Former Norfolk intelligence officer calls for fresh probe into serial killer’s links with April Fabb disappearance

April Fabb April Fabb

Monday, June 23, 2014
10:17 AM

A retired Norfolk police officer with an interest in murder cold cases has appealed for an investigation into the links between serial child-killer Robert Black and the disappearance of 13-year-old April Fabb from Metton, near Cromer, 45 years ago.

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Mystery of teenager’s disappearance

The disappearance of April Fabb is probably the most notorious unsolved crime in Norfolk.

April, one of three sisters, lived at 3 Council Houses, Metton, near Cromer, with her family.

She left home at about 1.40pm on April 8, 1969 with a packet of 10 cigarettes, 5½d and a handkerchief in the saddlebag of her bicycle.

She was heading for an older sister’s house in Roughton to give the cigarettes to her brother-in-law for his birthday.

Shortly after leaving home she met two friends at the “Donkey Field,” next to Harrison’s Farm on Cromer Road in Metton, and was with them for about 10 minutes.

Just after 2pm, an employee at Harrison’s Farm saw April riding her cycle along Roughton Road, Metton, in the direction of Roughton. This was the last known sighting of April.

At about 2.15pm Ordnance Survey workers in a van saw April’s bicycle lying in a field on the Metton to Roughton Road just a few hundred yards from where she was last seen.

A local man was driving his mother home at about 3pm when he saw April’s bike in the field. He took it to the Police House at Roughton where he handed it to the village PC. The cigarettes, money and handkerchief were still in the saddlebag.

A year ago former delivery driver Robert Black, 67, from Grangemouth in Scotland, lost an appeal against his conviction for nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy’s murder in Northern Ireland in 1981.

It emerged during the trial that he had already been convicted of killing three other girls, abducting a fourth, and attempting to snatch another.

In 1994 Black had received multiple life sentences for three murders from the 1980s – those of Susan Maxwell, 11, from the Scottish Borders, Caroline Hogg, five, from Edinburgh, and Sarah Harper, 10, from Morley, near Leeds.

April Fabb’s sisters survive her. One, Diane Fields, 65, said she would welcome the investigation being reopened.

“It’s like with Madeleine McCann – you grasp at anything,” she said. “I always thought they should look at Robert Black but so many people on the police side said he didn’t get a driving licence until 1976. Some young men drive without one though.”

April’s father Albert died in 1998. Her mother, Olive, died last year. Both never knew what happened to their daughter.

Chris Clark, a PC in the King’s Lynn division from 1966-1994, and a former intelligence officer, believes there are aspects of the schoolgirl’s 1969 disappearance which have not been investigated.

Mr Clark, 68, who now lives in County Durham, said the time was right to re-examine the case following this month’s announcement that Devon and Cornwall police had asked the Crown Prosecution Service to see whether Black could be charged in connection with the disappearance of Genette Tate, 13, from Aylesbeare, East Devon, in 1978.

Genette, like April, was riding a bicycle when she disappeared. Neither of their bodies has been found.

Black, 67, is serving life for the murder of four young girls, including Jennifer Cardy, nine, from County Antrim, in Northern Ireland, whom he abducted while she was cycling to meet a friend.

Chris Clark, a former Norfolk PC and intelligence officer, who investigates cold cases, including that of Metton teenager April Fabb. Picture: SUBMITTEDChris Clark, a former Norfolk PC and intelligence officer, who investigates cold cases, including that of Metton teenager April Fabb. Picture: SUBMITTED

According to Mr Clark, a new red Mini with reflective number plates was seen in the area on the day April disappeared. He said such number plates had not come into force for another four years and must have been limited trade plates used to deliver vehicles, but this line of inquiry had never been followed.

He also believes police should check Black’s driving history before he gained a driving licence in 1976. Evidence had emerged that he regularly drove vans from 1964.

And in 1968, said Mr Clark, Black was living and driving in Stoke Newington, within a short distance of three direct routes to East Anglia, including the A11 to Norwich.

“Unless we keep trying, this case will just go into the crime annals and there will be no closure for loved ones,” said Mr Clark.

April Fabb's bicyle was found in a field on the Metton to Roughton Road.April Fabb's bicyle was found in a field on the Metton to Roughton Road.

A spokesman for Norfolk police said Mr Clark’s information did “not take any of the inquiries forward.”

She added: “To date, we have not interviewed Black about the murder of April Fabb because we have had – and continue to have – no evidence to put to him.”

Are you involved in any Norfolk crime research? Contact alex.hurrell@archant.co.uk

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