In November 2000, 16-year-old Leanne Tiernan was reported missing following a shopping trip with a close friend. A vast search operation ensued, involving the examination of hundreds of houses and gardens, the combing of nearby moorlands, and an underwater and air search in addition to this. However it was not until August 2001 that the body was found in Lindley Woods in West Yorkshire by a dog-walker. The teenager was discovered wrapped in bin liners part-buried, with a plastic bag over her head fastened with a dog collar and cable ties binding her wrists and neck. A man had allegedly been seen carrying a large bundle into the woods a few days prior to this discovery.
Though Leanne had been missing since the previous November, a post-mortem examination concluded that the body had not been in the woods since her disappearance, but, based on decomposition, had instead most likely been stored in low temperature conditions since then.
Examination of the dog collar, cable ties and twine used to bind the victim provided police with clues as to who may have been responsible for the death of Leanne Tiernan. The dog collar was traced back to a particular supplier whom had sold several of the collars to a man named John Taylor. Similarly, the cable ties used to bind Leanne’s wrists were commonly used by the Royal Mail, closely linked to Taylor’s employer Parcel Force. Finally, the twine found on the victim was particularly unusual and, following a subsequent search of the suspect’s home, was found to match a batch of twine owned by Taylor, found along with more cable ties and another dog collar.
In addition to this, carpet fibres were recovered from Leanne’s jumper. A search of the suspect’s home revealed that he had recently removed the carpets from the house, but threads left behind on nails and underneath the floorboards were sufficient to suggest that carpet fibres at the crime scene had originated from Taylor’s house.
Interestingly the investigation of Leanne Tiernan’s murder also harboured the first use of canine DNA profiling in a criminal investigation in Britain. Upon examination of hairs found on the victim’s body they were established to be dog hairs, from which a partial DNA profile was produced by researchers at a university in Texas. Unfortunately Taylor’s dog had passed away since the disappearance of the victim, so the evidence could not be used. Fortunately other hairs found on the scarf tied around the victim’s neck did prove to be of more use. Although they were not particularly suitable for DNA profiling due to insufficient DNA in the hair roots, it was possible to perform mitochondrial DNA testing, proving to be a match to John Taylor.
It was later deduced that Taylor had abducted the girl from an unlit wooded path where she was walking home, took her back to his house where he sexually assaulted her and finally strangled her with a scarf. In October 2001 John Taylor was arrested and subsequently tried for rape and murder. Despite initially claiming to have only abducted Leanne, Taylor later pleaded guilty and was given multiple life sentences for the rape and murder of Leanne Tiernan. Armed with Taylor’s DNA profile, police examined additional unsolved incidents in the area and linked Taylor to two other rapes committed in the late 1980s for which he was also charged.
How Leanne’s Killer Was Caught. BBC News. [online] Available at: [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2116617.stm]
R v John Taylor  EWHC 2944 (QB)