Defendant DNA match on items found on Shani Warren in 1987, court hears

Doctors did not believe Shani Warren was suicidal, court told

Shani Warren was found dead in Taplow Lake in April 1987

The DNA of a convicted sex offender was discovered on items found on the body of Shani Warren in 1987, a court has heard.

Donald Robertson, 66, formerly of Slough, is charged with the murder of Ms Warren, who was found tied up and gagged in Taplow Lake in 1987, as well as her indecent assault and false imprisonment.

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

Robertson’s trial continued at Reading Crown Court today (Thursday) where judge Mr Justice Wall summed up the evidence for the jury to remind them of the key points to consider when making a verdict.

In relation to Ms Warren’s death, Mr Justice Wall said it was up to them to decide whether she could have taken her own life, or whether it can be proved someone else was involved.

The court heard that friends had mixed recollections about Ms Warren’s mood shortly before her body was found, with some saying she was worried about work, while others claimed she was bubbly.

Scientific work carried out on Ms Warren’s bra and the gag placed around her mouth was carried out in 2020, the judge said, with semen detected on the latter.

These items returned DNA profiles matching that of Robertson.

The chances of the DNA on the bra not being his was one in 26million, while studies on the mouth gag revealed the chances of the DNA not being Robertson’s as one in a billion.

With regards to the rape allegation in 1981, the jury were told that the victim attended an identification parade at a police station and asked to pick out the man who had subjected her to the offence.

Robertson was present at the parade, the court learned.

The court heard how the teenager did not single out the person during the parade, but was seen crying outside of the room.

When an officer asked if she was okay, she replied that the man responsible had been located at the far end of the line-up.

“That is recorded as where the defendant was standing,” Mr Justice Wall told jurors.

A detailed forensic study on the underwear the victim put on after the attack was carried out in 2021, with a DNA profile matching that of Robertson obtained.

The judge told the jury that such forensic methods would not have been possible in 1981, with DNA studies only advancing from the mid-1980s onwards.

Defending Robertson earlier in the day, Michael Ivers QC urged the jury not to judge him just on his previous sexual offence convictions.

These involve rape and kidnap offences involving young women in Slough in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, which the jury had heard more about on Tuesday this week.

“They are awful, and I won’t shy away from that,” he said. “[They will] make you hate him, of course.”

On Ms Warren’s death, he added: “But really nowhere in any of this [his past convictions] is there any hint of attacking somebody and either leaving them for dead or killing them.”

Mr Ivers added that the prosecution had been ‘cherry-picking’ their evidence and that there was no ‘punchline’ to their case.

He also alluded to convicted sex offender Clive Barwell, a lorry driver who was found to have raped several young women in Leeds and Nottingham in the 1990s.

The defence told the jury that Barwell was just 12 miles away from where Ms Warren’s body had been found in Easter 1987.

“At the time of Shani Warren’s death, Clive Barwell worked as a lorry driver and travelled across the country,” Mr Ivers said.

‘On Saturday, April 18 he moved house using a work van. A close friend of Mr Barwell’s wife lived in High Wycombe which is 12 miles from Taplow Lake.

“The friend told police that she recalled Mr Barwell visiting her during Easter 1987.”

Mr Ivers told jurors that they couldn’t rule out Barwell’s involvement despite police releasing him without charge shortly after Ms Warren’s death.

He added that Ms Warren’s black Vauxhall Cavalier car was found parked in the lay-by next to Taplow Lake alongside some HGVs.

The court later learned that there was ‘no clear indication’ Barwell’s DNA had been found on any of the items found on Ms Warren.

In his other remarks to the jury, Mr Ivers said that the pathologist who carried out the post mortem on Ms Warren - Dr Benjamin Davis - was ‘no rookie’ and set about ‘carefully doing a job’.

“The police inquiry was careful and spoke to a wide number of people,” Mr Ivers told the court.

The defence also returned to the suggestion that Ms Warren may have died by suicide in Taplow Lake rather than being murdered.

Mr Ivers read statements from friends who recall her having relationship and employment troubles, while Dr Davis’ suggested at the time that the 26-year-old could have tied and gagged herself due to the looseness of the ligatures.

People who attempt to take their life may put a gag round their mouth to avoid screaming for help, Mr Ivers said.

The defence barrister added that Robertson had gone along to the identification parade regarding the 1981 rape voluntarily.

Robertson, who is not present for the court proceedings, denies all of the charges against him.

The jury are expected to retire on Monday.

The trial continues. 

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