21 September 2017

No Bitterness!

For those over the age of 40 and who were living in Northern Ireland in the early 80’s, the name of Jennifer Cardy will seem very familiar. At first, you may not remember why. Then the memories of a black and white photo of a lovely smiling little girl will return, and suddenly your mind will go back to the unbelievable horror of a child lost, seemingly without trace, on a country road near Lisburn in broad daylight. It shook the nation at the time and has only recently been brought to a conclusion with the trial of her killer late last year. Here in a moving testimony Jennifer’s father, Andy, gives us his very personal account of events.

Andy Cardy was born in 1949, the son of an English father and local mother. After the war his parents set up home in Lisburn and his dad got a job driving a bus. In the bus depot there were a lot of Christians, and they invited him to a meeting in the Christian Worker’s Union Hall, where he got saved.

Andy was subsequently brought up in the Brethren Assemblies. His father faithfully prayed for him and took him to church every week, but by the age of 16 he chose to go his own way. He served his time as a joiner and married Pat, whom he had met one morning going to school when he was only 12 and she was 13. It was love at first sight! During the first year they were married, Pat attended a gospel meeting and got saved. Andy recalls, “My father and wife never stopped praying for me and inviting me to meetings.”

Mark was their first child, but tragically their second child died at birth. Jennifer was third and then they had Philip. It was about this time that Andy went into business on his own and did quite well financially. He was living the ‘good life’ spending money, something he was always good at! As Pat had major health problems, doctors advised her that further pregnancies could be very detrimental to her health. So, she had surgery to prevent a further pregnancy. However, about eighteen months after the operation Pat announced one morning that she was pregnant! They now also have Victoria!

Although Andy was not yet a Christian, he was very supportive of his wife. Even though he worked long hours in his business he never worked on a Sunday so that Pat could take the kids to church, and he always tried to be home early on a Wednesday night to ensure that Pat could attend the mid-week Bible study.

He returned home from work, in good time, on Wednesday 12th of August 1981, to find Pat very concerned, as Jennifer had not yet come home. Two weeks prior to this Andy had bought her a new bike, so that she could cycle to her friend’s house. Pat knew where she had gone, but Jennifer had said that she would be home at 4:30pm. Pat had not gone to look for her because her car had a flat tyre. Andy was initially very reassuring, thinking that the children were playing together and had simply lost track of time. After a hurried tea, he changed the tyre and Pat went off to pick up Jennifer.

A few local men knew that Andy was always at home on a Wednesday evening, and some of them had already arrived at the house. Andy was still unconcerned about Jennifer, even though it was now 6:30pm. It wasn’t long before Pat returned with the news that Jennifer had never arrived at her friend’s house! Andy, and two of his Wednesday night buddies, headed off to look for Jennifer, round all the local haunts where they thought she might be. It was only when Jennifer could not be found and no-one had seen her, that the men started to get worried. When they returned home they decided to go to the local police station and report her missing.

The officer at the station was due to go off-duty when they arrived, but said he would wait to see how things developed. Further searches revealed nothing, so they returned to the station. Everyone was getting very concerned and anxious! Lisburn police force and the local UDR were then mobilised. By 10pm there was a small army of people scouring the fields in the vicinity, looking for Jennifer. It was an awful night as the rain poured down relentlessly on those searching. Around midnight, all realised they were in big trouble. One search party had discovered Jennifer’s bike lying at the back of a hedge. It had been thrown there in a hurry.

Andy recalls, “People were so helpful and generous toward us. Everybody wanting to help in whatever way possible.” It drew the whole community together in an amazing way. People forgot about themselves, their ageold prejudices, politics and petty jealousies and joined in the search. God was able to draw people together in this crisis in a way nothing else could do, and so for the next six days their house was always full. It was at this point that Andy’s brother-in-law asked  him if he would like to go down to the local station to see how the search was being conducted. They had only arrived when they were asked to leave, as something had happened. It transpired later, that some fishermen had just discovered Jennifer’s body in a local dam. Post-mortem results showed that she had been sexually assaulted, strangled and her body dumped in the water!

Andy had the horrific task of going to identify the body of his beautiful wee daughter, which for him, was the worst part of all. The police liaison officer who went with him  has remained a close personal friend ever since, simply because she stood with him in his greatest hour of need and despair. As a family, they then had to get through the funeral. Every night in their home and at the funeral service, the gospel message was declared. Andy still remained untouched, unmoved and unsaved, facing his grief alone.

Life has to go on despite the tragedies and soon everyone was trying to get back to life as normal, but it was very difficult. Andy says,  “God had been good to us; we had the three other children and Victoria was just under a year old. We were still a family and that gave us something to live for, hard though it was.”

As Victoria started to grow up and get involved in church, she would invite her daddy to various events, such as Children’s Day. As every father knows, nothing can melt a cold heart like the pleas of a daughter. Soon those childhood concerns for the eternal destiny of his soul returned. Andy began to attend church every Sunday night. Suddenly he found himself wanting to be saved, but he was worried what people would say about him.

