THE murders of Susan Maxwell, Caroline Hogg, and Sarah Harper showed

striking similarities, the jury in the Robert Black case was told


All three were abducted and their bodies were found dumped long

distances from their homes.

The prosecution also asserted that their murders had striking

similarities to a later kidnapping at a Scottish Borders village --

which Mr Black, 46, had admitted.

Mrs Jackie Harper, Sarah's mother, left the court in tears as the

details unfolded.

Mr Black, stocky, blunt-faced, and almost bald, heard Crown counsel

John Milford, QC, claim in his opening address to the jury in Moot Hall,

Newcastle, that all the murders been carried out by him.

Sitting about four feet from Mr Milford, Mr Black, lightly bearded and

wearing a grey suit, often looked at his accuser but remained impassive.

Earlier in a strong, slightly Scottish, accent he had pled not guilty

to 10 charges -- kidnapping, murdering, and preventing burial of Susan

Maxwell in 1982, Caroline Hogg in 1983, and Sarah Jayne Harper in 1986,

and kidnapping Teresa Ann Thornhill in Nottingham in 1988.

Mr Milford told the jury in the packed courtroom that the victims,

obviously taken for sexual gratification, had ''vanished into thin air''

as Mr Black snatched them while making deliveries between London and


The trial, before Mr Justice Macpherson and a jury of six men and six

women, is expected to last three months.

In the Crown's opening statement Mr Milford outlined the disappearance

of Susan, 11, in July, 1982, as she walked back to her home in Cornhill

on Tweed after playing tennis with a friend at Coldstream on the

Scottish side of the river. It was the first time she had been allowed

to walk home alone, he said. It had been a lovely summer day.

Mr Milford said: ''Down the road she walked, across the bridge which

is the Border. She was dressed in a yellow terry towelling shirt and

shorts, white ankle socks, and tennis shoes.

''She was carrying her tennis racket which she swung as she walked, a

tennis ball, and a children's flask which had contained orange juice.

Across the bridge she walked not many yards into England and then she

disappeared as if into thin air.''

Susan was a bright, friendly, and cautious child who was a Girl Guide,

was in the school tennis team and who had a dog called Peanuts.

Thirteen days later, Mr Milford continued, her decomposing remains had

been found 140 miles away on the A518 Stafford to Uttoxeter Road in


Many of the jury might be familiar with the names of the dead

children, he said, and for a child to be taken away and murdered was

every parent's nightmare.

''It is perhaps too easy to dwell on the suffering that there must

have been for the children themselves and of those who loved them. But

our respective jobs demand that we put to one side these emotions that

are generated by a case such as this and consider only and without

passion the central issue -- is it proved by the evidence that it was

this defendant, Robert Black, who abducted these little girls and killed

them and abducted the little girl called Teresa Ann Thornhill in

Nottingham?'' he said.

Turning to the Caroline Hogg case, Mr Milford said it had again been a

hot day almost exactly a year later and it was again at the end of the


Caroline, five, had disappeared beteen seven and eight while she was

out to play near her home in Portobello.

Her remains were found 12 days later at a lay-by in the A444 near

Tycross, Leicestershire, 368 miles from Portobello and 24 miles from the

lay-by where Susan had been found the year before.

Sarah Jayne Harper was 10 years of age. She disappeared just after 8pm

on March 26, 1986, as she walked home from a corner shop near her home

at Morley, Leeds.

Her body was found in the river Trent in Nottinghamshire and, said Mr

Milford, they would submit to the jury that her body had been put in the

river system near to junction 24 on the M1 motorway.

The bodies of the first two children had been too badly decomposed to

establish cause of death but the third child had been drowned. She had

head and neck injuries consistent with forcible abduction and these

suggested she had been unconcious when she was put into the water.

There were a number of common factors, he said. Each victim was a

pre-pubescent female child, each victim was abducted from a public

place, and in each case a vehicle must have been nearby to carry the

child away and conceal her because in each case there had been prompt


Each victim was abducted for sexual gratification. Each had had her

shoes removed and none of the shoes had been found. Each victim had been

taken south a considerable distance.

None of the victims had suffered any gross injuries such as broken

bones. No serious attempts had been made to conceal the bodies by

burial. Each of the young girls had at the time of abduction had bare

legs, save for white socks.

The events were in themselves unusual, Mr Milford said. Another

unusual factor was the long distances the children had been transported

after abduction. All had been transported from north to south and all

had been taken to the Midlands.

''The resting places of their bodies form the points of a triangle,''

he said.

