THE jury at Newcastle Crown Court will today consider verdicts in the

Robert Black case. The mothers of the three girls he is alleged to have

murdered met in court yesterday for the first time.

The mother of Susan Maxwell, Mrs Elizabeth Maxwell, and Susan's

stepfather, Mr Fordyce Maxwell, sat in the public gallery.

Beside Mrs Maxwell was Mrs Annette Hogg, mother of Caroline, and

farther along the gallery sat Mrs Jacki Harper, mother of Sarah.

All three families had police around them as they listened to the

summing up of Mr Justice Macpherson, who has heard the case for the past

five weeks.

Mr Black, a 47-year-old Scots delivery van driver living in London,

has denied kidnapping and murdering the three girls. He also denies a

charge of kidnapping Teresa Thornhill, of Nottingham. The Judge will

conclude his summing up this morning.

Mr Justice Macpherson told the members of the jury that the fact that

Mr Black was serving a life sentence in Scotland must not influence


Mr Black seemed to have been a loner. He tended to be scruffy and

rather dirty, and sometimes even rather smelly.

Evidence at the trial had shown Mr Black had an interest in young

girls and in pornography.

The Crown suggested that the case was about the hallmarks of a man

whose unnatural interest was very much in young girls and it was an

interest that was not confined simply to looking.

Mr Black had admitted a kidnapping in a Borders village and that, the

Crown said, proved the kind of man he


However, the Judge added, the jury must not convict

him of murder because of his

habits or obsession with such


After reviewing the evidence of what happened at the Borders

kidnapping, the Judge said that the Crown's submission was that the

dramatic and extraordinary events had established a signature which was

found in different degrees in the cases which preceded


The Judge pointed out in each of the abductions and murders, petrol

receipt and poster delivery receipt evidence established that Mr Black

had been available at the right place at the right time in each.

He said earlier: ''Put in its simplest form, the Crown case is that

there are underlying similarities between these cases which you are

entitled and bound to look at, which, together with supporting evidence

as to Robert Black's presence, or at least his availability at all the

relevant locations, drive you inevitably to say that it would be an

affront to common sense to conclude that anyone other than this man

could have committed these crimes.''

The Borders kidnapping had provided, according to the Crown, the link

which formed eventually the chain in the case and ''the specimen

signature which illuminated the whole line of awful crimes''.

In an aside on the concluding speech by Mr Black's counsel, Mr Ronald

Thwaites, QC, Mr Justice Macpherson said he had not observed any dirty

tricks allegedly employed by the Crown.

Cautioning the jury ''not to give a dog a bad name and then hang

him'', the Judge said that they must not say to themselves that because

Robert Black was a bad man and a filthy man -- as his own counsel had

put before them -- and had admitted the Borders village kidnapping, that

he was guilty of the others.

While it might have been prejudicial to a man to allow the evidence of

criminal behaviour in one case to prove another, it might be fundamental

to justice to look at the striking similarities between the various


The signature and hallmark on each and every one of the cases might,

the Crown contended, force the jury to the conclusion that Mr Black had

committed all these crimes.

The defence had attacked the Crown case in vigorous terms, suggesting

three potentially different murderers.

Mr Thwaites had suggested that there was no case unless they were

prepared to convict Mr Black ''on thin air''. That, said the Judge, was

for the jury to consider, and he wondered whether such sweeping

statements were helpful to them.

''The question is whether you are sure that the interlinking and

similarities of these five cases drives you to the conclusion that this

man, Robert Black, is guilty in the four sets of cases which are before

you,'' the Judge con