3 Girls, 3 Heartbreaking Stories | What happened to Semina Halliwell, Leanne Tiernan & Leah Cantillon?

(Top right: Semina, Bottom right: Leanne and left: Leah. Picture collage created by me. Picture credits: newstatesman / yorkshireeveningpost / thesun)

This post is going to be a little bit different to what I have written before. Sometimes I feel the need to come on here and write about a particular case or cases that have been on my mind and the stories of these 3 beautiful girls (in the picture above) have been on my mind a lot this past week. I was originally going to be focusing on one true crime case as I usually do and that was going to be, the horrendous crimes of an individual named John Taylor, but whilst researching that case, I took a break to check on my TikTok account. Whilst I was scrolling through, I stumbled across two tribute videos to two young girls who had sadly passed away and that led me down a path of research and what I found not only disturbed me but left me feeling both a sense of sorrow and anger. I wanted to share their stories here because they deserve to be remembered, their stories need to be told and they deserve justice.

I'm conscious that this may be a very long post but I will try to be as brief as possible about each story but hopefully deliver enough facts and information to give you a real insight and knowledge about each of these wonderful girls, what happened to them, who was to blame as well as everything else. One of the tragic details that these 3 angels have in common?.... they are sadly no longer with us and that is a true crime in itself. 

As I always like to remind readers, some of the details that I will be sharing in this post will be disturbing, I will be talking about sensitive subjects such as sexual assault/rape, bullying, self-harm and suicide. If you  feel in any way that this might be difficult for you to carry on with, please feel free to leave reading the rest of the post, I still appreciate you taking the time to check out my work and hope that you will join me in my next post. For those who feel that they can continue to read on, I appreciate you too. Let's begin...

Leanne Tiernan

(Leanne Tiernan. Picture credit: yorkshireeveningpost)

As I stated at the beginning of this post, I was originally going to focus on one true crime case and that was the crimes of a British sexual sadist and murderer, John Taylor. John, who was born and bred in Leeds, West Yorkshire (England) was first brought to the public's attention when he was found guilty of the rape and murder of 16 year old, Leanne Tiernan. 

Leanne was a bright, bubbly and beautiful young woman who was doing what a lot of us did as teenagers, she spent the day going shopping with her friend in the city of Leeds on the 26th of November 2000. I used to live in Leeds when I was a young teenager and I would do pretty much the same routine as Leanne. Me and my friends would get on the bus or train and spend the day in the city, it was fun and all part of growing up, the normal everyday things that teenagers do. It was close to Christmas and Leanne was Christmas shopping with her friend so it was an extra fun occasion, however that day was to turn into a horrible nightmare. 

After the girls had finished their shopping and decided it was time to return home, they caught the bus and arrived at their usual stop. Leanne and her friend went their separate ways and Leanne decided to take a short cut home as she had always done before. It was 4:50pm and with it being November it was starting to get dark but after such a long day Leanne must have been in the mood to get home, get her shoes off and make a cup of tea, as we all would I'm sure. When I look back at things I have done as a teenager, I sometimes cringe at the thought of some of the risky actions I have taken and I have, on a number of occasions, walked through a wooded area on my own or walked down a dimly lit path at night. You don't think anything about it at that age and because you've done it before without any problems you seem to have this false sense of security. 

So Leanne took this usual route which she had done many times before and unfortunately on this particular evening something horrible was lurking and ready to strike. As the young girl made her way, possibly thinking about Christmas, maybe her boyfriend, music or whatever, a man walked came up behind her and grabbed her. Before there was even any time for her to fully register what was happening, he had already tied her hands with a dog leash and put his jacket over her head, no doubt saying terrifying threats to her as he forced her to walk the short distance to his home. 

It's impossible to imagine what must have been going through Leanne's mind at that moment or the sheer level of fear that must have engulfed her. We don't know the exact events of what happened in that house of horrors that was owned by the monster known as 44 year old John Taylor. What we do know is that Leanne went through a hell of an ordeal, an ordeal that nobody, let alone a 16 year old child should ever have to go through. 

Leanne was well thought of and loved by all who knew her so when her friend tried to call her home phone number to check if she'd gotten home safe, she was concerned to find that she wasn't there. Leanne's mother didn't waste anytime trying to contact her daughter on her mobile phone, a mother's instinct told her something was not right when the phone rang out at first and the second time it was as if someone had switched it off. She was straight on the phone to the police to report Leanne missing. The police acted fast and a search was underway, it was to be one of the biggest missing persons cases and search investigations in the UK's history. 200 hundred officers were on the case and countless hundreds of volunteers searched the local area high and low, buildings, fields, ditches, everywhere you can think of, they searched and not a trace of Leanne was to be found. 

