Former soldier ‘killed woman 33 years ago’

A “sexual predator” who targeted young women committed a violent murder that went unsolved for more than 30 years, a prosecutor has said.

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.

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Former soldier Paul Taylor, 60, originally from Peterborough and now living in Fareham, Hampshire, was arrested last year.

Taylor was charged with Miss McGrath’s murder along with three counts of rape, one attempted rape, a serious sexual assault and an indecent assault. The sexual offences relate to three different women. Taylor denies the charges.

Prosecutor Karim Khalil told Chelmsford Crown Court that Taylor was married at the time of the 1979 offences.

He openly slept with other women, regularly going for “quickies”, but insisted in a police interview that the relationships were always consensual.

But Mr Khalil said: “In the 1970s he was a reasonably good looking and physically strong young man. He was brimming with confidence and had the capacity to be an engaging flirt and a ladies’ man.

“But if he did not have his own way he had the capacity to become violent very quickly. He used this violence to force young women into submission or simply have his way with them.” Mr Khalil outlined a series of attacks on women in the build-up to Miss McGrath’s murder.

After each attack Taylor “turned the charm back on”, even buying one of his victims an ice cream and a T-shirt to replace the one he had torn off.

Mr Khalil said Taylor subjected a 19-year-old woman to a terrifying ordeal in a car park after meeting her in The Bull hotel, Peterborough, in March 1979.

During this incident he is said to have violently raped the woman, telling her: “God won’t help you, nobody will help you.”

A month later he met a 24-year-old woman through his wife Bev. He offered her a lift home from a christening party but instead took her to a layby where he attempted to rape her before pushing her from the car.

The following June, Taylor allegedly raped a 17-year-old woman at Castor Hanglands: the same site where Miss McGrath’s body was later found.

On July 11 Miss McGrath left her parents’ home in Peterborough, telling her mother “Cheerio, see you tonight.”

Mr Khalil said: “That was the last her mother saw or heard of her daughter alive.”

She spent the afternoon in The Bull hotel with Taylor, the last confirmed sighting of her.

Mr Khalil said: “It is clear she went with someone who she knew and was taken somewhere that he knew. She was stripped naked and was attacked.

“She was left in a shallow grave where no doubt her killer hoped she would never be found.”

Mr Khalil said that because of the passage of time, it was not possible to establish precisely how Miss McGrath died but she had suffered blows to the head.

Taylor, who was jailed in 1980 after a burglary conviction, was questioned over Miss McGrath’s death shortly after the discovery of her body. He denied knowing Miss McGrath or frequenting The Bull hotel.

He became “obsessed” with reading newspaper reports about the search for her and wrote letters to his wife from prison asking her to burn his clothes, the court heard.

Police also questioned him in 1979 and 1980 over the sex attacks. He was not charged with the offences until last year but was cleared of two alleged sex attacks in 1974 and 1979 at earlier trials.

The case is expected to last for up to eight weeks.