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Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Violent past of Babes' killer
Wakefield Prison: Jebson is unlikely to leave custody
Thirty years after the "Babes in the Wood" murders of two young playmates, their grief-stricken mothers saw a paedophile killer finally confess his guilt to a court.

Ronald Jebson, 61, also known as Harper, had kept his evil secret for decades while serving a life sentence for murdering another child - eight-year-old Rosemary Papper - four years after the deaths of Susan Blatchford, 11, and Gary Hanlon, 12, in March 1970.

But while in jail, he told a prison officer he knew who was responsible for their deaths and police subsequently reopened the case in 1996.

Jebson: hid the girl's body under bundles of straw
Jebson tried to implicate Rosemary's parents in the unsolved crime and Susan's body was exhumed in order to carry out scientific tests.

But after four years of painstaking police investigation, detectives broke down Jebson's story and he confessed.

During the trial families of the victims heard how Susan and Gary were last seen playing happily playing near their Enfield homes.

Jebson had been driving in the area and enticed the children into his car.

After plying them with drink and cannabis in Epping Forest, near London, Jebson sexually assaulted Susan and then turned his attentions to Gary.

When the boy bravely tried to fight him off, Jebson strangled both children and dumped their bodies in a hide he had built in the woods.

Jebson kept the evil secret to himself for three decades.

Previous offences

Jebson, discharged from the army in 1958 on medical grounds, was separated from his wife and had a 15-year-old daughter.

He was an illegitimate child who had been brought up by foster parents.

By 1974 he was a known paedophile with 11 previous convictions, including three for sexual offences against children.

Mr Justice Kenneth Jones, sentencing Jebson at St Albans Crown Court in 1974, recommended he serve at least 20 years for the murder of Rosemary Papper.

The mind recoils from the horror and enmity of the offences committed

Mr Justice Kenneth Jones, 1974

Jebson had been staying with Rosemary's parents but when they told him he was no longer welcome, the child killer swore revenge.

Neighbours recall the phrase: "I will do something you will regret."

On 9 June 1974 he strangled Rosemary as he raped her, in a carbon copy of Susan's killing.

"You took this small child aged eight and you committed these sexual offences on her and as you could not afford to take her home you took her life," Mr Jones said.

"The mind recoils from the horror and enmity of the offences you committed.

"This was a vicious, ruthless, sexual murder for which I can find nothing to be said in mitigation.

"I regard you as an extremely dangerous man indeed."

Confession ends mystery

Jebson's guilty plea on Tuesday brings to a close the years of anguish endured by the families of Susan and Gary.

Jebson's cruel past
1968: Jailed for two years for indecently assaulting a girl aged six.
1970: Murders Susan, 11, and Gary, 12
1970: Jailed for three years for sexually assaulting a boy aged 11
1973: Released from prison and lives with Rosemary Papper's family
1974: Murders Rosemary, eight
1974: Jailed for life
1996: Tells police he knows Babes' killers
1998: Confesses to murders

Gary Hanlon's sister, Sharon Meger, said when the "Babes in the Wood " inquiry was reopened that her mother had never been able to get over the deaths.

"We never believed that accident story."

Gary had been a cheerful, home-loving boy and had asked permission from his mother before going out.

He was told not to go far as a meal was being prepared.

Susan looked older and was taller. She was described as a tomboy who loved horses and climbing trees.

Her dog Blackie constantly clawed at the floor after she disappeared - leading her mother, Muriel, to comment before her daughter's body was discovered: "Blackie knows something."

Norman Brennan, of the Victims of Crime Trust, supported the families' plea for Jebson to remain in prison for the rest of his life.

"The torment and torture that the families of these victims have gone through for 30 years is beyond words.

"Jebson should never be allowed the opportunity of freedom again."

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