Serial Killer Robert Black, AKA: Smelly Bob

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Robert Black was convicted in 1994 for the rapes and murders of four young girls in the United Kingdom. It is known he killed eight children across Europe and was suspected in 13 more.

Smelly Bobby Tulip

From: The Monstrous Book of Serial Killers

Black was a paedophile and killer who operated from 1969 to 1987. He was a truck driver who made regular work trips to mainland Europe where it is suspected he murdered dozens more.

He was also prime suspect in the infamous 1978 disappearance and murder of 13-year-old Genette Tate. She had vanished on her newspaper delivery round in Devon, on England’s Southern Coast.

Black was born in Grangemouth, Scotland, in 1947. Because his mother didn’t know who the father was, she had Black adopted and he was taken in by a couple who lived in Kinlochleven, in the Scottish Highlands.

He went through life with the surname of Tulip, which he took from his adopted parents. He was called ‘Smelly Bobby Tulip‘ by school friends due to his poor hygiene – and the name stuck.

When he was growing up, he was prone to outbursts of anger and aggression and was a bully at the schools he attended. From an early age, Black believed he should have been born a girl, and at five-years-old was caught comparing his genitalia with a girl of the same age.

From the age of eight-years-old, he would insert objects into his anus and carried on with the practice into his adulthood.

Abusing girls from a young age

Robert Black was knowing to wet the bed on regular occasions, one of the many pre-cursors to violence in later life. Every time he did so, he was beaten by his foster mother and couldn’t fight back, resulting in numerous and regular bruising on his body.

When he was 11-years-old, both his foster parents died from apparent natural causes, and he was adopted by another couple in the small village. There, he dragged a younger girl into a public toilet and attempted to rape her. His new foster parents had him removed from their care to a mixed-sex children’s care home near Falkirk on the central belt of Scotland.

He abused girls there and was sent to a stricter care home for boys only. It was there that he was abused by a male carer for up to three years and would regularly be forced to perform oral sex on him.

In 1963, when he was 16-years-old, he left the care home and became a delivery boy for a local butcher. He stated that when he delivered to houses with young girls who were alone, he would sexually assault them. He claimed to have touched or attacked at least 30 young girls on his deliveries.

In 1963, he lured a seven-year-old girl to an abandoned air-raid shelter then throttled her until she passed out, before masturbating over her body. Black was only 16-years-old at the time. He was arrested but a psychiatrist’s report claimed it was only a one-off and he was let go without punishment.

First confirmed victim

In 1968, Robert Black moved to London after being released from a borstal on another offence of child abuse. He moved to a bedsit near King’s Cross Station where young children were in plentiful supply. He had multiple jobs, including a life-guard position that he was fired from for sexually touching a young girl – which comes as no surprise in hindsight.

He started collecting child pornography through a contact at an illegal book shop in King’s Cross. He later managed to get hold of VHS tapes depicting child abuse. He also covertly took photos of children at swimming pools and in shops and kept the images in locked suitcases, due to the amount of material he had amassed.

He then moved into the attic of a Scottish couple in the area and got himself a long-distance driving job. In his truck he kept various disguises including different types of glasses. He also alternated between having a long beard and no beard at all.

His first confirmed murder victim was in August of 1981, when he abducted nine-year-old Jennifer Cardy in Northern Ireland, while on a long-haul journey. She had been riding her bike near to a main road when she vanished. Hundreds of volunteers joined the search for the girl and her body was found in a large lake, six days later by two fishermen. Black had raped and drowned the girl.

Even then, the police had suspected the killer might have been a truck driver due to the location of the lake to the trunk road. Even though it would have been someone who was familiar with the roads around it, no connection was made to Black.

“…her decomposed body was found by a lorry driver in a shallow grave at the side of the road. She had been tied up and gagged, with her underwear carefully positioned under her head.”

His second confirmed murder victim was 11-year-old Susan Claire Maxwell, from Cornhill-on-Tweed, close to the Scottish border. Maxwell had been playing sports with friends before she walked home alone, before being kidnapped by Black.

300 officers and hundreds more volunteers were involved in the search and an investigation was made of every property in the area, along with a huge amount of open land.

A month later, in August of the same year, her decomposed body was found by a lorry driver in a shallow grave at the side of the road. She had been tied up and gagged, with her underwear carefully positioned under her head. Another three confirmed victims turned up from 1983 to 1987. There were also multiple disappearances and murders that were linked to Black.

