Carol Lannen, 1979

Templeton Woods, March 1979

On March 21st, 1979, the naked body of Carol Lannen was found in the growth at Templeton Woods.  A search quickly began, scouring the entire country for the callous murderer of 18 year old Lannen.   A troubled teen, Carol had fallen into the trappings of Dundee’s seedier side, and had become a prostitute.  This high-risk behaviour may have put her in extreme danger often, but it most certainly sealed her fate on the night of 20th March/morning of 21st March.

A little over a week after her murder, Carol’s handbag was found washed up on the banks of the River Don, Aberdeenshire.  Last seen getting into a red vehicle the evening before her disappearance, the search focused on owners and drivers of red cars; specifically a Ford Cortina.  However, with no more witnesses and no real evidence, the case of the murdered mother of one was beginning to go cold.  Although there were suggestions that the murderer was from the Aberdeenshire area, there were theories which suggested the ditching of the handbag was merely to provide a decoy to divert attention away from the real location of the murderer.

The murder of Elizabeth McCabe less than a year later in almost the same area led people to believe that there was a serial killer on the loose.  Many people were fearful to walk in the woods alone in case they met the “Templeton Woods Killer” and suffered the same fate as these very different young women.

Carol’s murder was thrust into the spotlight again as speculation and gossip ran rife, not only throughout the city, but throughout the entire country.  Peter Sutcliffe was briefly intimated to be a suspect, but this theory was rejected due to the fact that Carol had not appeared to have suffered a particularly violent death (although murder by strangulation is still pretty horrific in our eyes!).  Evil Angus Sinclair was also suspected, but charges were never brought to the notorious sex killer.

Subsequently, in an effort to crack the cold case, investigations opened up again nearly 30 years later.  New evidence and eyewitness reports led police to talk with sex offenders Peter Syme and Joseph Stewart in Peterhead Prison, in an effort to extract information in relation to a lead they had received that a registered sex offender incarcerated in HMP Peterhead may have been responsible for Carol’s death.  Despite this breakthrough in the investigation, the man pegged as their prime suspect had since died, so no formal charges could ever be brought, and indeed, his guilt or innocence never proven.

Unfortunately for the memory of Carol Lannen and for the sake of closure for her grieving family, her murder continues to be largely unsolved.  Surprisingly, despite the high level of publicity surrounding the case, her estranged father did not learn of her death until 2005 due to a complete breakdown in family relationships after he left them and moved away in the early 1970’s.

Although police are satisfied that Carol’s killer is dead, her murder still essentially remains unsolved, and still begs the question: What really did happen to the tragic Carol Lannen?

– DD Tours operates walking tours in Dundee city, covering dark local history such as wars, battles, murders, diseases, riots, disasters and executions. Walk with us for an unforgettable storytelling experience.

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