Andy describes himself as a walker and a runner, and on one occasion he headed off into the hills of Donegal to be alone with his thoughts. Hopelessly lost somewhere in Glenveagh National Park, he became scared for the first time in his life! In the midst of his anxiety he called out to God to help him. The weather was so bad, he couldn’t get a bearing. He had no idea which way to go. He made a vow. If God would lead him out of that wilderness to safety, then he would go to church every week until the Lord saved him or he rejected God. At that moment, he heard a voice within his spirit telling him to set a certain bearing. So, in faith, he acted and kept walking. The way was very hard and treacherous, but it brought him down off the mountains. Andy was true to his word and started to attend church every week. A year later, on the last night of a mission, he realised that if he did not respond to the call of God on his life he might never have another chance. That night, he asked the Lord Jesus into his life.

It took him several days to tell Pat. As a man, it isn’t easy to admit that your wife is right. Philip also came to the Lord several weeks later; the reality of what God had done for Andy was so evident in his life.

By the early nineties, there had still been no prosecutions over the death of Jennifer but there was a sequence of events that would prove significant.

In the Scottish borders area, a man was cutting his lawn. As he was emptying his grass-box, next to the road, he looked up to see a young girl being bundled into a van, which had just pulled up. Suspecting he had been witness to a kidnap he immediately contacted the police who threw up a cordon round the village in an attempt to intercept the van.

Police officers questioned all vehicle drivers. Within an hour, a lorry driver told them that he had seen a van, fitting the description given, sitting in a local disused quarry. The lorry driver had noticed that the driver who got out, was stripped to the waist. The police were about to go and look for the van when it came driving toward them. Having stopped it, one policeman engaged the driver in conversation while the other inspected the back of the van. When what appeared to be a bundle of rags in the back moved, the officer investigated further and found a young girl, hooded, bound and gagged inside, tied up in a sleeping bag. The amazing fact about this rescue was, the girl was the officer’s own daughter! That, however, is where the good news ends! Even in that very short time, the young child had been sexually abused in a manner that normal people could not even imagine.

That was how the police managed to catch Robert Black, who said at the time, “I shouldn’t have done it today. I should have waited ‘til tomorrow and then I wouldn’t have got caught.” This happened in 1990. The police were able to trace his previous movements throughout the country using his fuel receipts. It emerged that he had tried to abduct another young girl, who managed to escape, but he had already murdered three other girls.

Police were able to show that he had been in Northern Ireland on the day Jennifer was murdered. Legally he could not be questioned in GB about a crime in Northern Ireland, so he had to be brought over for questioning. At the time of the interview, the Cardys asked members of their churches and other churches, to pray for the officers involved, in the hope that the truth would be revealed. Pat’s daily reading that day was of Balaam’s donkey and how it spoke to him, and she was assured that this man would speak as never before. The police have a scale of compliance that they use of convicts in these situations. In previous GB interviews, he had been rated 3/10 but when interviewed in Northern Ireland he was scored a 9/10, which was a tremendous answer to prayer. However, there was still a sense of disappointment when he did not confess to Jennifer’s murder, nevertheless the police decided to prosecute on the basis of evidence they had.

In 2009, Black was accused of Jennifer’s murder but the case only came to trial at the end of 2011. The first three days of the trial were without a jury as the prosecution presented their case which was then refuted by the defense and the judge had to decide what could or could not be used in evidence. This meant that Andy heard the interview tapes and his reaction was to weep uncontrollably over the wickedness of this man and what he still wanted to do to innocent young girls. He began to see, a world of sin which he never imagined existed, and the awfulness of it broke him.

After six weeks of having to listen to how this man had murdered his daughter and all the horrendous things he had done to her, the only thing that enabled him to endure was a verse taken from the book of Hebrews where God says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) Andy and Pat both testify to the presence of Jesus having been with them every moment of every day they spent in the courthouse. Before they entered the courtroom, they asked to pray with their council, barristers and senior policemen, and people who thought little of God cried in that prayer meeting. A lasting impression was made on all who were present. After the trial was over and Black had been sentenced, Andy went back into the courtroom one last time, where only the clerk of the court remained. She told him that throughout her 33 years in that job she had never witnessed scenes like those she had just seen. She had never before beheld a whole jury cry, policemen crying as well as barristers and members of the press. She said, “. . .and I cried, a thing I have never done before.”

The good news is Robert Black will never be released, to do again the things that he did before, but as Andy so graciously pointed out, no one is beyond the Saviour’s reach.

As a family, the Cardys have tried to glorify God through the death of Jennifer. They have never been bitter or complained, or questioned God as to why this had happened to them. They have learned not to worry about anything because they know that God is in control. They have experienced the faithfulness of God to them, through everything that has happened.

Jennifer’s murderer did evil, some would say, he is evil, and is under the control of the evil one. But Andy responds, “What this man meant for evil God has turned to good.” This tragedy has had such tremendous impact on the lives of many who might otherwise have known nothing of the Lord.

Andy Cardy