Black trial day 5
A SCOTTISH van driver accused of murdering Ballinderry schoolgirl Jennifer Cardy while delivering to Northern Ireland did his firm's runs to the region 99 times out of 100, his trial has heard. A co-worker of Robert Black has claimed he usually made the trip because none of the other drivers in London-based company Poster Dispatch and Storage (PDS) liked the job.
Black, now 64, is accused of kidnapping and murdering nine-year-old Jennifer, on August 12, 1981. He denies the charges.
The fifth day of the trial at Armagh Crown Court also heard the accuracy of a fuel receipt which allegedly incriminates Black defended by the owner of the service station that issued it.
The Crown, which claims the defendant snatched Jennifer after delivering posters to Belfast and Newry, has been attempting to prove he was in Northern Ireland on the day.
Toby Hedworth QC, prosecuting, read a statement that PDS warehouse manager Albert Wells gave to detectives investigating the case.
"Robbie Black did the poster delivery runs to Ireland 99 times out 100," he told officers in 2003. He said other drivers did not like the ferry times and considered the bonus payment too small. Mr Wells has since died.
Black's lawyer, David Spens QC, told the jury that if he had been able to cross-examine him, he would have suggested his assertion was an exaggeration. Former PDS accountant John Thompson made a similar claim about the Ireland run.
The Crown case against Black also asserts that a proof-of-purchase fuel docket signed by him shows he was in Northern Ireland on the day in question. But Black's defence team has queried whether human error could have resulted in the wrong date being printed by the manually-operated credit-card machine that issued it.
The owner of the filling station where Black allegedly bought fuel for his delivery van the day after Jennifer went missing, David Johnston, said he could not remember one instance in his 12 years in the business when that happened.
"I can't recall any, no," he said from the witness box.
Mr Johnston's Shell service station was located south of Coventry on the southbound side of the A45 to London.
The Crown contend that the only journey Black could have been making when he stopped for fuel on August 13 was from the docks at Liverpool having taken the overnight ferry from Belfast.
But Mr Spens has cast doubt on the claim and has argued there is no proof his client was in Northern Ireland on the day of the murder.
He has put forward a number of other explanations for the Coventry
fuel receipt and on Wednesday another garage owner told the court that
sometimes a member of her staff would forget to wind on the manual date
setting on the card machine, resulting in the wrong day being printed on
Mr Spens asked Mr Johnston whether the fact he could not remember that happening in his garage meant it never happened.
"I'm not saying that but I can't recall any (instances)," he said.
He acknowledged it was a "possibility" it might have happened.
The Crown claim Black's trip to Northern Ireland would have involved a drive from Belfast to Newry along the Al dual carriageway beside which Jennifer's body was dumped, at McKees Dam near Hillsborough.
The prosecution contend that PDS carried out deliveries to the region in the middle of the month to ensure new advertising posters were in place for the customary launch date of ad campaigns on the first day of the following month.
Black trial day 6
BLACK told police he often used the stretch of road off which her body was found, day six of his trial heard.
He also said he once tried to sleep in a lay-by on the northbound side of the AI dual carriageway between. Newry and Lisburn in Northern Ireland.
The trial was hearing the answers Black gave to detectives when he was first questioned about the murder in 1996.
When shown a picture of the lay-by behind which Jennifer's body was discovered beside McKee's Dam off the Al, Black told police it was not the one that he stopped at.
The prosecution has claimed there was only one lay-by on this stretch of road in 1981.
Black denies charges of kidnap and murder.
The Crown has been attempting to prove that the defendant was in Northern Ireland on the day Jennifer vanished doing a series of deliveries for his north London company — the now defunct Poster, Dispatch and Storage Ltd (PDS).
With Black listening from the dock, Crown lawyer Donna McColgan and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Detective Sergeant Patrick McAnespie read the transcripts of his interview with police 15 years ago.
Jennifer's parents Andy and Patricia and her younger sister Victoria watched the exchanges from the public gallery.
Black had been asked how often he did the run to Ireland.
"Often enough," he replied. "Quite a few times actually, I couldn't put a number on it," he said.
He said he was one of two or three PDS drivers who did the trip because other colleagues in the firm disliked it. "I think they were a bit scared about the Troubles," added Black.
He described to the court how a usual trip to Northern Ireland involved drops in Belfast, Dunmurry and then Newry.
Black trial day 7
THE man accused of murdering Jennifer accepts he was in the region the day she vanished and also drove along the road where her body was found, his trial heard.
London-based Robert Black revealed in taped police interviews that the day Jennifer Cardy disappeared he had been close to where her remains were discovered. But Black denied it was him who snatched the nine-year-old girl as she cycled to a friend's house in Ballinderry on August 12, 1981.
The van driver was quizzed by detectives from Northern Ireland about the crime 15 years later and then again in 2005. He was eventually charged with Jennifer's kidnap and murder in 2009.
With Black listening from the dock on the seventh day of his trial at Armagh Crown Court, the exchanges between him and detectives in the 1996 and 2005 interviews were heard by the jury.
In one recording played to a silent courtroom Black, who in 1981 worked for now-defunct London delivery firm Poster Dispatch and Storage, was asked if he was in Ireland on August 12.
The detectives presented him with apparent evidence, including his salary docket for that week noting a bonus payment, supposedly for the Ireland trip, and a fuel purchase receipt he signed the day after the crime in Coventry.
The prosecution claims the only journey he could have been doing when he stopped to fill up was from the docks in Liverpool on the way back to London having got the overnight ferry from Belfast.
A detective asked him did the evidence show he was in Northern Ireland.
"That seems the most likely explanation," he responded.
The officer asked him was it the "only" explanation.
Black replied: "I think the best I can give you is most likely, most probable — a high possibility."
The detective proceeded to detail the exact route police believed he took from London to Belfast and back and then pressed him for a more definitive answer.
"You would have been in Ireland from the morning of 12th August until that evening, do you accept that?"
Black replied: "Yes."
In the next police interview, which was read to the court by Crown
lawyer Donna McColgan and
detective Patrick McAnespie, Black accepted he also used that road on August 12, 1981.
"Do you accept you would have been on the Al road to Newry?" the interviewing officer had asked him. "Yes." he replied.
In the 2005 police interviews heard by the court, Black was not asked directly about Jennifer's abduction.
He was however quizzed about it during the 1996 exchanges read to court.
An interviewing officer asked Black: "I'm saying to you Robert, were you on that road (in Ballinderry) and did you lift Jennifer Cardy?"
"No," he replied.
The officer added: "I want you to think about it." Black responded: "I don't need to. It's something you would remember."
The Crown claim Black enjoyed driving off the motorways to explore the countryside when doing his deliveries. This is why he was in Ballinderry when Jennifer was taken, they contended.
In the police interviews Black also accepted he once used a lay-by on the AI close to where Jennifer's body was found.
The trial was adjourned until today (Friday).