Did Leanne killer take a second girl's life?

DETECTIVES delving into the past of sadistic Yorkshire killer John Taylor are studying compelling evidence that could link him to the gruesome murder of another young woman in Leeds, the Yorkshire Post can reveal.

For the first time, police sources have confirmed they are looking "extremely closely" at the killing of Deborah Wood, 20, whose charred remains were found smouldering on an embankment close to Burley Park train station, Leeds, in January 1996.

In particular, they are studying forensic evidence that Miss Wood's body was kept in cold storage for up to 10 days before it was dumped and set alight.

The detail suggests the work of Taylor, who was given two life sentences earlier this year for the murder of Leeds teenager Leanne Tiernan. Police believe he killed the 16-year-old and kept her body in a freezer before dumping the corpse in a secluded wood near Otley, months later.

Last night police also revealed that Taylor, a divorced father of two, was being investigated over a number of rapes and serious sex attacks spanning two decades.

A police source confirmed: "The Deborah Wood case is one that we are looking at extremely closely, along with a number of others. We have been working on all these lines relentlessly, including the cold storage aspect.

"We are now trying to piece together Taylor's movements over the last 20 years."

Taylor always claimed Leanne's murder was an isolated case – that he had taken his dog for a walk and "just snapped" when the innocent teenager crossed his path in Bramley, Leeds, in November 2000, as she was returning home from a Christmas shopping trip.

But police suspect Taylor has a far more sinister past and could have been a serial sex attacker for years.

They are also re-examining the files on Bradford prostitute Yvonne Fitt, whose body was found in September 1992, close to the spot where Leanne's remains were dumped next to a shallow grave.

Police have confirmed they are also re-examining the unsolved murder of 13-year-old Lindsay Rimer, from Hebden Bridge.

The investigation into Deborah Wood's killing reached an impasse after months of exhaustive inquiries.

But at the time detectives said they were convinced the answer to her murder lay somewhere in the Burley area – less than two miles from where Taylor lived.

Miss Wood had enjoyed a drink with her father, Peter, in a Leeds city centre pub, on the afternoon of January 4, 1996. He left her with friends, and she was seen leaving the bar later that day.

Her remains were discovered 10 days later.

Within weeks of the murder inquiry being launched, it emerged that her killer might have stored her body somewhere cold.

Det Supt Andy Brown said at the time: "We are facing the real possibility that Deborah has been killed and kept in cold storage. This could have been inside or out in the open."

After his arrest, Taylor confessed to keeping Leanne's body hidden underneath pallets in his back garden, and then storing her in a compartment in his settee.

But officers always believed her body must have been kept somewhere colder, possibly in a freezer. Taylor, a keen poacher and animal breeder, is known to have kept thousands of frozen chicks in storage as feed, but detectives never found the freezer when they searched his home.

Last night Miss Wood's devastated father, Peter, said: "When I saw the news about Leanne, I thought it was odd, and it reminded me of what they had said about Deborah.

"I would feel better if I could find out who it was that did this to Deborah. It's the not knowing that is the worst."

His words were echoed by Lindsay Rimer's mother, Geri, who told the Yorkshire Post that she had an "incredible, primal urge" to know what had happened to her daughter.

Lindsay vanished almost eight years ago, and her body was found weighted down in the Rochdale Canal six months after she disappeared on a trip to the local shop.

A police source said: "We have been working painstakingly to trace Taylor's steps over the past few years, and can place him all over the country at one time or another."

It remains to be seen whether the man described as a "dangerous sexual sadist" by the judge who sentenced him to life for Leanne's murder, may have claimed other innocent victims.

kate.o'hara@ypn.co.uk