Paul Taylor found guilty of Sally McGrath’s murder after 33 years

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A man was found guilty today (Tuesday) of the murder of a woman and a series of other serious sexual assaults after avoiding justice for more than 30 years.

Former builder Paul Taylor, 60, who was described during his trial as a “sexual predator”, killed Sally McGrath after meeting her at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough on July 11, 1979.

Miss McGrath, 22, was found naked except for a pair of boots and partially buried in woodland at Castor Hanglands on March 1, 1980.

It took a jury of eight women and four men 22 hours to convict Taylor of her murder following an eight-week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Taylor, of Fareham, Hampshire, was also found guilty on two counts of rape and a serious sexual assault on a 20-year-old woman; a rape of 17-year-old girl and the attempted rape of a 24-year-old woman.

These offences took place in villages between Peterborough and Stamford in 1979.

He will be sentenced tomorrow (Wednesday).

An investigation, the largest in Cambridgeshire Police’s history at the time, was launched following the discovery of Miss McGrath’s body but charges were never brought.

However, an investigation called Operation Highfields was launched three years ago and in November 2010 Taylor was arrested at his Hampshire home and taken to Cambridgeshire. He was charged with Miss McGrath’s murder and a number of other sexual offences in October last year.

Det Supt Jeff Hill, who led the investigation, said: “Thirty-three years ago, a young woman, with her entire life ahead of her, was brutally murdered in Peterborough. Today her killer was finally brought to justice.

“Paul Taylor, a predatory sex offender, attacked and raped a number of innocent, vulnerable young women and murdered Sally McGrath but today I am relieved to say he is now facing a substantial period of time behind bars.

“I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the outstanding courage of so many of the witnesses that gave evidence against Taylor in this trial and in particular those women who were victims of his abhorrent crimes. Their fortitude has been humbling and I hope today’s verdict allows them now to secure closure and move on with their lives.

“Additionally, I would like to pay tribute to Sally’s family who have retained their optimism and dignity throughout this entire process. I hope that the pain of 30 years will now to some extent start to subside.

“The conviction today is the result of three years’ hard work. There was no DNA, CCTV or other single piece of overwhelming evidence, just a solid case built around witness testimony. I am extremely proud to have led this enquiry but its success is entirely down to the hard work, dogged determination and belief of a small number of exceptional investigators. I would like to thank them for their resilience, professionalism and detective ability.

“Lastly, I would like to say that Taylor deserves every second of his imprisonment for the misery he has brought to so many lives. I pray that Sally can now rest in peace and hope that the message to anyone who is aware of this investigation is clear: “the British police do not forget”.

The court heard Miss McGrath’s murder was the “culmination of predatory behavioural traits” displayed by Taylor.

In the months before Miss McGrath’s murder, Taylor, a former soldier who was married at the time, twice raped and seriously sexually assaulted a 23-year-old woman.

He met the victim at the Bull Hotel, in Westgate, on March 15, 1979, and invited her to another pub.

Taylor raped and seriously sexually assaulted her after pulling off the A1 and driving to an isolated spot. He carried out the attack despite the victim begging him to stop.

Later that night he took her to Wansford, where he raped her again before returning her to her Peterborough home the next morning.

The next attack happened on April 8 when Taylor offered a 24-year-old woman a lift home from an event they had both attended. He then attempted to rape her in a lay-by in Peterborough but she resisted and was pushed out of the car.

Then, on June 28, Taylor and his neighbour Paul Stringer took a 17-year-old girl out in his van.

As he drove out of the city he pulled over at Castor Hanglands, near to where Miss McGrath’s body would be found, and told Mr Stringer to leave them. He then forced her to the ground and raped her.