Someone’s Daughter

Friday, 19 August 2011, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

The third film in this new series looks at the murder of Leanne Tiernan, a 16-year-old who was brutally murdered as she returned home from a Christmas shopping trip in 2000. The programme speaks to three generations of Leanne’s family, as they continue to try to move on from her death and police reveal how the events of her murder unfolded. 

Leanne was a bright, fun loving and friendly teenage girl who lived with her Mum and sister in the Bramley area of Leeds. Her mother Sharon says: “She was very thoughtful [and] she remembered everybody’s birthdays. Very, very loyal to her friends, [she] always put them first.” 

On the 26th November 2000 Leanne went to church with her grandmother, before joining her friend Sarah in Leeds for a shopping trip. At around 4.30 that afternoon the two friends travelled back home to Bramley on the bus, but Leanne didn’t come home and, shortly after 7pm, Sharon called the police. 

Her sister Michelle remembers: “I suppose at the time it was just easier to think maybe she has just run away and she just didn’t want to come home. But at the back of my mind we knew she wouldn’t do that.” 

Leanne’s grandmother Hilary agrees: “I knew she wouldn’t run away. She couldn’t keep a secret, so somebody would have known…I had a horrible feeling to start with [but] we had to hang on to hope.” 

One of the biggest missing persons enquires in West Yorkshire police history was underway but a week after Leanne disappeared; police had not received a single sighting of her. 

Criminal psychologist Laura Richard says: “It rocks through the absolute foundation of a community with this sort of case. It felt so localised within that area.” 

But as the weeks rolled into months there was still no sign of Leanne, and by this time police were convinced she had been abducted. 

Then on the 20th August 2001, nine months after Leanne disappeared, Detective Superintendent Chris Gregg got a phone call from colleagues in North Yorkshire police. A young woman’s body had been found in a shallow grave by a dog walker at beauty spot Lindley Woods. She had been strangled, bound with cable ties and wrapped in several layers of plastic. 

Sharon says: “Going from a mother of two to a mother of one is very hard – especially when we were so close [with] just the three of us there all the time. It’s like somebody has pulled your arm off.” 

As police began sifting through the forensic evidence at the scene the pathologist studied the body and had a horrific revelation. Someone had not only abducted Leanne and murdered her, but she had then been kept in a freezer for months. Scientists concluded that the body had only been at the site in Lindley Woods for a couple of weeks at most. 

Laura Richards explains why the killer may have done this: “Maybe it’s because he felt it was too risky to dispose of Leanne at the point where the police are continuously searching. Or perhaps…he still gained some form of sexual gratification from knowing she’s in the freezer and being able to see her and touch her.” 

Leanne’s body had been found with a dog collar around the neck which would prove to be the source of a major breakthrough. Police tracked down where that particular type of dog collar was manufactured, and an internet company in Liverpool who supplied it. They supplied police with the names of their customers in the area and on the 16th October Chris and his team arrested John Taylor, a 44 year old divorcee. 

Taylor had snatched a terrified Leanne from Houghley Gill and taken her back to his house where he had strangled her. Her blood was found soaked into the floorboards, and carpet fibres were found which matched those on her clothes. He had kept her body in a freezer before dumping her at Lindley Woods. 

The evidence was overwhelming and eventually John Taylor pleaded guilty to abduction and murder in July 2002. He was later given to two life sentences. 

Leanne’s mother Sharon says: “One of the worst things is people mentioning his name. I did have a problem where I used to work – I was writing a letter for a guy who was called John Taylor. It wasn’t him but I just couldn’t do it I had to give it to somebody else to do.” 

Police uncovered Taylor’s history of sexual violence against ex partners, and that he was a man who collected and killed animals as well as having a fascination with firearms and poaching. Police re opened several case investigations and found two DNA matches to John Taylor. In February 2003 he was convicted of two violent rapes committed in the late 1980s. 

Leanne’s sister Michelle says: “[I’m] always going to feel like there is something missing no matter what you try and do to fill that you just can’t do it. How do you move on from something like that?” 

