I AM a big believer in second chances.
We all make mistakes, and as a rule I think everyone deserves the opportunity to make amends and to try again — even prisoners who have committed crimes.
But child murder is a crime that does not deserve a second chance.
You might argue that if someone has been rehabilitated and is no longer a risk to society then they should get a second chance at living.
The problem is that the only way to prove someone has been rehabilitated is to let them out. And that is too big a risk.
So the news that the double child rapist and murderer Colin Pitchfork has been freed is nothing short of devastating.
Pitchfork, who is now 61, has been calling himself David Thorpe in HMP Leyhill — although he has not officially changed his name. One of the conditions of his release is that he must be “upfront” about his identity and convictions with prospective employers and anyone he starts a relationship with.
This man had already been convicted twice of indecent exposure before he killed Leicestershire schoolgirls Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth.
He raped and strangled 15-year-old Lynda in Narborough in 1983, after dropping his wife off at an evening class. His baby son was asleep in the back of his car. Afterwards, he drove home and put his son to bed.
Three years later he raped and murdered Dawn, also 15, in a similar attack.
Two years later he was convicted of murder on the basis of DNA evidence.
But far from “life” imprisonment meaning life, his 30-year minimum term was cut by two years in 2009. He was moved to an open prison three years ago, and released on Wednesday.
South Leicestershire MP Alberto Costa has campaigned against the killer’s release and said he had done all he could to prevent it.
He said: “If Colin Pitchfork had committed just one of his crimes today, he would likely have received a whole life tariff, which would have resulted in him probably spending the whole of his life in prison.”
Pitchfork will wear an electronic tag and is banned from going near the relatives of his victims.
He faces restrictions on using the internet by himself and faces random lie detector tests to see whether he has broken any conditions. But the fact is, he is a free man.
Meanwhile, the families of the young girls he killed are still living with the result of his crimes every single day.
To lose a child in such horrific circumstances is a life sentence in itself. Lynda and Dawn’s parents have not had a moment’s peace or calm.
The things they have lost are too numerous to count.
They have been deprived of the joy of watching their beautiful daughters growing up, leaving school, getting married and having children that would have been their grandchildren.
If Colin Pitchfork had committed just one of his crimes today, he would likely have spent the whole of his life in prison.
The hurt and pain each day must be excruciating.
Lynda’s mother Barbara Ashworth said that Pitchfork’s crimes have reduced her life to an “existence”.
She said: “I can never put it out of my mind. I recoil every day with people talking about their daughters and grandchildren.
“It’s with you daily, what you’ve had taken and all that she could have achieved.
“I’m not living a life — it’s just going from day to day.”
If someone asked me if I could kill anyone, I would immediately answer no. But reflecting on this story, I realise that that’s not true.
If someone raped and murdered my child I could — and probably would — if I had the chance.
I’m not an advocate for the death penalty but there are some crimes so great that it should be carried out. This is one of them.
Why should an evil man like this be entitled to any kind of life, after wrecking the lives of so many others — including those of his own wife and two children?
In my view the parole system needs a complete overhaul. This man should never be walking the streets again. He should have been locked away for life without parole.
All child killers should face life behind bars without parole.
When Pitchfork was jailed in January 1988 at Leicester Crown Court, the judge said the murders were “particularly sadistic”.
He said that he doubted Pitchfork, who he described as “a danger to young women”, would ever be released.
And yet somehow he has been. And now all we can do is hope he will not strike again.
Sharon’s thigh jinx
I HAVE been getting such a kick following the various high jinx of the amazing older women absolutely rocking it at the 78th Annual Venice Film Festival.
There is Helen Mirren, who is 76, dancing in the rain with Vin Diesel, zipping about on motor boat rides and wearing insanely fabulous Dolce and Gabbana dresses, looking absolutely gorgeous.
And there is Sharon Stone, 63, in a sizzling dress with a plunging neckline posing with hunky male models who look genuinely dazzled.
And no wonder: She is looking a million dollars and wearing a seriously hot dress with a leg split that left no room for Spanx – which were clearly not needed.
And there is Isabelle Huppert who at the age of 68 looks about half that age in a fabulous grey jumpsuit.
But the best part is that they all, frankly, look as if they are having the time of their lives.
And it is just so great to see people having such a blast.
What a reminder to us all that it is to do the same – make hay while the sun shines.
But also, please can we be like them when we grow up?
What a Storey
HUGE congratulations to the incredibly inspiring Dame Sarah Storey.
This week she won her 17th gold medal at the Paralympics, making her the most successful Paralympian in British history.
The swimmer-turned-cycling star, who won the first of her five swimming golds in Barcelona in 1992, now holds 28 medals.
Since her Games cycling debut in Beijing in 2008, Dame Sarah has now won all 13 bike events she has entered.
Not only that but she hopes to go to Paris in three years – at the age of 46 – to compete again.
What an amazing woman, and what a reminder of the power of determination, tenacity and sheer hard work.
Adele’s so fab
I LOVED seeing photos of Adele out and about on a date with her new fella Rich Paul.
She looked fab in a miniskirt and knee-high boots at LA restaurant Opium last week.
The couple have only been dating for a couple of months and by all accounts it’s not yet serious – and why should it be?
It must be so hard to start dating when you are as high-profile as Adele – especially as her divorce from Simon Konecki, father of her son Angelo, was only finalised earlier this year.
No doubt she has been through the mill. But she looks like she is in a good place and I wish her every happiness in her new relationship.
Covid wake-up call
VERY interesting to hear that Israel, which is one of the most heavily vaccinated countries, has also become the world’s “Covid capital”.
This is a sobering reminder to us Brits, and other highly immunised nations, that we are still vulnerable to another wave.
Clearly, it’s time we all accept that we will get this virus. The vaccine doesn’t stop it, and it doesn’t stop us from passing it on to others.
But if you have been jabbed, it stops the symptoms from being severe and, more significantly, reduces the chances of long Covid.
So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t already had the vaccine, please go and get it.