Posters were everywhere, a local businessman donated £10,000 for a reward to find out if anyone knew any information, popular supermarket chain, Iceland, printed Leanne's picture on their milk carton as another effort to help bring her home. It wasn't until the 20th of August 2001 that Leanne's body was discovered in woodland near Otley. 

Leanne's body had been wrapped in plastic bags and a duvet. She had been bound with cable ties and had a scarf around her neck. She was identified by her fingerprints. In a another gruesome discovery by forensic experts, they believed that due to the decomposition of the body and the state of the internal organs, that Leanne's body must have been kept in a freezer for a certain amount of time. 

Forensics and DNA made an incredible breakthrough in this case because they were able to trace the tiniest of fibres and DNA evidence right back to John Taylor. This evidence together with statements that were provided to the police by his former girlfriends (who claimed that he had a fetish for tying women up with cable ties and extreme bondage plus he would take these women to the same area that Leanne was found). With all the evidence stacked up against him he had no choice but to confess and he was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison. 

This sentence was later explained by the judge who had heard of the public outcry over the sentence. He explained that he did not wish for John Taylor to be released from prison in 30 years for that would be up to the parole board to decide not him. The police were not finished with John Taylor, they had suspicions that he had murdered before with how carefully he carried out his sadistic kidnap, murder and disposal of Leanne's remains. 

(John Taylor. Picture credit: yorkshireeveningpost)

It turned out that the police were right, for years later it was discovered that John Taylor had been a predatory rapist for years, even being responsible for a sick sexual attack on a 7 year old girl. In 2018 with yet more sickening evidence of his crimes towards women, he was given what many people agreed that he should have gotten in the first place, a whole life order for a string of evil and violent sexual attacks. He was a beast, a monster and had been doing it for years. There's unsolved cases that have his name written all over them but more evidence needs to be found. John worked as a Parcelforce delivery man so he had driven all over the country and throughout the UK, who knows how many other sexual attacks and possible murders he is responsible for. 

He is currently rotting in 'The Monsters Mansion' known as Wakefield Prison. Because of this selfish, disgusting and evil pervert, Leanne (and others) have either had their lives cut short or have had to live with the horrible nightmares and terrible memories of what he has done to them. 

The beautiful pictures of Leanne are all that remain of a bright, bubbly teenager who had her whole life ahead of her, just 16 years old, who knows what she would have become. Leanne would have been in her 30s now, maybe with a family of her own, who knows? that was stolen from her, her life was stolen from her in such an evil way. It's hard to find the words to describe the loss and the anger. My thoughts are with her family who must cherish the pictures and the memories of the Leanne that they loved and knew so well. She was so much more than a pretty girl on an missing poster. I hope that John Taylor lives in agony every day, I hope he has nightmares every night for what he has done to countless women, young girls and children. 

Semina Halliwell 

(Semina Halliwell. Picture credit: newstatesman)

The little beaming face in the picture above is Semina Halliwell, doesn't she look as cute as a button? Just 12 years old, whole life in front of her, she should have been enjoying her childhood without a care in the world but instead this poor little darling felt like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders and made the decision to take her own life. Where is the sense in that? where is the sense in a beautiful 12 year old child feeling that she has no other option than to cease to exist. 

Semina had been put through hell and suffered a horrendous rape by an older boy from school, when she told her heartbroken family they did what they could to support her and the police were contacted. Instead of the police being sympathetic to Semina, her mother claims that they made her daughter feel like she was an inconvenience and it pretty much felt like her daughter was the one who was being made out to be the perpetrator instead of the actual victim that she was. 

The officer who interviewed Semina complained that if she was to press charges against her attacker that he would have to spend a long time filling in forms and that the case would take months and months to go to court. Hearing the details of this officer's handling of this situation disgusts me but it's not the first time I have heard such a story of how the police tend to treat victims of rape and sexual assault. 

 I used to work as a case worker for an organisation called S.T.A.R which offered support, advice and help for people who had been through rape and sexual assault. I mostly worked with young people and was there though medical examinations right up to court appearances. 

Many people are afraid to report that they have been raped/sexually assaulted because in many cases it can feel like the victim is being put on trial and that is how many others and Semina felt. It's disgusts me entirely that a 12 year old child was being subjected to this type of pathetic, judgemental and lazy behaviour by an adult member of the police force. I've heard about this type of treatment towards victims time and time again and I'm angry to hear that it is still going on. 

To add more trauma, Semina had to deal with bullies both online and at school as well as going through self-harm. Both Semina and her family were threatened by individuals (believed to be connected to Semina's attacker) to keeping quiet or acts of violence would be committed against them. Semina was constantly threatened at school and was beaten up a few times with the bullies recording everything on their mobile phones and posting the videos online. It was absolute hell and there was no escape, the bullies continued their campaign of intimidation and abuse online. The final straw came after the cold and unsympathetic interview with the police officer and Semina had told her family that she had, had enough. 

