Time for justice
Taylor’s 2002 trial was held at the Leeds Crown Court and presided over by the Honourable Mr Justice Astill. Taylor was represented by defence lawyer Graham Stowe Bateson and despite the extensive evidence against him, Taylor only admitted to abducting Leanne and not to killing her.
His version of events was that she had fallen off his bed and banged her head. Believing she was dead, he had lifted her using the scarf that was around her neck and that must have been when she died. He had panicked and buried her body in Lindley Woods.
Results of the post mortem examination on Tiernan’s body had concluded that the degree of decomposition was not consistent with burial in the ground for many months, as Taylor had suggested. The judge therefore concluded that the defendant had kept the body for some time between three weeks and nine months in his deep freeze, perhaps as a trophy or to avoid detection, before burying it in the woods.
Judge Astill said to Taylor, “You are a dangerous sexual sadist. Your purpose in kidnapping this young girl was so that you could satisfy your perverted cravings. This was a planned, premeditated encounter. …It was a cold and calculating act and the suffering you caused was immeasurable.”
Prosecutor Robert Smith QC claimed that the state of Tiernan’s body when she was found meant that is wasn’t possible to establish for certain whether or not she had been sexually abused. However, Smith claimed that Taylor’s motive for killing her was clearly for the purpose of sexual gratification.
On 8 July 2002, showing no emotion, 46-year-old John Taylor pleaded guilty to the kidnap and murder of Leanne Tiernan on 26 November 2000. Taylor stared straight ahead as he was sentenced to two counts of life imprisonment, during which the public gallery cheered and applauded.
Judge Astill recommended that Taylor serve 25 years before being considered for parole. Whilst Lord Woolf CJ later reduced this to 20 years, saying this was more in line with current practice, Taylor can most likely expect to spend rest of his life in prison. Taylor was sent to the maximum-security Wakefield prison, home to other infamous criminals Harold Shipman, Ian Huntley and Roy Whiting.
Following sentencing, Tiernan’s mother, Sharon Hawkhead, said “Although John Taylor has been locked up, our agony continues. We feel nothing for him. We are pleased that he has been locked up so he can’t do this to anyone else, but life should mean life.”