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Serial rapist suspected of the barbaric murder of schoolgirl in 1984 dies in prison and cheats justice

The prime suspect in the 1984 murder of a young girl has died before he could be brought to justice.

It means the death of Leonie Darnley, seven, remains officially unsolved.

Prosecutors wanted to put serial rapist Patrick Reilly back on trial, more than 30 years after a jury cleared him.

But his terminal cancer and mental illness halted the plan and Reilly died earlier this month, aged 56.

Leonie’s mum, Denise, confirmed last night she had been told of Reilly’s death, adding only: “That’s it, that’s the end of the story.”

Patrick Reilly died in Broadmoor Hospital, age 56
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Little Leonie’s killing shocked the nation. Her mutilated and abused body was found in the basement of the flats in Battersea, South West London, where she lived with her mum and baby brother, Desmond.

On the second day of the school summer holidays, the family was having a picnic on the grass with friends when Denise went inside to change Desmond’s nappy. She was away for just 15 minutes.

Leonie, in her red-and-white checked dress and red plastic sandals, was snatched in broad daylight by her killer.

Leonie's case remains officially unsolved

Reilly was cleared at the Old Bailey in 1986 after the jury was banned from hearing of his other crimes , which included knifepoint rapes , some on children. Members of the jury burst into tears after hearing the truth of Reilly’s record.

This year, the Crown Prosecution Service took the unusual step of going to the High Court in a bid to quash Reilly’s acquittal and put him in front of another jury.

Since the scrapping of the double jeopardy law in 2005 – which prevented people being charged twice for the same offence – around 20 alleged killers have gone back to court.

Daily Mirror front page in 1984
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Prosecutors were set to say that DNA found under Leonie’s nails was a billion times more likely to belong to Reilly than anyone else.

Reilly was transferred to Broadmoor Hospital in 1986, where fellow patients included Charles Bronson and Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe.

Reilly died on October 6 after refusing to have further chemotherapy.

The CPS said: “Following a deterioration in Reilly’s health we accepted it was no longer in the interests of justice to proceed to trial.”

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