What happened to Lesley Whittle?

LESLEY Whittle was just 17 when she was snatched by Donald Neilson – the Black Panther.

A new documentary series will now look into the builder turned career criminal, who was responsible for four murders and more than 400 burglaries.

What happened to Lesley Whittle?

Lesley Whittle was kidnapped and murdered in 1975.

The British teenager was kidnapped from her home in Highley, Shropshire on 14 January by Donald Neilson.

By that time, Neilson had committed over 400 burglaries and three murders.

The British press referred to him as "the Black Panther", for the black balaclava he wore during robberies of post offices.

He had seen a newspaper article about the legacy Lesley Whittle had received from her father George, a former miner who founded a coach company with his two brothers. 

After meticulous planning the Black Panther made his way to the Whittles' home, and cut the phone lines outside the house before breaking into the garage. 

He went to Lesley's bedroom, gagged the teenager and took her to his green Morris car where he tied her up and laid her down on the back seat.

She was wearing only her dressing gown and slippers. 

Neilson drove Lesley to Bathpool Park at Kidsgrove in Staffordshire where he forced her down into the drainage shaft of the nearby reservoir.

Lesley would then spend her final days here – alone, cold and naked, tethered to the side of the shaft by a wire noose.

Her body was discovered nearly two months later on 7 March.

From when it was first announced she was kidnapped, the story dominated national headlines for 11 months.

The investigation involved over 400 officers from the West Mercia Constabulary, Staffordshire and West Midlands police forces and the Metropolitan Police.

During the trial at Oxford Crown Court, Neilson's defence lawyer Gilbert Gray QC contended that Whittle had accidentally fallen from the ledge and subsequently died.

He noted that Neilson had fed her chicken soup, spaghetti and meatballs, and bought her fish and chips, chicken legs and Polo mints.

The prosecution contested these claims.

Evidence found Neilson had provided his victim with a sleeping bag designed to prevent hypothermia, mattresses, survival blankets, survival bags, a bottle of brandy, six paperback books, a copy of the Times and two magazines for reading, a small puzzle, and two brightly coloured napkins.

Police discovered these items in the shaft, and in the subterranean canal running below it.

Is Donald Neilson still alive?

Donald Neilson was sentenced to life imprisonment in July 1976 for the kidnap and murder of Lesley Whittle.

In the early hours of 17 December 2011, Neilson was taken from Norwich Prison to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital with breathing difficulties.

He was pronounced dead the next day.

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