Without her families knowledge she opened up a bottle of pills and took an overdose. When she was found she was taken to hospital where she battled for her life for 4 days. She was placed in an induced coma but her poor body couldn't get through it, her organs continued to shut down and she sadly passed away. 

(Semina's mother released this final picture, just taken days before Semina died, to bring awareness to online bullying and lack of proper professional care from the police service. Picture credit: Daily Mail)

Her mother and her family were beside themselves and angry with how Semina was treated and who could blame them? More hell and evil treatment was dished out by the bullies who had made threats to cause disruption at Semina's funeral. The police had to attend to make sure there was no incidences at Semina's memorial. 

Not long after Semina's death and the funeral, her family were subjected to more hell with the bullies posting nasty things about Semina online, horrible pictures made of her lying in her coffin which they sent to her mother, posts celebrating her death and they even posted a £10,000 offer online for someone to go and trash Semina's grave. Just a couple of weeks after this the family had the heartbreak of finding Semina's grave vandalised and covered in dog feces and bricks.

It's just too utterly heartbreaking and sickening to put into words. I didn't know Semina or know her family personally but my heart goes out to them and I feel so much anger for how Semina was treated, what she endured and what they have had to endure. The fact remains also that nobody has been properly brought to justice for any of this. I can't imagine the pain that Semina's mother and her family feel. 

This whole horrible nightmare only took place last year (2021), what kind of world are we living in that people can do this to a 12 year old child, push her to suicide and then terrorise her family without a single person being held accountable. It is utterly insane. I do hope that anyone in the true crime community who reads this post takes it upon themselves to write about it or include Semina's story in their YouTube video or podcast. This horrible story needs to be told. Our 'justice' system is flawed, we need laws brought in for online trolls. We have to do something to make sure that this doesn't happen again. 

Leah Cantillon

(Leah Cantillon. Picture credit: Irish Sun)

Leah was every inch the glamourpuss as you can clearly see from the stunning picture above. She was just 17 years old, an Irish beauty with a large following on TikTok, she was a very popular girl who appeared to have it all. Full of sass, style and quick wit, her TikTok videos showed an air of confidence and unbothered attitude but as much as she was adored, she was envied and with success and admiration there also came the haters, the negative people, the girls who were jealous of her beauty and the boys who knew they would never have a chance with her. 

TikTok (which I have only recently joined) seems to be a mixed bag of people just like any other social media but what I have noticed (and this is just based on my experience) is that it's not moderated well. I've seen some shocking videos and clips pop up on my feed and I've seen some horrendous comments too. 

It seems to be that some of these miserable, sour people who are unhappy with their own lives, decide to jump onto TikTok, as well as other platforms and proceed to try and wreck someone else's day with their nasty comments. I've never understood this mentality, I know that it makes them feel some sort of release, some sort of power in their insignificant lives. I have no sympathy for people who do this. I'm sure we've all been through some kind of tragedy in our lives, maybe we lost a job or a relationship broke down but do you see us (normal people) jumping onto TikTok and leaving horrible comments in an attempt to hurt someone, no! 

For Leah, who, for a 17 year old was way ahead of her time when it came to style, the constant nasty comments about her 'tan' as well as being branded a 'chav' amongst other insults, began to take their toll. This wasn't a weakness on her part, you could be the most confident person but if you had a whole bunch of people sending you online abuse day in day out, eventually that takes it's toll and another dangerous thing about these trolls is that they could strike on a day where you are feeling low. All us girls (and I'm sure guys do too) have those days when we don't feel so good or have a hang up about a part of our bodies (especially during periods) but most of us tend to snap out of it.

I'm speaking as someone who is older than Leah, I don't know what it's like to be a 17 year old in today's world and to be honest it scares me. The constant pressure that young people must feel in today's 'Selfie Society' where shows like 'Love Island' promote perfection and the Kardashians promote wealth and plastic surgery. If I was a teenager right now, I would struggle to know where I would fit in to all of that, it was hard enough when I was a kid without the internet, it must be 10 times worse now. 

We know its harder for young people today because we see a horrible and heartbreaking rise in suicides because of trolls online and the constant pressures. As much as there are positives to having come so far with technology, there is also a huge negative side to it too. In writing this post I am reminded of the Amanda Todd story where I wrote about her sadly taking her own life due to severe bullying online and threats by an evil predator. Amanda's family also had to endure nasty comments by trolls after her death. 

