A former soldier who escaped justice for 33 years was jailed for life yesterday for murdering a woman then burying her naked body in woodland.
Paul Taylor, 60, killed Sally McGrath in July 1979 before burying her in a shallow grave in woodland.
The tragic 21-year-old lay undiscovered until March 1980 when police launched a murder enquiry – but were never able to find her killer.
Former builder Taylor, who has always denied his involvement and lived a seemingly normal married life, was charged last year following a cold case review which started in 2009.
He was convicted of her murder on Tuesday after an eight-week trial at Chelmsford Crown Court and was today told he would serve a minimum of 18 years in jail.
During his trial Taylor was described as a married womaniser who would often meet for “quickies” which would descend into violence if he didn’t get his way.
Judge Mr Justice Owen yesterday said: “I think it is clear there was a sexual element to the murder of Sally McGrath.
“The evidence revealed a pattern of behaviour in which you lured your victims in under the pretence of giving them a lift home.
“You then drove them to a rural or isolated area and forced yourself upon them. Your predatory sexual attacks took place over 30 years ago but your victims have been left scarred for life.
“I have no doubt the brutal murder of Sally McGrath followed the same pattern and resulted from her resistance to your sexual demands.”
The judge commended Cambridgeshire Police detectives for solving the mystery, which officers at the time had failed to bring to court despite the force’s biggest pre-Soham investigation.
Speaking after Taylor was found guilty Sally’s family, including her elderly parents Joseph and Christina McGrath, thanked police and said: “This has finally brought us closure.”
Taylor, from Fareham, Hants., was found guilty of three counts of rape, one attempted rape and a serious sexual assault, which were all committed on separate women in the months leading up to Sally’s murder.
He was given separate 16-year sentences for two counts of rape and a serious sexual assault on a 20-year-old woman, 14 years for the rape of a 17-year-old girl and nine years for the attempted rape of a 24-year-old woman.
The judge directed that all the sentences will run concurrent to one another and concurrent to the 18-year minimum for murder.
All the offences happened in the Peterborough area in 1979.
Miss McGrath was last seen alive on July 11, 1979 at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough with Taylor, who killed her before burying her in woodland at Castor Hanglands, Cambs.
Her body – naked except for a pair of boots – was found partially buried in the woodland on March 1, 1980.
Taylor was arrested last year after the case was reopened by police and was subsequently charged with Miss McGrath’s murder along with the sexual offences.
He denied the charges, saying that all of the sexual incidents either did not happen or were consensual.
The defendant argued there were many other people who could have killed Miss McGrath.
Opening the trial, prosecutor Karim Khalil told the court 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.
The court heard Sally’s murder was the “culmination of predatory behavioural traits” displayed by Taylor.
Mr Khalil described Taylor as a “sexual predator” and added: “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.”
In the months before Sally’s murder, Taylor 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 the Haycock Hotel, in Wansford, Cambs., 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, Cambs., but she resisted and was pushed out of the car.
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 Sally’s body would be found.
He told Mr Stringer to leave them and Taylor then forced her to the ground and raped her.
Det Sup Jeff Hill, who led the investigation on behalf of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, yesterday (Weds), said police believe Taylor may have committed other offences.
He 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.”
Det Sup Hill warned crooks “the British police do not forget.”
He added: “Thirty-three years ago, a young woman, with her entire life ahead of her, was brutally murdered in Peterborough.
“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 will spend the rest of his life 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 the conviction and today’s sentencing allows them 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 was 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 bought 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”.
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