Deathbed confession ‘the only way Dundee Templeton Woods murders can be solved’

Dr Graham
Dr Graham

A leading Dundee criminologist believes it is “highly likely” the same person killed both Carol Lannen and Elizabeth McCabe.

However, Abertay crime expert Dr William Graham said short of a deathbed confession from the killer, or dramatic new evidence coming to light, the tragic cases will remain unsolved.

It was a murder which left the whole of Dundee reeling.

On March 21, 1979, the body of 18-year-old Carol Lannen was discovered in Templeton Woods.

The former Glasgow police officer Dr Graham said: “There is definitely enough evidence to suggest the same person killed both women.

“My own view would be that unless strong evidence comes forward to suggest otherwise, that it was probably the same person who committed both murders.

“However, I personally believe the only way the killer will be caught is if he confesses or if there is dramatic new evidence that will nail the killer without any doubt.”

The murders of Carol and Elizabeth remain live in the eyes of Police Scotland.

Several times over the past 40 years they have re-opened the investigation, most recently during operation Trinity in 2004.

However, that investigation came no nearer to snaring the murderer than at any other time.

A television documentary produced then resulted in a flood of more than 100 calls to police, with 17 people providing possible identities for the photo-fit picture of the driver who had taken Carol on her final journey.

A new murder squad was formed, but despite their efforts not a single serious suspect emerged.

The man who led the murder hunt 40 years ago, Chief Superintendant Jim Cameron, explained that if police had the technology available to officers today, they might have had more success in finding out who killed Carol and Elizabeth.

He said: “We did have some issues with cross contamination that caused problems.

“We weren’t as forensically aware in those days as we are now.

“We also didn’t have DNA testing to rely on that would undoubtedly have given us more resources to call on during the interviewing of the 7,000 people we spoke to during our inquiries.”

Dr Graham said he was aware mistakes had been made during the initial murder inquiry, something police on the case have confirmed.

“In 1979 DNA techniques were in the very early stages.

“We didn’t have the same level of expertise in it that we have now,” Dr Graham said.

“There were also issues in how the bodies were handled and there was cross contamination which caused problems.

“Because of this, crucial evidence could have been unwittingly lost.

“In cases like this mistakes are made and lessons are learned.”

Dr Graham said that because of cases like the Templeton Woods murders, police were able to learn new techniques and lessons which could limit the number of mistakes made in future.

He added: “This remains an open case.

“Police will never close a case if it remains unsolved.

“At this time there doesn’t appear to be anything new to find the killer.

“It looks like we would be relying on a confession from the killer, which after all this time is highly unlikely.

“That, or we need dramatic new evidence to emerge so police can take a fresh look at all the evidence gathered.”

IT is 40 years to the day since the body of teenager Carol Lannen was found in Templeton Woods on March 21 1979. In the third part of our series revisiting the murder, we ask whether today’s modern techniques could have helped find the killer.