Back in 1983 Linda Mann was murdered by Colin Pitchfork and three years later, less than a mile from where she died, Dawn Ashworth was also killed – both were 15. Colin was the first murderer to be convicted using DNA evidence, but he nearly escaped conviction as he paid someone off to provide a DNA sample for him.
Colin pleaded guilty and was given a life sentence in January 1998. 33 years later, despite campaigns against, he has now been released.
Linda Mann’s sister Sue Gratrick was live in the Good Morning Britain studio today, but didn’t want her face shown. Speaking of the ordeal to hosts Susanna Reid and Ben Shephard, Sue began: “It seems like a long time ago, but now it’s just all been brought back to the fore. Now he’s walking around, it’s even worse. It’s just horrible, it’s like a dream.”
On when Colin was sentenced if she and her family believed one day he would be released from prison, Sue answered: “No. When he was sentenced it was more or less implied that he would be there at Her Majesty’s pleasure, the police said he wouldn’t be released, he would be there for life…
“That he’d be there forever, he wouldn’t walk out again. He didn’t stand a chance, he was a double killer, he was a rapist, a sexual predator so there’s no way they could just let him back out again to do it again. But now they have.”
And on how it felt for her and her family when the parole hearing was coming up, Sue explained: “That’s been going on for years, we’ve been fighting it for years. My kid sister, she’s done a lot, she’s fought it. We did a petition, that went to Downing Street, but this time round we lost, even though the Justice Secretary wanted it to be reconsidered, but we lost this time round and now he’s out.
“He now has more rights than we do. We don’t know where he is…”
Since being released Colin is now subjected to 36 strict monitoring restrictions within the community. On if that provides her with any comfort, Sue suggested: “No. He was clever enough to fool his wife when he killed, he hid that well enough. He’s been clever enough to convince the parole board he’s not a threat anymore, so no. The restrictions that have been put on him, and we only know some of them, are not going to make a difference, I don’t think. He’s too clever, he’ll do something.
“He can’t not be the person he was when he went inside. He’s still a killer, he still did that. He’s still a rapist. He can’t change his sexual motivation, that’s who he is. He’s just evil.”
Sue continued: “There’s no way he’s changed. How can they know he’s not a threat when he’s been in prison away from women, girls?”
Speaking of her 15-year-old sister Linda and the night before she died, Sue described: “My kid sister was two and a bit, and it was my turn to babysit. She was going to stay in, but then we had a slight row and she went out. And she just didn’t come back, so the last thing we really did was argue. Kids do argue, don’t they? She was 15, I was 17. You don’t expect it to be a final thing, but it was…
“There’s all the what ifs that play like a film in my head all the time when I think about it.”
On how she and her family have got through the last 33 years, Sue admitted: “You just carry on, but she’s always there – what would she be doing now? She’d be over 50, same as me now. It’s so final – she went out that door and that was that. It’s horrible.”
Commenting on the police investigation at the time of Linda’s murder, Sue said: “There was no privacy, everything went. Yes, it was quite intrusive. You couldn’t do anything… Even if you went down to the corner shop somebody would see you and say something… They knew everything and when you’re 16,17 it’s embarrassing to say the least.
“When Dawn died that was horrible… he said he hadn’t killed Dawn, but he refused to confess to killing Linda. It was only DNA that proved he had done it.”
Sue added: “Just because he did it a long time ago and there wasn’t the press… The internet has made a huge difference on cases with child killings in it, it’s out there more, people see it more. A lot of people didn’t know who he was, because the investigation was in Leicestershire. It wasn’t like it is now, where it goes all over the country because it’s on the internet. It was very localised, all small villages. Completely different. If he did it now, there’s no way they’d let him out.”
On wondering if she’ll come across Colin now he’s been released: “Oh yeah, we’re all wondering that, me and my sister definitely. He can’t go into Leicestershire, that’s part of his license and that’s where my mum is. Me and my sister have both left Leicestershire. I live in a small seaside town and there is a possibility that when he was a kiddie he used to go there on holiday and he might want to go back and revisit that.
“I’m not scared of him, but to think I could be walking down the street and see him come towards me, that’s horrendous. That’s scary. I don’t know how I’m going to cope now he is out. I’ve not had a chance to think yet about what it will be like, especially when I’m out on my own that he might be there because he could be.”
Sue stated: “I know exactly what I’d like to say to him, but I can’t say that on here. I would like to know his reasoning, because he had raped before. Why did he decide when he got hold of Linda that he didn’t want to let her go? He had changed then…”
On how she would like her sister to be remembered: “She was my kid sister, she was a pain in the butt! We’d been together for 15 years. She was nice, she was brighter than me. She would’ve done something with her life, I would’ve thought. She liked languages… better behaved than I was, I was the troublesome one… Whether she’d have children or not, I don’t know? I think she would’ve had a proper career and not just a job.”
And on what input Sue has been able to give in Colin’s release process, she concluded: “[My feelings] have been taken into account but they’ve not been listened to properly, I don’t think, otherwise they wouldn’t have let him out. He’s a social psychopath and they’ve let him out. They don’t know what he’s going to do. They can’t do. For the parole board to be proved wrong for letting him go, he’s got to do it again which means another family goes through what we’ve been through and what Dawn’s family has been through, and that’s a horrendous thought.”
The Ministry of Justice said: “Our heartfelt sympathies remain with the families of Linda Man 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 licensing restrictions 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.”
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Related: Colin Pitchfork, double child killer, walks free from jail