Murder of Leanne Tiernan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Leanne Tiernan
Leanne Tiernan.png
Leanne Tiernan
Born(1984-09-27)27 September 1984[1]
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Diedc. 26 November 2000(2000-11-26) (aged 16)
Bramley, West Yorkshire
Cause of deathStrangulation
Body discovered20 August 2001
Lindley Woods, North Yorkshire
Resting placeHill Top Cemetery, Armley, West Yorkshire
MonumentsLeanne Tiernan Memorial Garden, Bramley, West Yorkshire
NationalityBritish
EthnicityWhite British
Height1.625 metres (5.33 ft)
ParentsMichael Tiernan and Sharon Hawkhead
 
Jump to: navigation, search
Leanne Tiernan
Leanne Tiernan.png
Leanne Tiernan
Born(1984-09-27)27 September 1984[1]
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Diedc. 26 November 2000(2000-11-26) (aged 16)
Bramley, West Yorkshire
Cause of deathStrangulation
Body discovered20 August 2001
Lindley Woods, North Yorkshire
Resting placeHill Top Cemetery, Armley, West Yorkshire
MonumentsLeanne Tiernan Memorial Garden, Bramley, West Yorkshire
NationalityBritish
EthnicityWhite British
Height1.625 metres (5.33 ft)
ParentsMichael Tiernan and Sharon Hawkhead

The murder of Leanne Tiernan was a high-profile English child abduction and murder involving a schoolgirl who was abducted less than one mile from her home on 26 November 2000 while returning from a Christmas shopping trip in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and subsequently murdered.[1][2] The missing persons inquiry which followed was one of the largest in the history of West Yorkshire Police, involving the search of around 1,750 buildings, underwater searches of thirty-two drainage wells, the draining of a two mile section of canal and the halting of household waste collections.[3] Her body was discovered on 20 August 2001 in dense woodland just 50 yards from a busy car park at Lindley Woods near Otley, on the border of North and West Yorkshire.[4][5] Post mortem examination indicated that Tiernan's body had only been at the woodland site for a matter of weeks, and had been stored in a cold, dry place for the previous nine months.[6] Following the discovery of her body, DNA samples were taken from 200 people, including family, friends and known sex offenders living in the area.[3] Forensic evidence led police to her killer, John Taylor, who lived only 1,300 yards from Tiernan's home. On 8 July 2002 Taylor pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court to her kidnap and murder and received two life sentences, with the trial judge telling him that he should expect to spend the rest of his life in prison.[7] At the end of his trial, the police officers who brought him to justice spoke of their belief that he may have been responsible for other unsolved murders, including the 1992 murder of Bradford prostitute Yvonne Fitt.[2]

On 3 April 2003, following a police review of unsolved sexual attacks in the area, Taylor pleaded guilty to two separate rapes committed before the schoolgirl's murder and received a further sentence of life imprisonment with a recommended minimum of 30 years.[5] As a result of the Tiernan murder inquiry police re-opened at least ten further cold case murder investigations.[8][9]

Abduction and missing person inquiry[edit]

Tiernan, a pupil at West Leeds High School,[10] was last seen at 16.50 on 26 November 2000 when she and her friend, 15-year old Sarah Whitehouse, returned to Bramley by bus after a shopping trip to Leeds city centre.[5] The girls parted company at Houghley Lane, and Whitehouse last saw her setting off along an unlit path through an area of wooded wasteland known as Houghley Gill.[5][11] When Whitehouse arrived home, she telephoned Tiernan's home and was surprised to find she was not there.[12] At 17.20 Tiernan's mother rang her mobile phone to find out where she was, but the phone rang out for some time and then cut off. When she rang it again, it was cut off after four rings. At 19.00 she rang the police and reported her daughter as a missing person.[12]

