Police reopen Leeds murder cold case as former detective suggests link to Leanne Tiernan killer

Investigators have begun a new review into the unsolved murder of a missing woman whose mummified body was found in Leeds 28 years ago.

Tuesday, 15th January 2019, 16:33 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 18:39 pm
A former police officer believes a number of unsolved West Yorkshire murders could be linked to the killer of Leeds schoolgirl Leanne Tiernan.

West Yorkshire Police has confirmed that detectives are pursuing a number of potential lines of inquiry into the killing of 18-year-old Donna Healey.

Her body was found dumped at the edge of the overgrown grounds of a nursing home in Allerton Park, Chapel Allerton, on January 15, 1991 – three years after she had last been seen alive.

But it was not until 1997 that she was reported missing and it was only through developments in DNA profiling that her body was finally identified in 2004.

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Detective Superintendent Jim Griffiths, of the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “This is a tragic case and one for which a cause of death remains unknown. We owe it to Donna to find out what happened to her.”

The case is not the only one being actively pursued by the team, which made an arrest in a second historic murder investigation earlier this month.

A 37-year-old woman was questioned by detectives on January 4 on suspicion of murdering Rebecca Hall, a 19-year-old mum whose stripped and battered body was found in an alleyway in Bradford in 2001.

Police said the woman had been released under investigation and “active” inquiries were continuing.

The case previously returned to the spotlight following the conviction in 2010 of the Crossbow Cannibal.

Serial killer Stephen Griffiths had admitted killing three missing Bradford sex workers but boasted that he had killed “loads more”.

Det Supt Griffiths said the force’s Investigation Review Team was also re-investigating the unsolved murders of three other female victims in the 1990s – Yvonne Fitt, Deborah Wood and schoolgirl Lindsay Rimer.

“We would always appeal to anyone with information about their deaths to come forward,” he said.

“The passage of time does nothing to diminish our determination to bring the killers to justice and a case is never closed until someone is brought to justice.”

It is not unusual for cold case teams to review their files when murderers such as Griffiths are convicted.

A similar exercise was carried out after John Taylor, the killer of Leeds schoolgirl Leanne Tiernan, was jailed for life in 2002.

Taylor had grabbed the 16-year-old from a woodland path in Bramley in November 2000, sexually assaulted her and then killed her.

He is believed to have stored her body in a freezer at his Bramley home for nine months, before it was found buried in a shallow grave in Lindley Woods, near Otley, in August 2001.

Chris Clark, a retired police intelligence officer and author, believes Leanne may not have been the first victim to lose their life at Taylor’s hands.

He thinks Taylor could be responsible for the murders of Donna, Yvonne and Deborah as well as Ann Ballantyne, a 20-year-old woman whose body was found dumped in a canal in Edinburgh in 1987.

“Taylor, at the time, wasn’t known,” he said. “He was under the radar until Leanne’s case.”

The body of 33-year-old Yvonne was found in a shallow grave in 1992, just 100 yards away from the place where Leanne would later be buried.

And Chris points to the fact investigators have previously said they believe the bodies of both Donna and Yvonne were kept in storage of some kind before being dumped.

He says the fact all three women’s bodies were found in Taylor’s “stomping ground” seems too great a coincidence, adding: “It’s like Peter Sutcliffe – there wasn’t anybody else going round bashing people over the head with hammers.”

The 73-year-old thinks police in Scotland should also be reviewing Ann’s case given that Taylor is known to have travelled regularly to Glasgow.

He said: “The route Taylor would have taken to get to Glasgow would have taken him within a few hundred yards of Ann’s home at the time.”

Where he does remain in total agreement with the West Yorkshire team is that everything possible must be done to solve the cases.

“All of these ladies deserve some sort of justice and closure is needed for the relatives left behind,” he added.

Det Supt Griffiths said extensive inquiries, including media campaigns, had been take place as part of the investigation into Donna’s death over the years.

He said: “We are currently carrying out a new review into her death. This review is in its infancy and is looking at a number of potential lines of enquiry.”

He would not be drawn on naming any suspects, but said he believed the answer to Donna’s death lies in the Allerton park area.

“It is very unlikely that the place her body was dumped was chosen at random,” he said. We believe whoever left Donna’s body there had a connection to that spot.

Anyone with information or suspicions about any of the unsolved cases is urged to call police on 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers in confidence on 0800 555 111.