Double child killer Colin Pitchfork recalled to prison two months after release

ITV News Correspondent Martha Fairlie explains what we know so far

Double child killer Colin Pitchfork has been arrested and recalled to prison, the Ministry of Justice said, after he was released just two months ago.

It is understood Pitchfork was returned to custody on Friday over a breach of his licence conditions, and his re-release will be a matter for the Parole Board.

Pitchfork, now in his early 60s, was initially jailed for life after raping and strangling 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in Leicestershire in 1983 and 1986.

His 30-year minimum term was cut by two years in 2009, he was moved to open prison HMP Leyhill in Gloucestershire three years ago, and then released in September.

It is understood that Pitchfork was not recalled for committing any further offences but because probation staff identified “concerning behaviours” and the step was taken as a preventative measure.

A Probation Service spokesperson said: “Protecting the public is our number one priority so when offenders breach the conditions of their release and potentially pose an increased risk, we don’t hesitate to return them to custody.”

Lynda Mann (left) and Dawn Ashworth were raped and murdered by Colin Pitchfork.

The decision to release Pitchfork prompted a public outcry amid attempts to keep him behind bars. When those failed, he was subjected to more than 40 licence conditions, which the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) described as some of the strictest “ever set”. Following a hearing in March, the Parole Board ruled that Pitchfork was “suitable for release”, despite this being denied in 2016 and 2018. In June, the then Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland, asked the board, which is independent of the government, to re-examine the decision under the so-called reconsideration mechanism. But the Parole Board rejected the government challenge against its ruling the following month, announcing that the application to reconsider the decision had been refused.

Mr Buckland expressed his disappointment but said he respected the decision. Typically there are seven standard conditions for offenders leaving prison but Pitchfork had to meet a further 36 requirements. He is on the sex offenders’ register and had to live at a designated address, be supervised by probation, wear an electronic tag, take part in polygraph – lie detector – tests, and disclose what vehicles he uses and who he spoke to, while also facing particular limits on contact with children. He was subject to a curfew, had restrictions on using technology, and faced limitations on where he could go. The government plans to overhaul the parole system, with the findings of a review expected later this year. It has also sought to change the law so child killers face life behind bars without parole.