Former Soldier Jailed For McGrath Murder

A man described as a ''sexual predator'' has been jailed for life after being found guilty of a 1979 murder and five attacks on other women.

Sally McGrath, 22, was found naked in a shallow grave in woodland near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, in March 1980 after vanishing in July 1979.

Her killer could not be found despite a major police investigation.

Former soldier and builder Paul Taylor, 60, originally from Peterborough and now of Valentine Close, Fareham, was arrested last year following a cold case review.

On Tuesday, December 4th, at Chelmsford Crown Court, a jury found him guilty of murder following 23 hours of deliberation. The following day he was jailed for life and told he'll serve at least 18 years behind bars.

He was found guilty of three counts of rape, one attempted rape and a serious sexual assault, which were all committed in the months leading up to Miss McGrath's murder.

Taylor escaped justice for more than 30 years and built an apparently normal family life.

Following his conviction for the 1979 murder of Sally McGrath, 22, and five violent sex attacks, police said they would examine the possibility that during the intervening years Taylor was responsible for the rape and assault of yet more women.

Cambridgeshire Police defended the work of the original investigation team who interviewed Taylor, now 60, as prime suspect shortly after the discovery of Miss McGrath's body.

She was found badly decomposed in a shallow grave in woodland at Castor Hanglands, Cambridgeshire, in March 1980 after she disappeared from her Peterborough home the previous year.

Taylor was only charged with her murder last year following a fresh three-year investigation. Earlier inquiries had failed to gather sufficient evidence against him.

By the time he was re-arrested, Taylor had built a new life away from Peterborough where, his trial heard, he had been known as a ''charismatic and womanising'' builder.

The ex-soldier moved to Fareham with his wife Beverley.

The couple ran a fish and chip shop and raised a family in the town.

But behind the veneer of his apparently respectable life, the force said it was possible Taylor continued attacking women who have never reported their ordeals to police.

Detective Superintendent Jeff Hill, who led the modern day investigation, said:

''As a result of this inquiry we have already considered what other offences may have been committed by Taylor.

''Given the nature of the offending there is every chance that similar crimes have occurred that we just quite simply don't know about.

''As such, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that there are further victims of rape and other serious sex crimes who have never reported matters to the police.''

The jury at Chelmsford Crown Court heard Taylor carried out three rapes in the months before Miss McGrath's murder - including one attack just yards from where her body was found.

During the 1970s and 1980s, he also stood trial for two other rapes but was cleared.

The latest trial heard one of the victims of the earlier allegations had felt pressurised to change her evidence and did not want to break-up Taylor's family.

Despite the catalogue of offences, Mr Hill defended the work of the original team of detectives, who carried out the force's biggest pre-Soham investigation.

He added:

''Many hundreds of people were spoken to and statements taken.

''The inquiry began only once Sally's body was recovered, almost eight months after she went missing, and so piecing together her last movements was always going to be a challenge.

''Despite this Taylor was identified as a suspect, but sadly there just wasn't enough evidence then to take him to court.

''The investigation was as good as it gets for the time but policing has changed dramatically since then.

''This isn't as a result of specific lessons from this inquiry but as a result of a greater professionalisation of the service.

''For example, we now have far better techniques to ensure we extract every relevant bit of information from witnesses.''

Taylor's arrest followed a cold case review. Very few exhibits remained from the time but the team decided there could be witnesses who could help prove Taylor's involvement.

Mr Hill said the passage of time complicated the investigation.

''Some witnesses were reluctant to engage with us and did not want to assist with our inquiry,'' he added.

''In addition, raking up events of over 30 years ago for friends and relatives of Sally was particularly difficult and many of Taylor's victims had to relive horrendous experiences which they had pushed deep into the back of their mind.

''We were delighted when those key witnesses not only provided us with a comprehensive recall of the offences going back to the 1970s but also provided us with additional compelling evidence of the events at that time.''