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Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Man admits 'Babes in wood' killings
Susan Blatchford and Gary Hanlon
The two children in a police photograph from 1970
A convicted child killer has been jailed for life for the "Babes in the wood" murders of two children.

The parents of Susan Blatchford, 11, and Gary Hanlon, 12, have waited for three decades to find out how or why their children died.

You are a truly wicked and perverted man

Judge David Stokes
Their badly decomposed bodies were discovered in Epping Forest after they went missing from their homes in Enfield, north London, in March 1970.

Paedophile Ronald Jebson, 61, currently serving a life sentence for killing eight-year-old Rosemary Papper in 1974, admitted the killings at the Old Bailey, but only after giving the police a string of false suspects.

Jebson: Convicted killer
Jebson: Convicted killer

The mothers of the dead children, as well Detective Chief Superintendent Leonard "Nipper" Read who was involved in the murder inquiry, were in court to hear Jebson respond "guilty" in a clear voice.

Judge David Stokes told him: "Thirty years ago you abducted, sexually assaulted and brutally murdered two young children.

"What they went through before they died does not bear thinking about."

Mr Read said outside court: "I always knew the children had been murdered but I had almost given up hope that the case would be solved. Jebson is a very very sad man."

Open Verdict

On the day they disappeared Susan had called at Gary's home in Enfield and asked him to go for a walk.

When they failed to return 600 police officers searched the area. They interviewed 15,000 people and searched 4,356 homes.

Officers with dogs combed vast tracts of country while frogmen investigated the River Lee, the King George V reservoir and flooded gravel pits.

There was speculation that the pair had run away together, but their bodies were found 11 weeks later in a copse on Lippitts Hill on the fringe of Epping Forest, six miles from their homes.

Susan's underclothes were missing, but the coroner, Dr Charles Clarke, suggested they might have been removed by foxes.

Poster appeal for missing children in April 1970

Their bodies were so badly decomposed the coroner recorded an open verdict because scientific tests at the time could not tell if the pair had died from exposure or foul play.

But their parents have remained convinced the children were murdered.

Susan's mother, Muriel Blatchford, said at the time: "The only animal that could remove Susan's bra, pants, and tights is a human animal."

The case was reopened four years ago and last year Susan's body was exhumed for further tests to be carried out. Gary's body had been cremated.

Attention focused on Jebson, formerly known as Ronald Harper, after he gave police a list of suspects for the murders.

When detectives discovered none of the people named could have been involved, Jebson eventually confessed to the killings.

Why he decided to end years of silence is unclear but he is unlikely to leave prison for the rest of his natural life.

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