Edinburgh crime: The mystery behind the unsolved murder of Ann Ballantine in 1987

Ann Ballantine was just 20-years-old when her body was found on a cold Edinburgh morning, and her murder has yet to be solved.
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It was an icy January morning in 1987 when the body of Ann Ballantine was found. She had last been seen weeks before, in November, by her mother Isobel. Thirty-six years have now passed since the 20-year-old’s life was cut short, but her murder has yet to be solved.

Discovery of body

Ann’s naked body was discovered in the canal at Fountainbridge, around 100 yards from her home, wrapped in a carpet. She had been raped and strangled. Her black handbag, her leather sleeveless black coat, a brass petrol lighter that had her initials engraved on it and two keys on her key ring were missing, and have never been recovered. When her flat was checked, a camera and a photo album were also found to have been taken.

The murder of Ann Ballantine remains unsolved decades onThe murder of Ann Ballantine remains unsolved decades on
The murder of Ann Ballantine remains unsolved decades on
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Forensic evidence at the time suggested that Ann’s body has been in the water for just a few days, but she had been killed months earlier. At the time of her murder, a suspect was named in a report submitted to the procurator fiscal but there was not enough evidence to prosecute.

Detective’s theories

Another theory was put forward in 2019 by former detective Chris Clark who believes that Ann may have been the first victim of Beast of Bramley John Taylor. Taylor, 62, is serving life for the murder of 16-year-old Leanne Tiernan in 2000, and a series of sex attacks. Leanne was returning from a Christmas shopping trip in Leeds when she was abducted and murdered. DNA evidence led the police to Taylor, who pleaded guilty to the crime and was subsequently given two life sentences. Taylor is imprisoned at HM Prison Wakefield.

Detective Clark believes there is a similarity in the way Taylor stored the body of his victim, young Leanne, for nine months before putting her in a place where she was found. He explained that, with Ann’s case, “this crucial time lapse and where her body lay in the meantime is key to linking the case to Taylor.”

Scene where body of Ann Ballantine was found in Union Canal near Lower Gilmore Place, Edinburgh.Scene where body of Ann Ballantine was found in Union Canal near Lower Gilmore Place, Edinburgh.
Scene where body of Ann Ballantine was found in Union Canal near Lower Gilmore Place, Edinburgh.

Ann’s brother, Alan, who was 13-years-old when his sister was killed, spoke at the time Clark revealed his theory. He said: “We want justice and that’s pretty much it. If it turns out it was him, then we want it pursued and want justice for my sister and my mum’s daughter. If there’s something in it, then we want it investigated, if not, then there’s nothing to be done.”

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He added that he “didn't know what to make of” Detective Clark’s theory, describing it as “another option [which] could be related but it also might not be related”. He said: “My main concern is that if it is related, why have Police Scotland not done anything about it?”

Ann’s father, Graham, told The Sun 25 years after his daughters murder that he knew who had committed the crime, but was unable to reveal the name publicly. He added that he had a photograph of the man sitting beside his caring and lively daughter at a function, adding that the man attacked Ann in a “jealous rage”. The father believes this man does not have “the guts to confess.”

‘We never got to say goodbye’

Ann Ballantine at the age of 19Ann Ballantine at the age of 19
Ann Ballantine at the age of 19

Ann’s mother Isabel spoke out in 2017 about the horror of losing her daughter, and the pain of never seeing justice done. She told The Scottish Sun: "It's difficult knowing he's about, it makes my blood boil. He's probably with his family and Ann is six-feet under. Why does he deserve that? I'm very bitter.

"Ann was my first-born and I was only 18 but she was a good baby. She was such a happy child - a real happy-go-lucky kid. She wanted to work with those less fortunate. She got her own flat in Fountainbridge but would come back every week because she didn't have a washing machine so she'd come back to do her washing, hang it up to dry and take some food, like kids do when they move out.

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"It was like living in a nightmare from which we couldn't wake up. We never got to see her one last time, which is a killer. Most people get to see the body or kiss the body if they want to. We never got that chance. The body was so decomposed, we never got to say goodbye."

Police Scotland do not close cases until they are solved, and anyone who has any information should contact them on 101, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.