Leah made it no secret that part of the reason she had such a lovely tan was because she would use sunbeds on a regular basis. Using sun tan beds is not a great idea but she was 17 and like a lot of younger people today, she wanted faster results. She looked amazing (don't take this as an incentive to go on a sun bed because I heavily advise against it, Fake tan all of the way) but trolls would mock her for her tan and for her love of Rap & Hip Hop music, she had been accused of trying to change her skin colour too to appear to look more like a black woman. It's difficult to know exactly what sent Leah to the point of where she felt like she couldn't go on but her last video to TikTok was posted on the 20th of February which was a Sunday. The short clip was of her lip syncing to a song, the very next day she tried to take her own life and was admitted to hospital. her family have kept the exact details of her death private but what we do know is that she was kept on a life support machine before officially being declared deceased on the Friday (25th of February of this year, 2022). 

Like the reaction to Semina's death, there was an outpouring of shock and grief at the news of what had happened to Leah. People could not understand how a beautiful girl who seemed to have it all could suddenly decide to want to end her life. 

Sometimes there's a build up to suicide and sometimes it's a split second decision. None of us know what was going through Leah's mind but it's heartbreaking to think that she felt that it was her only option. 

So, as you can see, if you have read through this whole post (I told you it was going to be a long one. if you've made it this far, my absolute appreciation) why I have had these three angels on my mind this week. It's just devastating that they are no longer here and in the case of Semina and Leah, the very people that caused them to have such unhappiness, that planted the seeds of thoughts of suicide, are still out there, online and nobody has been held accountable! Beautiful lives have come to an end for nothing. 

It just goes to show that in 2022 we still have a long way to go with dealing with cyberbullying, laws concerning trolls, abuse online and mental health as well as the police's approach to victims of sexual assault needs to be addressed properly. 

My heart goes out to these angels and their families. 

(Semina, Leah & Leanne. Collage created by me. Pic credits: newstatesman / yorkshireeveningpost / Irish Sun

RIP Semina, Leanne and Leah. 

Further Reading & Sources: 

Leanne Tiernan: Police Files | West Yorkshire police

Leanne Tiernan: Article | Yorkshire Evening Post

Murder of Leanne Tiernan | Wikipedia

John Taylor: Article | Examiner Live

John Taylor: Article | Daily Mail

John Taylor: Article | Crime & Investigation UK

John Taylor: Article | Leeds Live

John Taylor: Article | Murderpedia

Otley | Wikipedia

Leeds | Wikipedia

Wakefield Prison | Wikipedia

Semina Halliwell: Article | Sky News

Semina Halliwell: Article | Daily Mail

Semina Halliwell: Article | Daily Mail

Semina Halliwell: Article | Lancs Live

Semina Halliwell: Article | Wales Online

Semina Halliwell: Article | Liverpool Echo

Rachel Halliwell Twitter Page

Semina Halliwell: Article | Mirror

Semina Halliwell: Article | Daily Post

Semina Halliwell: Article | Manchester Evening News

Semina Halliwell: Article | Daily Record

The Semina Halliwell Foundation

Leah Cantillon: Article | Irish Mirror

Leah Cantillon: Article | Sunday World

Leah Cantillon: Article | USA Today News

Leah Cantillon: Article | The Sun

Leah Cantillon Tik Tok Account

Anti-Bullying Alliance

Cyberbullying | Wikipedia

Cyberbullying | UNICEF

Bullying & Cyberbullying | Childline

This post has been quite a long emotional one and even though I have come to the end of researching and writing about these three tragic stories, I am still left with a feeling of sadness, anger and confusion as to why this sort of thing is allowed to continue happening, we need stricter laws regarding online and punishment for trolls. There's a difference between having a decent opinion and being a straight out bully. If you've got nothing nice to say then shut your mouth and scroll on! If you don't like someone's tan, or lashes or what they are wearing, just scroll past and go about your day. If you're the sort of person who goes online to vent your unhappiness via nasty comments to innocent strangers, then I suggest you do yourself a favour (as well as the rest of us) and seek professional help. 

I wish I could say that valuable lessons will be learned from all of this but we know, in reality, they won't be.As well as telling the trolls to cut their crap, we have a responsibility to ourselves to protect ourselves. Be careful with your personal information, try not to post personal details about your life, take proper breaks from social media. The world of social media is like a shark tank at times with people just waiting to strike on the next innocent victim, we have to be aware of this and if it means locking your account or taking a break for a few weeks or months then so be it! Social media is not your whole life! There's a difference between the social media world and the real world out there, we make mistakes sometimes and get too caught up in things and opinions online when they do not matter. 

How many times have I had 'Bob or Larry from Massachusetts' pop up in my comments section telling me I'm covered in Make-up or have fake boobs, I'm this or I'm that. I no longer care but when I was younger I did care and that is why younger people need that extra support.

My email is always open for any young person or anyone who is going through online bullying and they need a little chat if they feel like the walls are closing in. YOU'RE NOT ALONE!! 

I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and I hope you will join me in my next one. You can find me on social media here!! and my email is: jocaledoniankitty@gmail.com

Stay safe x 

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