'Evil' Shani Warren murderer sentenced to life in prison

Monster

Serial sex offender and murderer Donald Robertson - who killed Shani Warren in 1987 - was sentenced to life in prison today (Thursday)

A serial sex offender has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 26-year-old woman who was found dead at Taplow Lake 35 years ago.

Donald Robertson, 66, formerly of Slough, was found guilty of murdering Shani Warren by a unanimous Reading Crown Court jury on Tuesday following a two-week trial, as well as her indecent assault and false imprisonment.

He was also convicted of the rape and kidnap of a 16-year-old girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, in July 1981.

Ms Warren’s body was found tied and gagged in Taplow Lake on April 18, 1987 by a dog walker, but at the time nobody was held responsible for her murder.

A pathologist believed then that she had taken her own life, but when police recently reinvestigated the case, they discovered Robertson’s DNA present on Ms Warren’s bra and a gag around her mouth.

His DNA was also a match on clothing belonging to the teenage rape victim.

Sentencing Robertson today (Thursday) at the same court, judge Mr Justice Wall called Robertson a ‘self-centred man’ who has ‘shown no remorse’ for his crimes.

“I am sure that when you pushed [Ms Warren] into the lake you intended that she should die," he said.

“The suffering of losing someone in such brutal circumstances is unimaginable Having to wait so long for the truth must make that suffering even harder to endure.

“You did not admit these crimes, you have shown no remorse and did not even have the courage to attend this trial and confront the evidence.

“You are a self-centred man who cares nothing for the feelings of others and lacks any understanding of the way your conduct has destroyed other people’s lives.

“The only hope is that the knowledge that you have been caught allows them to move on with their lives.”

When passing sentence, Mr Justice Wall took into account a number of aggravating features against Robertson, including the sexual assault on Ms Warren (below) before her death at a time when she was known to be in fear of contracting AIDS.

The court had also heard that she had a fear of drowning, which was her eventual cause of death.

Mr Justice Wall added: “It was a particular fear she had – it is to be hoped that she never realised that her life was about to end in the way she most feared.”

The jury learned during the trial that Robertson had been a prolific sexual predator during the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

He was jailed for life in 2010 for a rape which occurred a few months after Ms Warren’s death - but this sentence contained a minimum term which had just passed, the judge added. 

Robertson’s previous convictions were also used as an aggravating factor, with the judge adding that he had only been out of custody for four years during a 20-year span of offending.

Mr Justice Wall proceeded to jail Robertson for life, with a minimum period of 30 years, for his offences. 

“Even if you are considered by the parole board for release, in or after the year 2052, they will only release you if they regard it appropriate.

“Otherwise you will spend the rest of your life in prison, however long you may live for.”

Following the guilty verdict on Tuesday, Thames Valley Police paid tribute to Ms Warren’s family and the victim of the 1981 rape, calling Robertson a ‘threat to women’.

Senior Investigating Officer for the case, Principal Investigator Pete Beirne, said: “We’re relieved that after 35 years we are finally able to tell Shani’s family that she was murdered."

Ms Warren, from Stoke Poges, had been cutting the grass outside her Neville Close home the day before her body was found in Taplow Lake.

She was last seen loading bags of grass cutting into her car before driving away alone.

Nobody was charged with her murder in 1987, and it was not until the late 1990s when the case was re-examined under a police operation which aimed to crack down on historic sexual offences.

Forensic studies on Ms Warren’s bra and the mouth gag were carried out in 2020, with studies on the latter revealing the chances of the DNA not being Robertson’s as one in a billion.

After today’s sentencing hearing, PI Beirne added: “Donald Robertson is an evil sex offender and murderer who preys upon women and girls.

“Robertson has spent the majority of his adult life in jail for a series of offences, including kidnap and rape.

"During his life, no sooner has he been released from incarceration, he has committed another heinous crime on an innocent victim. Therefore, society is much safer with Robertson behind bars.

“I want to take this opportunity again to pay tribute to the family of Shani Warren, and to the victim of the rape in 1981. They have waited a long time for justice, but they now have the answers they have been searching for more than thirty years.

“Finally, I want to remind the public that my cold case team is absolutely committed to investigating unsolved homicides and sexual offences.

“We have now secured convictions for 19 stranger rapes and six murders, and with the ever advancing forensic technology that we now have access to, we will lock up more offenders, and bring justice to other victims and their families.

“It’s never too late for justice, so if you are reading this and have any information about an unsolved offence, I would urge you to contact the police. You can leave any information you have via our website or call 101.

“Alternatively, you can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on their website or call 0800 555 111.”

A further statement released by the police on behalf of Ms Warren's family said: “The trial has been a difficult experience to deal with, so we now need to be left alone to process what has happened, and hopefully find a little peace on our way forward.

“Witnessing the court process for the first time has showed the robust fairness of how things work, the civilised respect for process, the focus of a jury in the face of a blitz of evidence, and the direction from a judge with natural command and authority.

“This has been a very tough time for us, full of pain and sorrow, but it is a tremendous comfort to know that, fighting our corner every step of the way has been a system sustained by so many highly skilled, worthy and utterly dedicated people.

“Our thanks also go to the remarkable Crown Prosecution Service team, led by John Price QC, who have secured the conviction by covering every base, and who have also shown a genuine empathy and kindness which has been more helpful than they may have imagined."

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