Page last updated at 18:13 GMT, Friday, 17 July 2009 19:13 UK

Chief had Panther notes destroyed

Donald Neilson
Donald Neilson was convicted of four murders in total

A police chief who led the hunt for a killer known as the Black Panther has spoken about why he ordered notes taken during the inquiry to be destroyed.

Former West Mercia Police Chief Constable Alex Rennie, 92, had the documents destroyed when he retired.

He was involved in the search for Donald Neilson who was convicted of four murders, including that of Lesley Whittle, 17, from Shropshire, in 1975.

Mr Rennie said the notes had not been used in court or in evidence.

'Gave word'

He said hundreds of people had been interviewed as police tried to find a reason for Lesley's kidnap and murder.

Talking of the investigation he said: "In this instance we took statements and information from a tremendous number of people on the premise, and I gave my word, that if it was not wanted in evidence it would never be disclosed.

"The reason being it might have been poking our noses into the private lives of people and upsetting families."

He said the destroyed notes were not of evidential value and were not used in court.

Mr Rennie said journalists and all sorts of people had "virtually demanded" the information be released so they could "write books and make money".

"That would have been quite dishonest and might have caused irreparable damage to families," he said.

Donald Neilson, now in his 70s, was known as the Black Panther.

He was already wanted for killing three sub-postmasters in armed raids in Harrogate in North Yorkshire, Accrington in Lancashire and Langley in the West Midlands when he snatched Lesley from her home in Highley.

Judges recently ruled he would die in prison.

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