Donald Robertson has been found guilty at Reading Crown Court of murdering Shani Warren who was found bound and gagged in a lake in 1987 and guilty of kidnapping and raping a teenager in 1981.
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A pensioner was today convicted of the notorious ‘Lady in the Lake’ murder 35 years later – after a pathologist mistakenly ruled it suicide and ‘tainted’ the investigation for over three decades.

Donald Robertson, 66, tied up, gagged and threw Shani Warren – who he had murdered – into a lake in Taplow, Bucks, back in April 1987.

The case nearly never made its way to court after a bungle from the pathologist when her body was found – as he dismissed it as a suicide and an inquest recorded an open verdict.

Police were still suspicious, but had no evidence to charge, which meant Robertson was free to carry on his appalling attacks on lone women. 

His history of sexual violence had begun in 1978 when he was jailed for burglary and the attempted rape of a 15-year-old girl who was home alone in Slough.

He was released in April 1981 and three months later he went on to rape a 16-year-old near Farnham Lane in Slough.

Officers at the time decided there was not enough evidence to justify charging Robertson and he was released – four days later he raped a 14-year-old girl who had been riding her bicycle in Farnham Royal.

He pleaded guilty to that rape in October 1981 and spent a little over five years in jail.

But just four months after his release in December 1986 he attacked and murdered Shani Warren in April 1987, throwing her bound and gagged body into Taplow Lake.

The pathologist believed Ms Warren had died from drowning, with a strong possibility of strangulation beforehand – but incredibly still thought it was a suicide.

In a report – today described as ‘tainted’ by police – he said he thought she had killed herself and tied herself up.

Two months later in June – after he had killed Ms Warren – he kidnaped and raped a 17-year-old girl on the outskirts of Slough, who had missed the last train home. 

Then in April 1990 he tricked a woman into opening the door of her room at a bed and breakfast in Slough, forcing his way in and threatening her to have sex with him but she escaped.

His reign of terror only ended in 2010 when a cold case review proved he had kidnapped and raped his June 1987 victim, who cannot be named.

And this afternoon – after forensics from that case matched her case – justice for Ms Warren was finally done and Robertson, who refused to attend court, was convicted.

Donald Robertson has been found guilty at Reading Crown Court of murdering Shani Warren who was found bound and gagged in a lake in 1987 and guilty of kidnapping and raping a teenager in 1981.

Donald Robertson has been found guilty at Reading Crown Court of murdering Shani Warren who was found bound and gagged in a lake in 1987 and guilty of kidnapping and raping a teenager in 1981.

Shani Warren

Donald Robertson, 66, murdered Shani Warren, 26, whose body was found in Taplow Lake

A mouth gag shown to the jury from the trial regarding the murder of Shani Warren at Taplow Lake, in Buckinhamshire in 1987, and the rape of a girl in Slough

A mouth gag shown to the jury from the trial regarding the murder of Shani Warren at Taplow Lake, in Buckinhamshire in 1987, and the rape of a girl in Slough

A black jump lead shown to the jury from the trial, which was used by Roberstson to bind Shani

A black jump lead shown to the jury from the trial, which was used by Roberstson to bind Shani

Principle investigator Pete Beirne, Head of the Major Crime Review Team for Thames Valley Police, said outside court: ‘I’m really pleased we managed to secure the conviction. I wasn’t involved in the original 1987 investigation, however, I’ve spoken to numerous officers that were involved and they’re all delighted that finally it was proven that Shani was murdered, and that Donald Robertson was responsible.

‘We’re very pleased and very relieved. With all cases like these, whilst you’re pleased with the result, the overriding sensation is of relief – finally, we have the person responsible, we have enough evidence to get him before a court, and the jury has decided there was sufficient evidence to convict.

‘Re-investigation into Shani’s case is the same as all old unresolved murders – we did an assessment of what retained material we had, and what the forensic potential might be.

‘Several items were submitted for reexamination over a number of years, but only in early 2020 the mouth gag and the tapings were submitted for re-examination to forensic scientists.

She was found by a dog walker whose German Shepherd had become excited by something

She was found by a dog walker whose German Shepherd had become excited by something

Shani Warren' bound-and-gagged body was found lying face down in a lake in Taplow, Bucks

Shani Warren’ bound-and-gagged body was found lying face down in a lake in Taplow, Bucks

Robertson was said to have murdered Shani after she disappeared from her home in Bucks

Robertson was said to have murdered Shani after she disappeared from her home in Bucks

‘The results produced a DNA profile that, when searched against the national DNA database, matched that of Donald Robertson. Prior to that date, he had never been a suspect in the Shani Warren case.

‘Having the defendant tried and sentenced in their absence is something I’ve not experienced before, however, it’s his [Robertson’s] decision not to come to court – every opportunity was made to try and get him to court.

‘If he declines to come then he can’t be forced to – the trial judge had to abide by that decision, even though Shani’s family were frustrated by the fact that he wasn’t ‘man enough’ to come and hear what he is accused of.

‘I think justice has been served – although Robertson is serving a life sentence at the moment, it is a life sentence with a minimum term – that minimum term had passed, so he was liable to apply for parole.

‘He applied once prior to our investigation identifying him, and had we not charged and convicted him, there would have been potential for him to be successful in any future parole hearing. Also, because it helps to answer some of the questions for Shani’s family.

‘For 35 years they haven’t known what happened to her. There were question marks that she may have committed suicide, but now the court has decided that she had been murdered, but more importantly that Donald Robertson was responsible for her death.’

The investigator added: ‘I don’t think more could have been done by Thames Valley Police in 1987 – from the papers I’ve seen, it was a full and thorough investigation.

‘It was slightly tainted by the original forensic pathologist, in that they ruled she may have committed suicide, but that obviously wasn’t the case as now proven.

‘You have to consider how things were in 1987 – There was no CCTV, no ANPR, and very few mobile phones, so all evidence detectives had was live evidence from witnesses that saw Shani and the offender – they were very limited on what they had to go on.

‘The original investigators were really hampered with what they had to go on – additionally, forensic science in 1987 is not what it is now.

‘DNA evidence was in its infancy In 1987 – you would have to have a sample the size of a 10p piece to have a DNA profile, whereas now we can get DNA samples from much smaller items of bodily fluids.

‘With any investigation, lessons are learned through experience.

‘The lessons learned, or reinforced really, is that there is always hope for victims and their families and that we will search and re-check items that have been examined because on occasions items that were asked to be examined previously weren’t examined as thoroughly as expected.’

Robertson was previously charged with the murder of blonde-haired Shani in April 1987.

Her bound-and-gagged body was found lying face down in a lake in Taplow, Bucks., by a dog walker whose German Shepherd had become excited by something unusual in the lake.

The walker then found 26-year-old Shani’s body. Robertson was charged with Shani’s murder, false imprisonment and indecent assault in November last year.

He was also accused of the rape and kidnap of the then 16-year-old girl from Slough. The alleged victim cannot be named for legal reasons.

Robertson was said to have murdered Shani after she disappeared from her home in Stoke Poges, Bucks., only minutes after she had finished mowing the lawn at the house her millionaire parents had bought her.

She had set off in her car to dispose of the grass cuttings at the compost heap at her parents’ home in Gerrards Cross, Bucks., but Shani never returned to the house she shared with two flatmates.

Her body was found in a lake in Taplow, Bucks., by Marjorie Arnold who was out walking her dog.

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