Former detective who led 'Britain's biggest manhunt' into serial killer Robert Black has died

A former detective who led 'Britain's biggest manhunt' into paedophile serial killer Robert Black has died.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 2:34 pm
Hector Clark, 86, led an investigation believed to have been one of the most costly of the 20th Century, which involved six police forces.

Hector Clark, 86, led an investigation believed to have been one of the most costly of the 20th Century, which involved six police forces.

Prolific serial killer Black raped and murdered schoolgirls in the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1981 until he was caught in 1990.

The Scottish delivery driver was convicted of four schoolgirl murders but is believed to have been responsible for more, and died in 2016 while serving 13 life sentences.

Prolific serial killer Black raped and murdered schoolgirls in the north of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 1981 until he was caught in 1990.

Mr Clark was remembered by colleagues as determined to get to grips with computers to avoid failings which occurred in the Yorkshire Ripper investigation, and who worked collaboratively with other police forces.

He died in a nursing home in Whitley Bay, Northumberland, where he had over seen around 70 murder investigations as Northumbria Police Assistant Chief Constable.

Mr Clark then became Deputy Chief Constable of Lothian and Borders in 1984, where he managed an investigation with a hub set up in Wakefield in 1986.

Black was caught in 1990 when he tried to abduct a six-year-old girl in Stow, Scottish Borders and although there was no direct evidence Mr Clark believed he was the killer.

Hector Clark, 86, led an investigation believed to have been one of the most costly of the 20th Century, which involved six police forces.

His first victim was Jennifer Cardy, aged nine, who was abducted, sexually abused and killed in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, in 1981 and her body found in a reservoir.

Susan Maxwell, 11, who was abducted, raped and murdered in 1982 as she went to play tennis with a friend in Northumberland.

He went on to kill Caroline Hogg, five, from Portobello, Edinburgh, in 1983, who was found 500km away in the Midlands, close to where Susan Maxwell's body had been found.

Sarah Harper, aged ten, from Morley. was killed in 1986 with her body found in the River Trent, Nottingham.

The crimes were described as 'every parents' nightmare' during the 1994 trial into the three murders which took place in England and Scotland, and convicted again in 2011 in County Armagh, Northern Ireland for the first killing.

Black died in prison in 2016 aged 68, while serving 13 life sentences.

Former detective Mr Clark was described as 'made to be a detective' and 'special' by a colleague who worked under him during the investigation.

Paying tribute to Mr Clark, former top cop Tom Wood said: “Hector was incredibly persuasive and got partner police forces to contribute and come together.

“He had great leadership and took a personal approach.

"He never wrote a letter or made a phone call where he could meet a person face to face.

"He was very good at delegating and had confidence in people.

“Hector did an excellent job of managing that case through its dark times.

"There were long periods of time where there was no progress, and there was tremendous pressure.

“He was incredibly sharp witted.

"He was very good at observing, he was shrewd and was a good communicator and was made to be a detective.

"He was a natural.”

Mr Wood said: “What Hector Clark and his team did, painstakingly, was build a circumstantial case which proved compelling in court, but the complexity of that period is difficult to overstate as it’s very difficult to convict.

“It was like an enormous jigsaw puzzle but carefully picked through and assembled.

"When you think about a case like this it’s like a fine weave net of strands but together they paint this picture of this man’s movements.

"They put together an enormously complex circumstantial case.

“It really did take someone special to coordinate it all.”