Donald Neilson Lesley Whittle

What happened to Lesley Whittle and where is ‘Blank Panther’ Donald Neilson now?

It's the focus of Channel 5 documentary The Abduction of Lesley Whittle

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The Abduction of Lesley Whittle on Channel 5 retells the horrifying story of a missing teenager, and how she was later found murdered – but where is killer Donald Neilson now?

What happened to Lesley Whittle and what was her cause of death?

Here’s everything you need to know about the grisly crime.

donald neilson
Lesley Whittle’s convicted murderer Donald Neilson (Credit: Channel 5)

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Who was Donald Neilson victim Lesley Whittle?

Lesley Whittle was a British teenager and the daughter of George Whittle, co-owner of Whittle Coaches.

Born in 1957, she was just 17 when she was kidnapped from her home in Highley, Shropshire.

At the time of her kidnapping, she was a student at Wulfrun College, Wolverhampton.

Donald Neilson kidnapped Lesley on January 14, 1975.

Her dead body discovered on March 7, 1975.

What did Donald Neilson do to Lesley Whittle?

Donald was a career criminal who had committed over 400 burglaries and three murders.

He targeted Lesley as a result of her wealth.

To avoid estate taxes, her dad George Whittle gave his mistress and their two children huge sums of cash.

Lesley received £82,000.

Donald kidnapped Lesley Whittle and held her in an underground drainage shaft of a reservoir at Bathpool Park in Kidsgrove, Staffordshire.

He placed a hood over her head, left her naked, and tethered her to the side of the shaft by a wire noose.

Donald asked for a £50,000 ransom.

However, police found Lesley’s body hanging in the shaft on March 7 1975 after what was later seen as a bungled police operation.

Police believed that Donald Neilson pushed Lesley Whittle off the ledge in the drainage shaft, strangling her.

The post-mortem examination showed that the teenager died instantly from vagal inhibition, though, not strangulation.

Lesley Whittle murder
A newspaper headline of Lesley Whittle’s disappearance (Credit: Channel 5)

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Where is Donald Neilson now?

Donald Neilson subsequently became Britain’s most wanted man.

In December 1975, two police officers spotted a man seen acting suspiciously in Mansfield – it was Donald Neilson.

Police arrested him with the help of several customers in a nearby fish and chip shop.

On July 1976, the Oxford Crown Court convicted Donald Neilson of the kidnapping and murder of Lesley Whittle.

The judge sentenced Donald to life imprisonment.

Three weeks later, he was convicted of the murder of three post office workers, and given three further life sentences.

In 2008, Donald Neilson appealed against his sentence after revealing he was suffering from motor neurone disease.

However, Mr Justice Teare ruled that he must never be released from prison.

Neilson died in hospital, still serving his sentence, in December 2011 at the age of 75.

Why was Donald Neilson called the Black Panther?

The British press called Donald Neilson “the Black Panther”.

This was because he wore a black balaclava while robbing post offices.

Lesley Whittle
Donald Neilson abducted and murdered Lesley Whittle (Credit: YouTube)

What is vagal inhibition?

Vagal inhibition refers to a condition that can lead to sudden death.

It happens when pressure is placed on the neck where the vagus nerve runs.

If the nerve isn’t able to effectively transmit signals to and from the vital organs – heart, lungs and digestive tract – it can lead them to stop  working.

The Abduction of Lesley Whittle on Channel 5

The Abduction of Lesley Whittle is a Channel 5 documentary.

It tells the story of the kidnapping and murder of 17-year-old Lesley in 1975.

Her ordeal began at her home in Shropshire on 14 January, when her mother Dorothy went to wake her daughter and found an empty bed.

In the lounge, there were three ransom notes demanding £50,000 and a warning not to involve the police.

Seven weeks later, police found Lesley hanging from a wire at the bottom of the drainage shaft where Donald Neilson had tethered her.

The Abduction of Lesley Whittle airs on Monday October 11 2021 at 9pm on Channel 5.

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