Man appears in court charged with murder

Sally McGrath
Sally McGrath
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A MAN appeared in court today accused of murdering a woman 32 years ago.

Paul Taylor, 59, of Valentine Close, Fareham, appeared at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court charged with the murder of 22-year-old Sally McGrath in 1979.

He was also accused of three counts of rape, one count of indecent assault and one count of buggery, all of which are alleged to have happened in the first half of 1979.

The court remanded him in custody and he is due to appear at Norwich Crown Court on Thursday for bail application and a preliminary hearing.

Sally McGrath was last seen at the Bull Hotel, in Westgate, Peterborough, at around 3pm on July 11, 1979.

Her body was found in a shallow grave at Wild Boar Spinney, in Castor Hanglands, on March 1, 1980.

A post-mortem examination revealed she had died from a blunt force injury to her head but it is not known what caused the injury.

Last December, officers swooped on Taylor’s home in connection with the murder.

He had been repeatedly bailed since then and was charged on Monday when he answered bail at a police station in Peterborough.

Meanwhile, neighbours of Taylor have spoken of their shock.

Constance Challoner, of Valentine Close, said she had known him since he moved to the road more than 20 years ago.

She said: ‘I’m amazed. He’s always been such a nice bloke. He’s helped me with anything when I’ve asked.

‘I’d never have thought anything like this of him – I can’t believe it.

‘I’m absolutely dumbstruck – it doesn’t seem possible.

‘He’s the very last person I would have associated with anything like this.’

The News understands that Taylor was a suspect in the original murder inquiry three decades ago although he was never charged.

Another near neighbour Mike Horne said: ‘He’s a likeable fellow. We’re very surprised to hear what he’s supposed to have done. We’ve always got on alright.’

His wife Edna added: ‘My daughter babysat for their daughter when she was younger, but that was a long time ago. I often talk to his wife Jan and take them a bottle of wine at Christmas.

‘They aren’t noisy neighbours or any like that.

‘They’ve been quite good neighbours. This is awful.’

Taylor is believed to have run a fish and chip shop in Gosport until a few years ago.

The cold case review into the death of Miss McGrath and several other linked sex offences, codenamed Operation Highfields, began in 2009.