''It has become known to those investigating this case as the Midlands

Triangle. One of the villages in that triangle is Donnisthorpe. You may

never have heard of it but we shall be returning to it because it is of

particular significance in this case.''

Mr Milford went on to say that July and heat were also important

themes in the case. In the Maxwell and Hogg cases children had been

bathing close by the point of abduction.

In the Maxwell and Harper cases a Transit-type van was seen. The three

events were so unusual, the points of similarity so enormous that it was

submitted that the jury could safely conclude that they were the work of

one person.

The cases, he said, had been subjected to enormous investigations and

eventually, after years had passed, Robert Black had emerged as a


Mr Milford then outlined in detail the kidnapping of a child in a

Scottish Borders village three years ago.

Again, said Mr Milford, it was in July when the child was snatched and

Mr Black had once again been heading south when ''by good fortune he had

actually been spotted by someone actually snatching the child and his

van was stopped and he was arrested''.

Mr Black had been born and brought up in Scotland but had moved to

London about 1969. He was a van driver for a poster despatch company,

PDS, and it was his job to deliver posters in England and Scotland.

The jury heard that Mr Black frequently slept overnight in his van in

lay-bys. He lived in London with a family called Rayson -- whose son,

whom Mr Black visited regularly, lived at Donnisthorpe in the Midlands.

''At last good fortune smiled upon the detectives,'' said Mr Milford.

They had been able to plot where Mr Black had been on the days when

the children had gone missing by tracing where Mr Black had bought fuel

with his firm's BP credit card.

''The records going back to 1982 in some instances were still in

existence and so the detectives were able to see where on certain days,

as he went about on deliveries, he had refuelled his vehicle. More than

that, they were able to fill in the gaps by going to various companies

and they were able to say where it was he has delivering posters so that

a picture could be built up of him setting out from London and coming


''Where was he on July 30, 1982 when Susan Maxwell went missing in

Coldstream? I will tell you. He was refuelling a van in Stamington, just

south of the Border, while on his way to Edinburgh and had he taken the

most direct route from there to Edinburgh, the A697, it would have taken

him through Coldstream and past the very place from where the child


''And where was he on July 8 the following year when Caroline Hogg

went missing in Portobello? He was delivering posters that day at

Portobello. On both of these days he was delivering on what was known to

his employers as the Scottish run and to return to his base in London he

would have to pass through the Midlands.

''Where was he on March 26, 1968, when Sarah Harper went missing in

Morley? He was delivering posters about 150 yards away.''

Mr Milford outlined in great detail the kidnapping in the Scottish

Borders village and drew similarities between that and the other three


He is expected to conclude the Crown's opening statement today when

the jury will be addressed by Mr Ronald Thwaites, QC for the defence,

before evidence starts.

The charges

THE full list of charges to which Robert Black has pled not guilty is

as follows:

1, That on July 30, 1982, at Cornhill on Tweed in the county of

Northumberland he did unlawfully and by force or fraud kidnap Suzanne

Claire Maxwell against her will.

2, Between July 29, 1982 and August 13, 1982, at or near Loxley,

Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, or elsewhere in England and Wales, did murder

Suzanne Claire Maxwell.

3, Between July 29, 1982, and August 13, 1982, at or near Loxley,

Uttoxeter, without lawful excuse prevented the proper burial of a dead

body, namely that of Suzanne Claire Maxwell.

4, Between July 7 and 19, 1983, at various places in England and

Wales, did unlawfully and injuriously falsely imprison Caroline Hogg and

detain her against her will.

5, Between July 7 and 19, 1983, at or near Twycross, Leicestershire,

or elsewhere in England and Wales, did murder Caroline Hogg.

6, Between July 7 and 19, 1983, at or near Twycross, Leicestershire,

without lawful excuse did prevent the proper burial of a dead body,

namely that of Caroline Hogg.

7, On March 26, 1986, at Morley, West Yorkshire, unlawfully and by

force or by fraud did take or carry away Sarah Jayne Harper against her


8, Between March 25, 1986, and April 20, 1986, at or near Ratcliffe

on Soar, Nottinghamshire, or elsewhere in England and Wales, did murder

Sarah Jayne Harper.

9, Between March 28, 1986, and April 20, 1986, at or near Ratcliffe on

Soar, Nottinghamshire, or elsewhere without lawful excuse, did prevent

the proper burial of a dead body namely that of Sarah Jayne Harper.

10, On April 24, 1988, at Radford, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, did

kidnap Teresa Ann Thornhill against her will.