06:15PM, Monday 09 May 2022
Shani Warren was found dead in Taplow Lake in April 1987
Jurors today learned more about the life of a 'normal, healthy' 26-year-old woman who was found dead in Taplow Lake 35 years ago.
The murder trial into Shani Warren's death continued at Reading Crown Court this morning (Monday) after she was found tied up and gagged in Taplow Lake on April 18, 1987.
Donald Robertson, 66, formerly of Slough, is accused of Ms Warren’s murder, as well as her indecent assault and false imprisonment.
He is also charged with the kidnap and rape of a 16-year-old girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, in 1981.
The jury heard from the prosecution today that Ms Warren was a ‘normal, healthy’ woman who enjoyed clubbing in Maidenhead with friends.
The court heard that 'at no time' did Ms Warren show any signs to doctors that she would take her own life – as was concluded by the doctor who carried out her post-mortem in 1987.
The jury heard those who lived with her shortly before she was found dead recall her having relationship troubles with men, while she was also known to dislike her job as a secretary at a company called Microscope in Maidenhead.
Ms Warren’s former friend, Anne-Marie Henshaw, said that the pair’s friendship suffered after Ms Warren began going out with her ex-boyfriend, Roger Pell.
Ms Henshaw added in a statement to police in 1987 that Ms Warren would ‘freeze boys out’ when matters started getting serious in the relationship and that a recent courtship had left her relationship with men ‘soured’.
The two became friends again after Ms Warren and Mr Pell had split up, the jury heard.
“I think she came back to me because she needed a shoulder to cry on,” Ms Henshaw’s statement added.
The court later heard that Ms Warren had become ‘paranoid’ about AIDS, fearing that her mother - who she was ‘extremely close’ with - would be forced to look after her.
“She would let things build up over a long time before releasing them,” Ms Henshaw’s statement said.
The jury learned that Ms Warren was prone to switching moods, often ‘feeling low’ before ‘being on a high again’, while one of her doctors - Susan Linch - described her as having a ‘nervous nature’.
Friends also described her as an ‘extrovert who liked going out enjoying herself’, often to La Valbonne nightclub in Maidenhead.
Despite her worries, Ms Warren’s doctors said in statements made in 1987 and read to the jury that she showed no suicidal signs, and was never prescribed any anti-depressant drugs.
Another of her doctors, Peter Kersley, said: “At no time did I see Shani depressed or suicidal.
“At no time did she give me the impression that she could carry out such an act. She was a normal, healthy girl. [There was ] never anything remotely seriously wrong with her.”
The jury had earlier heard on Tuesday last week that a pathologist disagreed with a doctor’s opinion at the time that Ms Warren had died by suicide.
Above: Police at Taplow Lake in 1987
Statements read to the jury from Ms Warren’s neighbours and lodgers recall her leaving her Stoke Poges home in Neville Close alone at about 5.30pm/6pm on the evening of April 17, 1987, driving a black Vauxhall Cavalier.
She had been seen cutting the grass outside her house - which was owned by her parents and rented out to other girls - before emptying bags of grass cuttings into the boot of her vehicle.
One of Ms Warren’s lodgers - Katherine Whitehouse - told police at the time that Ms Warren had told her she was going out to buy some Indian food and believed her to be returning shortly afterwards.
When she did not return for several hours, Ms Whitehouse said she ‘did not think it strange’ that Ms Warren had not come back, as she was that ‘sort of girl’.
The 26-year-old’s tied and gagged body was discovered a short while later the following evening by a dog walker at Taplow Lake.
Monday’s court proceedings had earlier heard from Rosalyn Hammond, a forensic scientist for Eurofins Scientific, which carried out recent forensic tests on the mouth gag found on Ms Warren’s body, as well as some fibre tapings taken from her bra.
The court heard that traces of semen were discovered on the gag during the recent re-examination of the item.
Ms Hammond also told jurors there ‘was nothing to suggest’ Robertson’s DNA had been transferred on to the bra after the original taping had been taken from the clothing.
Robertson, who is not present for the court proceedings, denies all of the charges against him.
The trial continues.
A murder investigation has been launched by Thames Valley Police’s Major Crime Unit following an incident in Bourne End.