Man held in probe over 1980 murder

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The Independent Online

Detectives re-investigating the murder of a 22-year-old woman three decades ago arrested a 58-year-old man today.

Sally McGrath, of Peterborough, was found dead in woods near the Cambridgeshire city in March 1980 after vanishing in July 1979, police said.

A man was arrested in Fareham, Hampshire, early today and will be taken to Cambridgeshire for questioning, added a spokesman.

Detectives said the man would also be questioned about a series of rapes and attempted rapes in and around Peterborough in the 1970s.

The spokesman said the arrest followed a cold-case review of Miss McGrath's murder and a number of sexual offences.

"Detectives investigating a murder and several rapes and attempted rapes from the 1970s have today (November 30) arrested a man," said the spokesman.

"It follows a cold case review, codenamed Operation Highfields, into the killing of Peterborough woman Sally McGrath and seven other linked serious sexual offences."

Police said Miss McGrath was last seen alive at about 3pm on July 11 1979, at the Bull Hotel in Westgate, Peterborough, in the company of a man.

The spokesman said her body, naked except for a pair of boots, was found on March 1 1980, partially buried in Wild Boar Spinney, at Castor Hanglands, to the west of Peterborough.

A post-mortem examination revealed she died from a blunt force injury to her head, said police.

Detectives said Miss McGrath had been living with her parents in Towler Street, Peterborough, when she vanished.

"Sally's murder and (a) series of sexual offences, which also took place in the Peterborough area are being reviewed," added the spokesman.

"The 58-year-old man was arrested today at an address in Fareham, Hampshire.

"He has been taken to a police station in and is due to be brought to Cambridgeshire this afternoon."

Detective Superintendent Jeff Hill, who is leading the investigation, said: "These were shocking crimes in which a young woman was brutally murdered and other young women were seriously sexually assaulted.

"My team is dedicated to ensuring that no stone is left unturned as we gather further evidence in relation to these awful crimes.

"No unsolved crime is ever closed and this operation is part of an ongoing review of cold case murder investigations within the county.

"We are committed in our efforts to secure justice for Sally and her family but we also need help from members of the public. Anyone with information about Sally's disappearance and murder should not hesitate to call us.

"Sally's family and the rape victims have been kept fully informed of our investigation and will continue to be as it progresses."

Police said the serious sexual offences being investigated included:

:: December 1973 - the alleged rape of a 19-year-old woman in Helpston, near Peterborough.

:: August 1974 - The alleged attempted rape of a 17-year-old girl in Ferry Meadows in Peterborough.

:: June 1975 - The alleged rape of a 20-year-old woman in Peterborough.

:: March 1979 - The alleged rape of a 20-year-old woman near Peterborough.

:: April 1979 - The alleged attempted rape of a 24-year-old woman in Peterborough.

:: June 1979 - The alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl at Castor Hanglands, near Peterborough.

:: August 1979 - The alleged attempted rape of a 16-year-old girl near Peterborough.