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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 December 2007, 19:10 GMT
Templeton Woods accused cleared
Vincent Simpson outside the High Court

A former taxi driver has been cleared of murdering nursery nurse Elizabeth McCabe, whose body was found in Templeton Woods in Dundee 27 years ago.

A jury found Vincent Simpson, 61, not guilty of murder after a seven-week trial at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Mr Simpson, from Camberley in Surrey, claimed he had an alibi for the night Miss McCabe vanished and gave a list of other men he said could be responsible.

The jury took just three hours to reach the not guilty verdict.

Miss McCabe, 20, was last seen alive leaving a nightclub in Dundee on Sunday 10 February, 1980.

Vincent Simpson, you have been acquitted by verdict of the jury
Lord Kinclaven
Trial judge

Her naked body was found by rabbit hunters in woodland in Dundee two weeks later.

Mr Simpson greeted the not guilty verdict by quietly saying: "Thank you very much."

He was then shown out through a side door.

He had earlier bowed his head as his fate was revealed, with Lord Kinclaven telling him: "Vincent Simpson, you have been acquitted by verdict of the jury.

"I can discharge you from the dock in relation to this indictment."

Mr Simpson had been charged with murdering Miss McCabe after the case, which had led to one of Tayside Police's biggest ever investigations, was re-opened in 2004.

New DNA techniques had encouraged detectives into believing the mystery could finally be solved. Mr Simpson was charged with murder in 2005.

Vital evidence

In his closing speech at the High Court, Mark Stewart QC, defending Mr Simpson, said there was little evidence against the accused, describing the police investigation as "fundamentally and permanently flawed."

He described the case as "not fit for purpose", and said the whole premise that a taxi driver had been involved "began somewhere in the imagination of some detective in the 1980s".

Much of the prosecution case had centred around DNA evidence which the Crown claimed pointed to Mr Simpson's guilt.

The Crown said that adding all the results together, the chances of the combined DNA coming from anyone other than Simpson and unrelated to him was 1:40,000,000.

But Mr Stewart pointed to the possibility that there was contamination of vital evidence.

Elizabeth McCabe
Ms McCabe's body was found two weeks after she vanished

And as he sent them out to consider their verdict earlier on Thursday, trial judge Lord Kinclaven warned jurors they could not convict on DNA evidence alone.

Miss McCabe's mother Anne, 67, and other family members had been at the High Court for almost every day of the trial.

They looked clearly distressed by the verdict, but made no comment.

Speaking on behalf of the McCabe family, Detective Inspector Ally Reid of Tayside Police said: "Elizabeth's family are understandably disappointed at today's verdict. They have been in court every day, an experience which has been both distressing and upsetting for them.

"Their only motivation was to seek justice for Elizabeth. They understand and support the reasons behind the re-investigation of Elizabeth's death, and appreciate the efforts of those involved in bringing the matter to court."

During the trial, the court heard that the remains of the young woman, from Lochee, Dundee, were found by two rabbit hunters who had taken their dogs into the woods.

The men initially mistook the lifeless body, lying naked on the freezing winter's day, for a mannequin or tailor's dummy.

'Jigsaw puzzle'

Jurors were shown distressing pictures of Miss McCabe's body at the spot where it was discovered.

Her death was said to have been quick and there was no evidence of a violent struggle having taken place.

Police who arrived on the scene feared wrongly that a serial killer was on the loose.

Months earlier, the body of another woman, Carol Lannen, had been found in the same woods.

Miss McCabe, described as a shy young woman, was last seen by her close friend, Sandra Niven, at the end of a night out in the city's Teazer's nightclub.

It was claimed she met her killer at some point after leaving the venue.

During the trial, prosecutor Alex Prentice QC described the case as being like a "27-year-old jigsaw puzzle".

He alleged that the accused strangled Miss McCabe, dumped her body in the frozen woodland and kept the "awful, dark secret" for a quarter of a century.

Speaking outside the court, Det Ch Insp Ewen West, who led the investigation, said he was disappointed for the McCabe family at the verdict, but was "respectful of the decision made by the jury in what has been a difficult and complex case for them."

He added: "We will now take time to consider the verdict and that will involve internal discussion within the force and with the Procurator Fiscal, but more importantly with the McCabe family."

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