Bizarre behaviour of a dangerous sadist

JOHN Taylor turned out to be every parent's worst nightmare – a "dangerous sexual sadist"– who snatched innocent schoolgirl Leanne Tiernan from the streets on her way home from a Christmas shopping trip.

When he admitted murdering the teenager earlier this year, Taylor claimed the random killing in November 2000 was committed after he "snapped" while out walking his dog – an isolated incident carried out in drink.

But detectives have never believed Taylor's version of events.

They are now thought to be linking him with rapes dating back decades, and last night confirmed they are investigating him in connection with the deaths of other young women in Yorkshire, including that of 20-year-old Deborah Wood, whose burning body was found less than two miles from Taylor's home.

They believe Deborah and Leanne's bodies may both have been kept in cold storage before being dumped.

Lindsay Rimer, 13, who disappeared after popping to the local shop in Hebden Bridge for some cornflakes in 1995, and whose body was pulled out of the Rochdale Canal six months later, is another case being investigated by detectives.

Officers are also known to be re-examining the murder of Bradford prostitute Yvonne Fitt, whose body was found a stone's throw away from Leanne's shallow grave.

Police say they can place the former Federal Express worker all over the country at one time or another. Former friends have told them Taylor would often take solitary walks for miles along the region's canals, and go poaching alone at all times of the day and night.

Yet there was nothing in Taylor's youth to lead anyone to suspect he could turn into a predatory monster.

The only inkling that something may have been amiss in the father-of two's mind was through what happened during his meetings with women through lonely hearts advertisements after his divorce in 1996.

Most of his dates describe him as harmless enough – but some anxiously called Murder Squad detectives after Leanne's body was found, saying they had met Taylor and found him to be a "bit strange".

Crucially, two of them said Taylor enjoyed bondage during sex, and had bound their hands and breasts with cable ties, just like those found on Leanne's body.

He also had the important knowledge of both Bramley, where Leanne lived, and Lindley Woods, near Otley, where both Leanne's and Yvonne Fitt's bodies were found.

The first sign inkling which detectives had of something evil were the dozens of dead animals buried in Taylor's garden in Cockshott Drive, Armley, Leeds – less than a mile from where Leanne lived. As well as a mass ferret grave, they found a number of dead dogs, some of which had had their skulls smashed in by their bloodthirsty owner.

It was Taylor's obsession with animals that also contributed to the breakdown of his marriage. He had married Janet in 1977. The couple had two children and in May 1982 moved to the house in Cockshott Drive where he was later to murder Leanne.

After Taylor began to buy and breed dogs and ferrets, his houseproud wife soon became sickened by the sight of her husband and his scores of animals.

In 1994 Taylor added to his bizarre collection, and bought two owls which he would feed on day-old chicks, bought in bulk bags of 2,000, and kept in a large freezer, similar to one detectives think may have been used to store Leanne after her grotesque murder.

Two years after his divorce in August 1996, Taylor's home was like a bizarre mini-zoo. He owned two alsatian puppies, seven border terriers, 28 ferrets, a polecat, 40 chickens and a duck.

When one of the puppies attacked his duck, he shot it, and then went on to shoot all 40 chickens and hung them up in the kitchen with bags over their heads, to be eaten later.

When Taylor was arrested on suspicion of Leanne's murder, just over a year later, he had only one dog.

Police found the majority of the animals buried in his garden and believe few of them had died naturally.

Detectives say they must face the grim reality that Taylor did not snap as he walked his dog on that Sunday in November 2000, but was a sick individual who may well be responsible for other attacks.

kate.o'hara@ypn.co.uk