Templeton Woods murders ‘can still be solved’ 40 years on

Detective who investigated deaths of Elizabeth McCabe and Carol Lannen believes killers can be caught.

Templeton Woods murders ‘can still be solved’ 40 years on

By Susan Nicholson

Police say they’re committed to solving the notorious unsolved ‘Templeton Woods murders’ on the 40th anniversary of the second victim being discovered.

A senior detective on one of the investigations told STV News he still believes the cases of Elizabeth McCabe and Carol Lannen can be cracked.

“There’s always the chance that someone out there knows something that could lead the police to the killers,” said, Les Liney, the first CID officer to attend the scene on the outskirts of Dundee where Elizabeth’s body was found on February 26, 1980 – her 21st birthday.

She had been missing for 16 days after leaving a nightclub in the city, when her partially clothed body was found in the same area of woodland where 11 months earlier the naked remains of 18-year-old Carol were discovered.

Both women had been strangled – but four decades on, the identity of their killers remains unknown.

“Even after all this time, it is surprising the knowledge that people can have,” said Mr Liney. “The families of these girls have gone through unimaginable suffering. To lose a child like that, it’s heartbreaking.

Police searching for clues in Templeton Woods.

“My hope is that one day justice can be done.”

Mr Liney was acting detective inspector on the day Elizabeth was discovered by rabbit hunters with dogs.

“The call came in about midday and I headed straight up there,” he recalled. “I remember that it looked as if she had been pushed under the bushes, that some effort had been made to conceal her.

“The initial reaction in the force was now we have two very similar murders – is it the same killer?

“But we had to keep an open mind, and as the investigation into Elizabeth’s murder progressed there were signs that made us think this is not the same guy.”

Elizabeth had been on a night out in Teazer’s Disco in Dundee city centre with a friend. The pair became separated as they left and Elizabeth vanished.

Carol, the mother of a three-month-old baby, was last seen getting into what was thought to be a Ford Cortina estate car in Exchange Street in the city’s red light district on March 20, 1979.

The taxi trade became a key focus of the investigations into both murders and interviews were carried out with drivers across the city.

A police officer speaks to a passing driver during the murder investigation.

There was a twist in the Carol Lannen case when shortly after her body was discovered, her handbag was found on the banks of the River Don in Aberdeenshire, some 85 miles from Dundee.

But in both cases the investigations did not yield enough evidence to charge anyone.

“It was extremely frustrating, we were working night and day on these cases and we wanted justice for the victims and their families ,” added Mr Liney.

In 2004, encouraged by advances in DNA techniques, detectives launched a cold case review and a year later taxi driver Vincent Simpson was charged with Elizabeth’s murder. He had run a taxi business from the village of Newtyle, near Dundee, and had been interviewed by police at the time of the killing.

The trial took place at the High Court in Edinburgh in 2007 and after seven weeks of evidence, Mr Simpson, who was living in Surrey, was found not guilty.

His QC had argued the DNA evidence was flawed and there was a risk of contamination, as items from both the accused and the victim had been stored together.

Police Scotland said they would welcome any new information on both cases.

In a statement the force said: “All cold cases are regularly reviewed, in conjunction with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

“We understand that losing a loved one in any circumstances, particularly where a crime has taken place, is extremely distressing and we can provide reassurance that any new information which is received will be investigated thoroughly.”

A spokesperson for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said: “As with all unresolved homicides the cases remain open and careful consideration would be given to any further evidence that comes to light.”

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