The police immediately began a missing person inquiry, headed by Detective Superintendent Chris Gregg, and a search of the area where Tiernan was last seen was undertaken, although no trace of her was found. As the inquiry progressed, it became one of the largest ever undertaken by West Yorkshire Police, involving up to 200 officers and hundreds of volunteers. More than 1,400 house-to-house inquiries were conducted, 800 houses along her probable route, designated by the police as "Red Route", were searched, along with 800 sheds, garages and outbuildings and 150 commercial premises within a half-mile radius of Houghley Gill. DNA samples were taken from 140 men interviewed by the police in connection with the inquiry and twelve search warrants were executed at various addresses in Leeds. The West Yorkshire Police Underwater Search unit carried out a search of a three-mile section of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal between Spring Garden lock and Bramley Falls, two miles of which was drained to a depth of one metre. The unit also searched thirty-two drain shafts in the area and Yorkshire Water were called in to help locate disused and abandoned drains and wells.[3][13] Collections of household waste were halted temporarily to allow police to search all bins in the area for evidence. The inquiry also received assistance from British Waterways, British Transport Police, the Ministry of Defence’s aerial reconnaissance department, Calder Valley Search and Rescue Team, Interpol and the Police National Search Centre, a joint police and military training facility.[3] On 3 December 2000, police staged a reconstruction of the girls' last movements, reenacted by Sarah Whitehouse and Tiernan's older sister Michelle, in the hope of jogging the memory of potential witnesses about Leanne's movements.[11] Detectives also sent text messages to Tiernan's mobile phone, which was now switched off, but had briefly been activated on 27 November 2000.[3] A local businessman offered a £10,000 reward for information leading to her safe return, and supermarket chain Iceland printed her picture and details on milk cartons sold at its stores nationwide.[3][14]

Her disappearance meant Christmas was put on hold for her family, the Westlife CD Michelle had bought her remained unopened. There were unconfirmed reports of sightings as far away as Doncaster and Blackpool, but after nine months, there had been no positive sightings. Leanne's boyfriend, care assistant Wayne Keeley, 19, pleaded with her to get in touch.[10] On 4 December 2000 police released an E-FIT facial composite of a man who had been seen walking a dog in the Houghley Gill area shortly before Tiernan disappeared. He was described as being "5 feet 8 inches tall and of stocky build with a round, reddish face that may possibly be scarred... wearing a black woollen hat, a three-quarter-length waterproof jacket and dirty jeans".[14] The E-FIT would later prove to be an accurate likeness of John Taylor.[12] Two witnesses came forward who said that they had heard a woman's "high-pitched scream" in the area at around the time Tiernan disappeared, but there were no other witnesses and no confirmed sightings of her.[12] No evidence of a struggle was found, and no evidence linked to her abduction was ever found.

Discovery of body and murder investigation[edit]

On 20 August 2001 Tiernan's body was found by Mark Bisson, who was walking his two dogs in Lindley Woods, North Yorkshire, 100 yards from where another murder victim, prostitute Yvonne Fitt, had been discovered buried in 1992.[2][15] Tiernan was identified from her fingerprints on 22 August 2001, and DS Gregg announced that the inquiry had now become a murder investigation, codenamed Operation Conifer.[16] Tiernan's body had been wrapped inside nine green plastic bin bags secured with twine, with a black bin bag secured around her head with a leather dog collar, then placed inside a floral-patterned duvet cover.[15][17] Tiernan's Ellesse coat and black boots were not found. Plastic cable ties had been used as a ligature to strangle her and more ties had been used to bind her hands. A dark coloured scarf was also wrapped around her neck.[17][18] Her hair was still tied in a ponytail with the same band and hairclips that she had been wearing when she disappeared. There was no evidence of a sexual assault, but the absence of her jacket and boots and the position of her underwear were among forensic evidence indicating a sexual motive. Policed called in former SAS tracker "Jungle Eddie" McGee, who had helped track down murderer Barry Prudom in 1982, to identify the killer's most probable route through the woodland.[6]

The state of decomposition of Tiernan's body led some forensic experts to believe that after her death she had been kept in cold storage or a freezer up until a few weeks before the body was found, in part to avoid detection and in part as a trophy.[6][19] A cryobiology expert was called in to examine the microstructure of Tiernan's cardiac tissue, and concluded that the body could have been kept frozen for some time, taking into account the air temperatures for the months between her disappearance and the discovery of the body.[20][21] Police made a public appeal for anyone who might have been in Lindley Woods recently or had information about others who regularly visited the area to come forward and contact police.[22]

Forensic evidence linking Taylor to Tiernan[edit]

Trial[edit]

On 15 February 2002 Taylor appeared before Mr. Justice Poole at Leeds Crown Court and entered a plea of guilty with respect to the abduction of Leanne Tiernan.[21][25] He was not asked to enter a plea on the charge of murder, pending a separate Newton hearing, and was remanded into custody awaiting the trial. On 8 July 2002, the first day of the trial, he entered a plea of guilty with respect to the murder of Leanne Tiernan.[19] He was sentenced the same day, and Mr. Justice Astill, sentencing, said: "After the death of this girl at your hands you wanted sexual deviancy with a girl of similar age. That not only demonstrates how dangerous you are but demonstrates your lack of remorse. Not by chance were you in this area for this purpose. You were not acting on impulse, you chose a secluded place and a vulnerable young girl who suited your purposes. This was as cold and calculating as can be imagined. You are a dangerous sexual sadist. Your purpose in kidnapping this young girl was so that you could satisfy your perverted cravings. The suffering you caused her and the suffering you continue to cause those who loved her simply cannot be measured. You must expect to spend the rest of your life in custody".[8][12][26] Taylor was sentenced to the mandatory term of life imprisonment, and the judge recommended that he must serve 25 years before being considered for release by the Parole Board. This was subsequently reduced to a minimum of 20 years by The Lord Woolf, then presiding as the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

