Dinah 'murderer had killed before'

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The Independent Online

A man accused of murdering a teenager in 1991 has convictions for the murder of another young woman and sex attacks on two schoolgirls, a court heard today.

Peter Tobin, 62, went on trial today accused of murdering 18-year-old Dinah McNicol as she returned home from a musical festival in Liphook, Hampshire, in August, 1991.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard Miss McNicol was picked up as she tried to hitch a lift along the A3 towards London.

The last time she was seen alive was when her male companion was dropped off at Junction 8 of the M25.

Her body was discovered in November 2007 when detectives re-opened the case and began a forensic examination of a house previously lived in by Tobin in Irvine Drive, Margate, Kent.

There they found the bodies of Miss McNicol and another victim, the jury heard.

Miss McNicol's decomposed body was found in a shallow grave in the back garden.

Her ankles and wrists had been tied together with the headscarf and leggings she was wearing when she vanished.

The jury was shown a computer graphic of how her body was found in the back garden. It showed her ankles by her head and how her body had been wrapped in bin sacks.

The court heard that her abduction and death bore striking similarities to three other attacks which Tobin has been convicted of.

Prosecutor William Clegg, QC, said Tobin was convicted in 2004 of raping and assaulting a 14-year-old girl and sexually attacking another young girl.

He was also convicted of murdering 15-year-old Vicky Hamilton.

Miss Hamilton had suffered a sexual attack at the hands of Tobin after she was abducted in Bathgate, near Edinburgh in February 1991.

The court heard that after he murdered her he cut her body in half and transported it to Margate where he buried the body.

Mr Clegg said that in each case Tobin had used a drug called anatryptaline which makes its victims more compliant by making them feel drowsy and dizzy.

He added that the case of Vicky Hamilton bore a striking resemblance to the murder of Miss McNicol.

He said: "The prosecution submit this conviction is highly probative because the evidence in this case demonstrates a propensity to abduct young girls, murder them and bury their bodies in rubbish sacks.

"There cannot be many people in the world who share this propensity. It is clear the defendant's motives for these attacks were sexual."

Mr Clegg said there was evidence Tobin had picked up Miss McNicol in his car, abducted and killed her, then "cleaned out" more than £2,000 from her bank account.

The money had been compensation paid to her on her 18th birthday following the death of her mother in a car accident.

The jury was told the cause of Miss McNicol's death was not known for definite but that a post mortem had found her injuries were consistent with having been strangled with a ligature.

The court also heard that in the summer of 1991 the defendant's neighbour in Irvine Drive had questioned why he was digging a hole in his back garden.

He told Tobin: "You must be digging to Australia." Tobin replied that he was creating a sandpit for his son, but when the hole was later filled over he claimed social services had intervened and told him that it was too dangerous for a sandpit in his back garden.

Mr Clegg said checks had been made with the council and there was no record of any such intervention by the authorities.

Miss McNicol's father, Ian McNicol sat in court today hearing the evidence. At times he seemed visibly distressed, clutching the hand of his daughter Laura Hollands, Miss McNicol's half sister.

Tobin, dressed in a purple jumper and black trousers, has heard much of this evidence with his head bowed. He was flanked today by four prison guards as he listened to evidence through an earpiece.

Mr Clegg added that Miss McNicol had died before she was placed in a shallow grave by Tobin.

The barrister said: "She still had on some jewellery that she had been wearing that enabled her to be identified. The height of the body compared exactly to her known height and DNA analysis provided confirmation that it was indeed her body.

"It was tied up. The wrists had been tied together with the arms behind her back. The ankles were also tied together, a knotted gag was found in her mouth, presumably to keep her quiet when she was murdered."