Murdered girl 'killed and held in cold storage'

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The Independent Online

The mother of the murdered 16-year-old Leanne Tiernan said she had lost her "best mate and baby" as she appealed to the public to help to catch the killer.

Sharon Hawkhead, 40, wept while reading a statement at a press conference in Leeds, accompanied by her another daughter, Michelle Tiernan, 20, and her former husband, Michael. The body of Leanne, who had been strangled, was found in undergrowth at Lindley Wood, North Yorkshire, on Monday, more than nine months after she went missing.

Mrs Hawkhead said: "We cannot put into words how we feel today. It was the worst possible news. We have been living in hope since she went missing and we were praying this was not Leanne.

"Leanne was a lovely girl and we miss her terribly. She was my baby, she was my best mate. We would ask anyone who knows anything about who had done this to contact police."

West Yorkshire Police later revealed they were checking for any links between the case and the murder of Yvonne Fitt, a prostitute from Bradford stabbed to death in 1992. Her body was found 100 yards from where Leanne was discovered by a man walking his dog.

Police believe Leanne's body may have been kept refrigerated before being wrapped in two plastic bags and a quilt cover and hidden in the thick woodland, which is near the town of Otley, West Yorkshire.

Leanne, of Bramley, Leeds, was last seen at 4.50pm on 26 November, after a shopping trip with a friend to Leeds.

Detective Superintendent Chris Gregg, the officer leading the investigation, said other unsolved murders would be reviewed as part of the investigation, although he added that there was no evidence to link any killings at this stage.

Officers want to trace personal items missing from Leanne, including her coat, boots, mobile phone, umbrella, Christmas presents bought for a friend, keys and some coins. A criminal psychologist is compiling a profile of the offender.

Det Supt Gregg said: "I believe she was killed shortly after she was last seen, only because she was dressed in similar clothing and her hair was still tied in a ponytail with a plastic hairband. The walker who found her says he was there three months ago and the body was not there then ... The early indications are her body has not been left there very long.

"We are exploring the possibility she has been in someone's house and taken her coat and boots off. It's a possibility we can't rule out that she has gone to the house of someone she knew. Her body had deteriorated and decomposed but not as much as you would expect if she was killed just after disappearing."

Officers are keen to hear from people who may know someone who has knowledge of both the Bramley and Lindley Wood areas.

Initial investigations revealed no sign of sexual assault and the teenager was fully clothed. Fifty officers are helping in the inquiry, which will concentrate on the area where the body was discovered. Anyone with information should contact police on 0113 241 3059.