‘My parents are an inspiration’

Undated handout image of Susan Maxwell , one of the victims of serial killer Robert Black
Undated handout image of Susan Maxwell , one of the victims of serial killer Robert Black

TOM Maxwell, who was just three years old when his 11-year-old sister, Susan, was abducted and murdered by child killer Robert Black 29 years ago, has described how his parents are “an inspiration” in everything he does.

Black, who abducted and murdered Susan as she walked home from Coldstream to Cornhill in 1982, was convicted of a fourth murder last week, found guilty by the jury at Armagh Crown Court of killing nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy in 1981. He was already facing life in prison for the abduction of a six-year-old girl from Stow, in the Borders, when he went on trial in 1994 for the murders of Susan, five-year-old Caroline Hogg from Edinburgh and 10-year-old Sarah Harper in the 1980s. After being found guilty of all charges, he faced 10 life sentences.

Now 32, Tom was only three years old when his sister Susie disappeared, hardly old enough to make sense of what was happening.

A qualified journalist, just like his parents, Tom wrote a very personal and poignant piece in the ‘Daily Record’ about the events that had such a huge impact on life in the Maxwell household.

In it, he wrote: “How my mum and dad could even begin to cope, I’ll never know. They are my inspiration in everything I do and words simply can’t express how I feel about them.”

Tom was 14 years old when Black stood trial for the kidnap and murder of Susie and it was then that he began to understand the full horror of what had happened, and while his parents were reliving the horror of Susie’s disappearance Tom was experiencing it for the first time.

“When I asked my mum what had enabled her to carry on, she said: ‘You and Jacqueline - I had two little children who needed me. I couldn’t leave you’.”

Tom admits to irrational feelings of guilt that he can’t remember Susie, but his three-year-old niece has helped get things into perspective.

“When I look at my three-year-old niece I realise how young I was when we lost her (Susie). If there is anything positive to come from this nightmare, it’s that the Maxwells are now closer than any other family I can remember.”

Black’s reign of terror finally came to an end in 1990 when he was seen abducting the little girl in Stow, and as he drove back through the village a short time later he was stopped and she was discovered in the back of his van. As a van driver Black, now 64, travelled throughout the country, across to Ireland and Europe, and detectives confirmed last week that they are investigating a number of unsolved child disappearances, both here and abroad. Detective superintendent Raymond Murray of the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: “I certainly think the story of Robert Black doesn’t end here today. There are lines of inquiry which we still have and we are still looking at.”

Speaking after the verdict by the Armagh jury, Susan Maxwell’s mother Liz said: “Our thoughts have been with Jennifer’s parents over these last few difficult weeks because we know exactly what they are going through.

“They have had to wait a very long time to see justice done and although it won’t change their lives, they will be relieved they have had some answers and know the cowardly monster who took their daughter’s life in such a cruel and vicious way will almost certainly die in prison. The Northern Ireland police deserve huge praise for their hard work and perseverance in getting the case to court and we are pleased they have been rewarded with a successful conviction. They have been very thoughtful in keeping us up to date with the Armagh case over the last three years.

“But the last few weeks have been difficult for us, particularly with so much detailed evidence that we have tried to blot out since that terrible summer of 1982.

“The dignified statement made by Mr and Mrs Cardy after the trial ended very much echoed our own feelings that we grieve every single day for our lovely little girls, but we have been determined not to let tragedy ruin our lives.”