Black Panther will spend life in jail

DONALD Neilson, the Morley-born killer who became known as the Black Panther during a murderous spree in the 1970s, has been told he will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Neilson, now 71, appealed to the High Court to have his life sentence lowered to 30 years, meaning he would be eligible for parole.

He was convicted of four murders, including that of 17-year-old kidnap victim Lesley Whittle, who was snatched from her Shropshire home in 1975.

Judges ruled Neilson, who was was born and brought up in Morley, would have to die in prison.

At the time of Lesley's murder, Neilson was already wanted for killing three sub-postmasters in armed raids in Harrogate, Accrington in Lancashire and Langley in the West Midlands.

He was eventually caught by police when he was seen acting suspiciously outside a post office near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire in December 1975.

When officers went to question him, he tried to hijack the patrol car and shot one of them.

His trial in Oxford heard how he had meticulously planned Lesley's kidnapping for three years after reading in the press about a court case over a disputed will involving the Whittle family.

He read how schoolgirl Lesley, who lived in Highley, had inherited the fortune to one of the biggest private coach companies in the UK, which had bases in Shropshire and Worcestershire.

Neilson kidnapped her on 14 January 1975 and demanded a 50,000 ransom from her family.

Hundreds of police officers were involved in the search for the 17-year-old across the UK, but her body was found hidden in a drain in Bathpool Park, Kidsgrove, Staffordshire, two months later.

Neilson's fingerprints were found to match one of those in the drain shaft.

He was finally convicted and given four life sentences in July 1976.

Neilson was known as the Black Panther because of his trademark balaclava which he wore while carrying out the crimes.