In the United Kingdom alone, six more disappearances and murders were attributed to him.

8th April 1969 – 13-year-old April Fabb vanished while riding her bike in Norfolk. Her body was never found.

21st May 1973 – nine-year-old schoolgirl Christine Markham was last seen walking to school in Scunthorpe. Her body has never been found.

19th August 1978 – 13-year-old schoolgirl Genette Tate disappeared while delivering newspapers in the Devon town of Aylesbeare in England. Her body has never been found and the cause of her disappearance remains unsolved. It is one of Britain’s most infamous and longest-running missing person inquiries. It has recently been reopened as a murder investigation by Devon and Cornwall Police.

28th July 1979 – 14-year-old Suzanne Lawrence vanished while walking from her house. Her body was never found but the location of her disappearance matched up with Blacks’ route that day.

16th June 1980 – 14-year-old Patricia Morris vanished at the edge of her school. Her body was discovered two days later in Hounslow Heath near Heathrow. She had been strangled to death.

4th November 1981 – 16-year-old Pamela Hastie was found bludgeoned and strangled to death in Renfrewshire. An eyewitness put Black at the location at the time of the murder.

Links to murders across Europe

There were also disappearances and murders across Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany. All of the victims vanished or were killed at the same time as Black would have been in the areas on his long-haul European journeys.

In France, in 1987, a spate of child murders and disappearances have since been attributed to Black. Read more about them in the bestselling serial killer enyclopedia.

5th May 1987 – 10-year-old Virginie Delmas was abducted by Black. Her body was discovered months later in an orchard near Paris, in October of the same year. She had been strangled, and due to the decomposition of the body, it was unclear whether she had been sexually abused beforehand.

30th May 1987 – 10-year-old Hemma Greedharry was raped and strangled to death. Her body was found beside a road in a Paris suburb. Robert Black knew the road and area well, having made various deliveries there in the years prior to Greedharry’s death.

3rd June 1987 – seven-year-old Perrine Vigneron vanished on her way to buy a Mother’s Day card in the Bouleurs area of France. Her decomposing body was found over three weeks later. She had been raped and strangled to death in a similar fashion to the previous victim. A vehicle matching Black’s truck was seen in the area around the time of the disappearance.

27th June 1987 – on the same day that the body of Perrine Vigneron was discovered, nine-year-old schoolgirl Sabine Dumont disappeared in Bièvres. On the following day, her body was discovered in the small area of Vauhallan. She had been raped and strangled.

In 2001, Black was named as a prime suspect in her murder.

Captured when a man cutting grass witnessed an abduction

The nationwide manhunt for Robert Black was one of the most expensive and most resource-heavy UK murder investigations of the 20th century. But he was caught when a member of the public witnessed one of his abductions.

On July 14th 1990, 53-year-old retiree David Herkes was cutting his grass when he saw a blue van slow down on the other side of the road. Herkes started to clean the blades of his lawnmower and happened to look up to see the feet of a small girl lifting from the pavement and into the van. He watched as Black pushed the girl into the passenger seat before quickly getting in and driving away.

Already, Herkes believed he had witnessed an abduction and wrote down the registration number. He realised it might have been the six-year-old daughter of his neighbour and ran to her house where they called the police immediately. Within minutes the area was covered in police vehicles.

A short while passed and Herkes continued to describe what had happened to officers. Suddenly, Black had decided to drive back through the town on his way northwards and Herkes recognised the van instantly. He shouted to officers who jumped in front of the van and pulled Black from his seat.

The father of the missing girl charged into the van and found his daughter tied up in a sleeping bag. She had already been sexually abused but had survived and would go on to make a full recovery. It was the last child that Black would ever touch.

Prime suspect in most of his suspected victims

He was arrested and charged. In 1994 he was convicted of the rape and murder of three girls, along with kidnapping and sexual assault. He received a sentence of life imprisonment with a minimum of 35 years. The case caused outrage in the United Kingdom and saw protests calling for the death penalty to be reinstated in the country.

Up until his death, he was charged with another murder from 1981 and was about to be charged with more when he died of a heart attack in January 2016. He was already a prime suspect in most of his suspected victims.

Robert Black remains one of the worst serial killers to walk the streets of the United Kingdom and Europe.

READ NEXT: More Facts About David Berkowitz, AKA: the Son of Sam

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