At the conclusion of the trial DS Gregg announced: "We do not believe that this is the first major crime he has committed. We feel that the way this murder was pre-planned, and the way he hid and disposed of the body, was calculated. We cannot exclude the possibility he has killed before".[12]

In the media[edit]

Television[edit]

The murder of Leanne Tiernan has been the subject of several television documentaries:

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Murdered Leanne buried". BBC News. 28 September 2001. 
  2. ^ a b c "Leanne killer jailed for life". BBC News. 8 July 2002. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f MacDonald, Jane (22 August 2001). "Determined police have wealth of detail from huge hunt". Yorkshire Post. 
  4. ^ "Leanne police in finger-tip search". BBC News. 25 August 2001. 
  5. ^ a b c d "John Taylor: Killer in the Woods". Crime & Investigation Network. 10 September 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Brooke, Chris (24 August 2001). "Leanne's killer 'kept her body in a freezer'". Mail Online (London). 
  7. ^ "Man admits Leanne murder". BBC News. 15 February 2002. 
  8. ^ a b Dennis, Steve (9 July 2002). "Killer who kept girl in the fridge gets life". Daily Record.  Archived periodical at TheFreeLibrary.com
  9. ^ Wainwright, Martin (6 February 2003). "Police interrogate sex strangler". The Guardian (London). 
  10. ^ a b Key, Ian (23 August 2001). "SICK KILLING OF THE GIRL NEXT DOOR; Happy, loving Leanne, 16, found strangled in woods after 9 months.". Daily Record.  Archived periodical at TheFreeLibrary.com
  11. ^ a b "Sister helps in search for teenager". The Daily Telegraph. 4 December 2000. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Brooke, Chris (9 July 2002). "Did Leanne sadist kill four others?". Mail Online. 
  13. ^ Weatherall, Lyndsey (17 December 2000). "Leanne hunt: Police seek body in well". Sunday Mirror.  Archived periodical at TheFreeLibrary.com
  14. ^ a b "Missing teen: £10,000 reward pledged". BBC News. 22 December 2000. 
  15. ^ a b "Missing Leanne's body found in wood". The Daily Telegraph (London). 22 Aug 2001. 
  16. ^ a b Wiltshire, Patricia E.J. (22 November 2006). "Hair as a source of forensic evidence in murder investigations". Forensic Palynology 163 (3). Forensic Science International. p. 241–248. 
  17. ^ a b "Leanne police reveal images". BBC News. 6 September 2001. 
  18. ^ "Murdered Leanne's hands were bound". Birmingham Post. 29 August 2001.  Archived periodical at TheFreeLibrary.com
  19. ^ a b "R v John Taylor [2006] EWHC 2944 (QB)". The National Archives. 13 October 2010. 
  20. ^ Gallop, A.M.C. "Forensic Science Coming of Age" Science & Justice 43(1):58 (2003)
  21. ^ a b Stokes, Paul (9 July 2002). "Sex killing sadist faces questions on four murders". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  22. ^ Keely, Alistair (23 August 2001). "Police hunt for killer as Leanne's body found". Birmingham Post.  Archived periodical at TheFreeLibrary.com
  23. ^ a b c d "How Leanne's killer was caught". BBC News. 8 July 2002. 
  24. ^ a b c "Casefiles: Leanne Tiernan – compelling forensic evidence to hunt a killer". The National Archives. 26 September 2006. 
  25. ^ "Leanne Tiernan: Man admits to kidnap". Mail Online (London). 15 February 2002. 
  26. ^ Higgens, Dave (9 July 2010). "Killer facing rest of his life in custody". Coventry Telegraph.  Archived periodical at TheFreeLibrary.com
  27. ^ "Film & TV Database: Looking for Leanne". British Film Institute. 2009. 
  28. ^ "Film & TV Database: Killer in the Woods". British Film Institute. 2009. 
  29. ^ "Film & TV Database: Real Crime". British Film Institute. 2009. 

External links[edit]