Rachel McLean murder: A bright student with the world at her feet

Rachel McLean was a girl with the world at her feet.

Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 12:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th September 2018, 1:22 pm


She was a lively, articulate, and attractive girl. Rachel was 5ft6in tall, slim with a fresh complexion, shoulder-length, ginger-auburn hair and brown eyes. She wore glasses for reading.

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The year she arrived among the dreaming spires of Oxford to take up a place studying English at St Hilda's College, she walked the streets for hours taking in all the sights and sounds.

She had gained a grade A in her English A-Level, when examiners and teachers alike recognised her talent.

Jennifer Penty, head of English Literature at Blackpool Sixth Form College, said at the time: "T.S Elliot was her passion and my specialism so we worked closely together."

She described her former pupil as a positive personality, though quiet.

"She was such a splendid student with a real talent for writing interesting, creative pieces."

Rachel would visit Mrs Penty most holidays to catch up on the news and rekindle their common interest in English literature.

But Mrs Penty never met John Tanner and the last time she saw Rachel was in the summer holidays.

Rachel met Tanner at her 19th birthday celebrations at her home in Arundel Drive, Carleton, after coming to Blackpool in the summer of '90 to visit the family of his friend, Mark Rands, whom he knew from Nottingham University.

She was a former pupil at Hodgson High School, now Hodgson Academy, in Moorland Road, Poulton, where her mum Jean was head of foreign languages.

A vegetarian, Christian and strong environmentalist, Rachel soon made an impact on her fellow Oxford students.

She was elected vice-president of St Hilda's College junior common room after serving as its entertainments representative, and spoke on behalf of the 364 undergraduates in regular meetings with the college authorities.

Described as streetwise, sensible, and fun by her friends, Rachel helped to draw up a sexual harassment code of complaints procedure with the dean of the college in her last term.

The church-goer was also a member of Oxford Union, and the Industrial Society.

She was known for her voluntary work with Christian Aid, and the Samaritans, and had a Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award.

She also had a love for heavy metal music, and was a member of the University Rock Society.

When she learnt of Rachel's body being found, Mrs Penty said: "She was so full of life and lived it to the full. It's such a waste of fine intellect."

And she recalled being one of the first people to be told by Rachel she had won her coveted place at Oxford.

She added: "I just remember her rushing down the aisle at the church to tell me she'd got in. And in an agonised way that will be one of my fondest memories."