Man guilty of murdering woman found bound and gagged in lake 35 years ago

Man guilty of murdering woman found bound and gagged in lake 35 years ago
‘Evil’ Donald Robertson ‘attacked women over almost three decades’, court hears

A man has been found guilty of murdering Shani Warren, who was found bound and gagged in a lake in 1987, and of kidnapping and raping a teenager six years earlier.

Donald Robertson, who did not attend his trial, was described by a senior crown prosecutor as a “dangerous and deadly predatory sex offender who attacked women over almost three decades, using violent threats to get what he wanted”.

The 66-year-old – who police said had a “long and horrific list of previous convictions” – was found guilty of both crimes by unanimous verdict at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday.

He was convicted of the false imprisonment, indecent assault and murder of Ms Warren over a period of three days in April 1987. The 26-year-old, who lived in Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, was found in Taplow Lake, her wrists having been tied with a car jump lead and her ankles bound by a tow rope.

Robertson was also found guilty of the kidnap and rape of a 16-year-old girl, who cannot be identified, on 16 July 1981, in Farnham Lane, Slough. Police said it is “a regret” there had not been enough evidence at the time to charge him with the teenage girl’s rape.

Just days after he was released by police in connection with that offence, Robertson raped a 14-year-old girl who had been riding her bicycle in Farnham Royal, a crime to which he pleaded guilty in October 1981.

In a similar vein, less than two months after attacking and killing Ms Warren and only a few miles from Taplow Lake, he raped a 17-year-old girl who was walking home having missed the last train.

He is currently behind bars for that crime, having been convicted in 2010 after the incident was reviewed by the police’s cold case team.

Jurors took just seven hours and 18 minutes to reach their verdicts this week.

The serial attacker was charged last year after police found new DNA evidence – described by prosecutors as the “cornerstone” of the latest case – with traces matching Robertson’s discovered on the underwear of both victims, and on a mouth gag used on Ms Warren.

Thanking Ms Warren’s family for their support and patience, Thames Valley Police’s major crime review team’s principal investigator, Peter Beirne, said: “I’m sorry that it took so long to bring Robertson before the court, but we’ve only been able to do that as a result of advancements in forensic science. It was not as a result of any lack of effort on behalf of the police.

“It was just that unfortunately, at that time, there was not the evidence to enable us to charge Robertson.”

Mr Beirne praised the victim of the rape for her “bravery and courage in coming forward when we spoke to her” and hailed her “strength of character” in going to court to give evidence during the trial.

He said that Robertson’s failure to attend his trial “speaks volumes” to his character, labelling him “a coward, [who] wasn’t prepared to stand up and answer to the charges which were put before him”.

“Most victims have said he’s either had a weapon or has told them he’s had a weapon and they’ve been subjected to the most horrendous acts upon their life,” Mr Beirne added.

“In regard to Shani, obviously unfortunately it cost her her life. It is difficult to put into context what these young girls and women went through, but without doubt, Robertson is an evil and dangerous man.”

Robertson did not give evidence in his defence, and his lawyer called no witnesses but claimed another convicted rapist guilty of crimes around that time involving tying women up and attacking them could have been the culprit.

He also referred to evidence from a pathologist at the time of Ms Warren’s death stating she could have tied her own wrists and ankles, making it a suicide, and argued that even if a third party was involved, the possibility of someone falling into the water after having been tied up and assaulted, could not be ruled out.

Robertson will be sentenced at the same court on Thursday afternoon, and Mr Justice Wall told jurors on Tuesday that he would consider whether to recommend that Robertson “is never released” from prison.

Additional reporting by PA