Friday, 5 August 2011, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

Last year 26 year old nurse Jane Clough was brutally murdered by her boyfriend Jonathan Vass. This film, the first in a new series, looks at the family left behind after her death and how they’re adjusting to life without Jane, but looking to the future for her daughter and campaigning for change in the legal system. The programme also speaks to police who worked on the case and a behaviour analyst to piece together why Jane’s murderer did what he did. 

Jane worked in the Accident and Emergency department of Blackpool Victoria Hospital where she had close friends among her fellow nurses. Jane met ambulance technician Jonathan Vass and early in 2008 they began a whirlwind romance. But Jane’s parents were uneasy about their relationship. Her father John says: “You can have a gut feeling about somebody and there is a gut feeling that there is something that is not quite right but you can’t put your finger on it.” 

Six months into their relationship the couple moved in together and Jane announced she was pregnant. But the news brought out anger in Vass and a month after her daughter’s birth in October 2009 Jane went to the police. She told them that Jonathan Vass had raped her several times including when their baby had been in the room. John Clough says: “To say I was gutted would be an understatement. It’s any father’s worst nightmare of the worst things that could happen to your daughter.” 

Jonathan Vass was arrested that day. He was remanded into custody charged with nine counts of rape and violence against Jane and suspended from work at the hospital. After his arrest it was it was claimed by the CPS that Vass was still married and may have been in a relationship with yet another woman- he had been using night shifts at work as a means of living within an elaborate web of deceit. 

Despite opposition from the police and Crown prosecution service bail was granted pending trial 10 months later. Jane hid away at her parents’ house. 

As the rape trial loomed, Jane decided that she would testify in the open court, rather than via video link. Criminal behavioural analyst Laura Richards explains how Vass may have been feeling at this time. She says: “His defence team get the statements that her family have made and that makes him feel very angry about what’s gone on. Here’s somebody who wants revenge [and] these are the trigger points or the tipping point for him to then go on and have murder in mind.” 

Jane was beginning to get her life back and had returned to work. On Sunday the 25th July 2010 she spent the day with her daughter at her parent’s home, before preparing for a night shift at work. But on arrival at the hospital she was stabbed 71 times in a frenzied attack in the busy car park just a hundred yards from the hospital entrance. 

Detective Inspector Neil Esseen was to re-trace Jane’s final moments. He says: “It’s one of the most brutal murders I’ve come across, the injuries were extremely severe and they were intended to kill.” 

On hearing from the police that his daughter had been stabbed John Clough says he felt “such a mixture of horror and anger, [it’s] such a huge part of your life to lose. We’d known in our hearts that he would try to stop her getting to court but nobody really thought he would go to this measure”. 

Almost twelve hours after brutally murdering Jane, Jonathan Vass pulled up outside the Clough family home where he was immediately arrested. 

On October 4th 2010 Jonathan Vass pleaded guilty in court to the murder of Jane Clough. He was sentenced to life with a minimum term of thirty years. Vass denies the rape and violence charges Neil Esseen says: “In the Judge’s view he had interfered with course of justice by killing a witness in a case against him and that is an extremely serious offence and aggravated an already brutal attack.” 

Penny and John feel that Jane died because she made those rape allegations, and now Vass would not face the charges Jane had so bravely pursued. Penny says: “I am so angry that Jane is dead, the fact that Vass is an un-convicted rapist haunts me.” 

Earlier this year footage of Vass in prison was shown as part of the documentary series Strangeways. It showed Vass looking at a photo of Jane and saying: “I miss her but I hate her. I hate her so much.” 

Watching the footage former police chief David Swindle says: “There’s no victim empathy, there’s no victim empathy for her and he wouldn’t have any victim empathy if he’s back out in the public and he’s a danger.” 

John and Penny are now campaigning for a change in the bail system to try to avoid a case like Jane’s happening again. John says: “If we can make one change that will benefit another family that will be a reward.” 

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