes, I think so. They did say that if it had been done today he wouldn’t have been let out.
“But that doesn’t excuse anything. I don’t have my daughter back or any of the hopes and dreams that she had in her life.
“She was my only daughter and you live your life through them and their future—but that was taken away.”
Following a hearing in March, the Parole Board ruled Pitchfork was “suitable for release,” despite this being denied in 2016 and 2018.
In June 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 the application to reconsider the decision had been refused.
South Leicestershire MP Alberto Costa, who has campaigned against the killer’s release, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision and said he had done all he could to halt it.
Buckland also expressed his disappointment but said he respected the decision.
Pitchfork will be placed on the sex offenders’ register and have to adhere to other licence conditions including having to live at a designated address, being supervised by probation, wearing an electronic tag, taking part in polygraph—lie detector—tests, having to disclose what vehicles he uses and who he speaks to, while facing particular limits on contact with children.
He will also be subject to a curfew, have restrictions on using technology, and limitations on where he can go.
The government plans to overhaul the parole system, with the findings of a review expected later this year. It has also sought to change the law so child killers face life behind bars without parole.
By Flora Thompson