May 2022

Predatory sex offender found guilty in rape and murder case

A predatory sex offender who attacked women over a 26-year period has been found guilty of the murder of Shani Warren in 1987 and the kidnap and rape of another victim six years earlier. 

The jury at Reading Crown Court has today found Donald Robertson, 66, guilty of the false imprisonment, indecent assault and murder of Shani Warren and the kidnap and rape of a 16-year-old girl.

Ms Warren’s body was found at the edge of Taplow Lake, near Slough, on 18 April 1987.

Her car had been 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.

Her wrists had been tied with a car jump lead and ankles bound by a tow rope. She was also gagged

A pathologist concluded that she had died from drowning, with a strong possibility of strangulation beforehand. 

The jury took seven hours and 18 minutes to reach their verdicts.

It was his opinion that Shani died by suicide, as there were no defence marks or evidence of sexual assault and she could have applied the bindings herself. 

Despite these findings, Ms Warren’s death was investigated as suspicious, but there was not enough evidence for the police to charge anyone in connection with the case. An inquest in 1987 concluded with an open verdict. 

Six years earlier, a 16-year-old girl was attacked and raped as she was walking home in Slough.

Robertson was arrested at the time but released when the victim did not point him out during an identity parade.

Even though she identified him to police immediately afterwards, procedures at the time meant the identification was not considered sufficient to charge the defendant. 

Advances in forensic science provided a breakthrough for both cases in the last few years with new evidence being discovered that clearly linked Robertson to these crimes. 

When a cold case team at Thames Valley Police reviewed the unsolved case of Ms Warren, further forensic work found traces of Robertson’s DNA on the gag found in Ms Warren’s mouth – something that hadn’t been swabbed in the initial examination – and on her bra.

A pathologist who reviewed the new evidence and the previous pathologist’s findings concluded someone else had been involved in her death.

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.

Evidence taken in 1981 from the other victim’s clothing was also tested, and a DNA profile matching Robertson was obtained.

This compelling forensic evidence played a vital part in the case presented by the Crown Prosecution Service at trial. It was supported in Ms Warren’s case by accounts of her life and state of mind at the time of her death from witnesses who knew her well. 

The prosecution successfully argued that the positive identification of Robertson made by the other victim after she was raped was admissible as evidence.

Robertson’s previous convictions for sexual offences, which spanned more than three decades, were also presented as evidence of his tendency to commit crimes of this nature, and that the DNA findings were unlikely to be a coincidence.

  • Donald Robertson (D.O.B. 22 Nov 1955) was found guilty of the following offences at Reading Crown Court on 17 May 2022:

    • One count of kidnapping

    • One count of rape (1981)

    • One count of false imprisonment

    • One count of indecent assault

    • One count of murder (1987)

    • He is due to be sentenced on 19 May 2022 at the same court. 

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 Slough.

Just days after being released by police in connection with an offence, Robertson raped a 14-year-old girl, 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 not far 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.