FEATURES

Written In Blood - Episode 6: The Chalk Pit
By James Whittington, Wednesday 18th October 2017

In episode 6 of Written In Blood, Simon Toyne talks to Elly Griffiths and investigates the tragic case of school girl Leanne Tiernan.

Sixteen-year-old school girl Leanne Tiernan was abducted whilst walking home from a Christmas shopping trip on the 26th November 2000, around 5pm. She was walking alone through Houghley Gill, an isolated and unlit path. John Taylor, 44, attacked Tiernan as she passed him, grabbing her from behind, tying her hands with a dog leash, covering her head with his jacket and forcing her to walk to his nearby home where she was bound with cable ties and strangled.

The search for Leanne became the largest in West Yorkshire. More than 1,000 properties were searched; a three mile stretch of canal was drained and rubbish collection was stopped while police looked for her. The police released an e-fit of a man who had been seen several times near where Leanne went missing, who hadn’t been seen since.

Her body was discovered 8 months later on the 20th of August, 2001, just 50 yards from a busy carpark. The postmortem indicated that her body had been stored somewhere cold and dry for many months and had only recently been moved there.

Tests on Leanne’s body revealed that there was no evidence of the murderer’s DNA on her body. So, police began to piece together the pieces of information they had already obtained. The police made a public appeal for people linked to the Bramley area of Leeds and Lindley Woods, and this generated hundreds of names, including John Taylor’s. The police also investigated the items found on Leanne’s body: a duvet and green dustbin liners that had been wrapped around her body, a black plastic bag that had covered her head, a dog collar that held the black bag in place, as well as the plastic cable ties found around her neck and wrists.

They traced the dog collar, contacting over 100 pet shops until they found a company that kept computerised records of all customers. One of these customers had bought several dog collars similar to the one found. This was John Taylor. His name now appeared in two lines of enquiry and was impossible to ignore. He became the prime suspect. It was discovered that Taylor worked for Parcel Force, a key fact as the cable ties found on Leanne’s body were supplied exclusively to Parcel Force’s parent company, Royal Mail. Police then searched Taylor's home and found cable ties and a dog collar that were identical matches as the ones used on Leanne.

With the help of forensics, they found fibres of a pink carpet in Taylor’s home that they had also found on Leanne’s jumper. Though Taylor tried to destroy the pink carpet a few remained in the house. After Taylor’s arrest Leanne’s blood was found under his floor boards. After searching his yard, they also found the remains of a dog and it is believed that Taylor killed his dog after the police made the public appeal of a dog walker.

Previous girlfriends of Taylor described him as odd, saying he was interested in bondage and sadomasochism. One woman telling the police that he liked to tie her up during sex. Another said that Taylor had described how he wanted to tie up her 15-year-old daughter and have sex with her.

Taylor created a story that he told to the police about how Leanne had fallen off of his bed, hit her head and died when he lifted her with a scarf that was around her neck, believing she was already dead. The judge dismissed his story.

Taylor was charged with murder and abduction. He was given two life sentences. In 2003, Taylor was charged with the rape of two women twelve years earlier. He was given a further two life sentences for this. His first rape victim was a 31-year-old woman who he approached in the same place he abducted Leanne from. The woman was on her way to pick up her daughter from school in 1988 when Taylor grabbed her neck and took her to a secluded area where he raped her. After it is reported that he asked her how to get the bus into the city centre. His second victim was a 21-year-old woman who he raped in her own home after walking through an open door.


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