Rapist who killed woman found tied up in lake convicted by new DNA evidence 35 years later
A “predator” who raped a teenager and murdered a woman whose bound and gagged body was found in a lake has been convicted decades after his “horrendous” crimes.
Serial attacker Donald Robertson (pictured) was charged last year after a police cold case team found new DNA evidence linking him to the death of Shani Warren in April 1987.
The body of 26-year-old Ms Warren, who lived in Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, was found in Taplow Lake on the Easter weekend that year.
Her car was abandoned in a layby on the A4, with bin bags containing remnants of grass from Ms Warren having recently mowed the lawn, and an Easter egg in the driver’s footwell.
Robertson, 66, did not attend his trial and the dock at Reading Crown Court was empty on Tuesday as a jury found him guilty of both crimes.
He was convicted of the false imprisonment, indecent assault and murder of Ms Warren between April 16 and 19 – her wrists having been tied with a car jump lead and ankles bound by a tow rope.
He was also found guilty of the kidnap and rape of a 16-year-old girl, who cannot be identified, on July 16 1981.
Police described “evil” Robertson as someone with a “long and horrific list of previous convictions” and said it is “a regret” there was not enough evidence at the time to charge him with the teenage girl’s rape in Farnham Lane, Slough.
Just days after being 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.
The prosecution said new DNA evidence was the “cornerstone” of the latest case against Robertson – with traces matching his found on the underwear of both victims as well as on a mouth gag used on Ms Warren.
Police said they were sorry it had taken so long to bring her attacker to justice, but that the case coming to court was down to advancements in forensic science.
Thames Valley Police’s major crime review team’s principal investigator, Peter Beirne, told the PA news agency: “In relation to Shani’s family I’d like to thank them for their support, thank them for their patience.
“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 branded Robertson an “evil and dangerous” man and a “predator” who had attacked women and girls “throughout his adult life”, subjecting them to “the most horrendous acts”.
He said 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”.
He praised the victim of the rape for her “strength of character” in going to court to give evidence during the trial.
He said: “I’d like to thank her for her bravery and courage in coming forward when we spoke to her, having to go through the ordeal of giving evidence before a crown court and also having to relive that horrific event which took place all those years ago.”
The victim said she can “finally get some closure” following the conviction, and thanked her family and officers for helping her pursue the case to justice as an adult.
“The weeks leading up to the trial have been very traumatic for myself and my family, but with their support I found the courage and strength that I didn’t have as a 16-year-old to pursue the case against the monster that put my life in turmoil,” she said.
She added: “Justice has been done and I can finally get some closure. So to anyone that finds themselves in a similar situation, don’t be afraid to ask for help, be strong and with your courage and the right support you will get through the trauma.”
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.
The jury took just seven hours and 18 minutes to convict Robertson of murder alongside the other charges against him.
Senior Crown prosecutor Robbie Weber, of the Crown Prosecution Service, hailed advances in forensic science leading to “new compelling DNA evidence clearly linking Robertson to both crimes”.
He added: “This evidence underpinned the case that we presented at trial which has today resulted in guilty verdicts.”
Robertson will be sentenced at Reading Crown Court on Thursday.
Mr Justice Wall, who presided over the trial, thanked jurors for deliberating on a “difficult and traumatic” case and told them he needed to consider whether to recommend Robertson is “never released” before passing sentence.
Dangerous sex offender Donald Robertson attacked women and girls over decades
Donald Robertson did not wait long after being released from prison for one brutal rape to commit another.
Among his victims were a 14-year-old girl who was riding her bicycle, and a 17-year-old walking home after missing the last train.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Robbie Weber described him as a “dangerous and deadly predatory sex offender who attacked women over almost three decades”.
He was jailed in 1978 for burglary and the attempted rape of a 15-year-old girl who was home alone in Slough.
He was released in April 1981 but just three months later he would go on to rape a 16-year-old near Farnham Lane in Slough.
His trial heard that the victim had been asked to pick out her attacker – who pounced on her as she walked home – from a line-up at a police station just a few weeks after the rape in July, and to “touch or otherwise clearly indicate” which one he was.
She did not identify anyone while in the room but shortly afterwards she tearfully told police she believed it was the man standing in Robertson’s position.
Officers at the time decided there was not enough evidence to justify charging Robertson and he was released.
Four days later he raped a 14-year-old girl who had been riding her bicycle in Farnham Royal.
Graphic details of that incident were read to the jury, with the prosecution saying it showed a pattern of behaviour by Robertson where he would threaten his victims.
During that particular attack he shook a broken bottle at the girl and told her she would be “marked for life” if she went to the police.
He pleaded guilty to that rape in October 1981 and spent a little over five years in jail.
It was just four months after his release in December 1986 that he attacked and murdered Shani Warren, throwing her bound and gagged body into Taplow Lake.
Less than two months after Ms Warren’s death, Robertson struck again, attacking a 17-year-old girl as she walked home along the A4 Bath Road, on the outskirts of Slough, having missed the last train.
She described being threatened with what she believed was either a gun or a knife and raped in his car, having been “frightened for my life” during the incident in June 1987.
He was convicted of her kidnap and rape in 2010, after an investigation by the Thames Valley Police major crime review team.
Two decades earlier, in April 1990 he tricked a woman into opening the door of her room at a bed and breakfast in Slough, forcing his way in and threatening her to have sex with him but she escaped.
He was convicted that year of burglary with intent to commit rape and kidnap.
It was not until November 2020 that the major crime review team was first notified of the provisional indication of a match between the DNA profile on the mouth gag on Ms Warren and Robertson.
He was arrested in June the following year.
Thames Valley Police’s major crime review team’s principal investigator, Peter Beirne, said: “Donald Robertson is a predator. Throughout his adult life he has attacked women, invariably either young girls or women in their 20s.
“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.
“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.”
Mr Weber, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Donald Robertson is a dangerous and deadly predatory sex offender who attacked women over almost three decades, using violent threats to get what he wanted. In the case of Shani Warren, he went as far as to take her life.
“Our thoughts are with Ms Warren’s loved ones and the other victim in this case who have waited many years to see justice served.”
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2022, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Thames Valley Police.