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Missing teenager 'was bound and drugged by her killer'

Father of hitchhiker listens as jury is told of grisly find in sex attacker's garden

A teenager who disappeared while hitchhiking home from a music festival was drugged and gagged to keep her quiet while her killer raped and strangled her, a court was told yesterday.

Dinah McNicol was abducted 18 years ago but her body, still trussed up and gagged, was only discovered in 2007 when police became suspicious of Peter Tobin, a convicted sex attacker. They dug up the garden at his former home in Margate, Kent, and discovered the bodies of two girls, Ms McNicol, 18, and Victoria Hamilton, 15.

Tobin, of Johnstone, Renfrewshire, has already been convicted in a Scottish court of the murder of Ms Hamilton and was yesterday on trial at Chelmsford Crown Court, Essex, for Ms McNicol's murder, which he denies. William Clegg, QC, for the prosecution, told the jury that Ms McNicol's abduction and death bore striking similarities to those of three other girls attacked by Tobin.

The jury heard that in 2004 the defendant was convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl and sexually attacking another young girl. They both survived but he has since been found guilty of Ms Hamilton's murder. Ms Hamilton was abducted in Bathgate, West Lothian, in February 1991, and her body was cut in half by Tobin before he took it to Margate for burial in his garden.

Mr Clegg maintained that a common feature of all four cases was that Tobin used a drug called anatryptaline to make his victims too drowsy and dizzy to resist strongly. "Evidence in this case demonstrates a propensity to abduct young girls, murder them and bury their bodies in rubbish sacks," he said. "There cannot be many people in the world who share this propensity. It is clear the defendant's motives for these attacks were sexual."

Ms McNicol's father, Ian, 70, of Tillingham in Essex, was in court yesterday for the first day of the trial. He stared at Tobin for much of the hearing but closed his eyes as the grisly details of his daughter's death were revealed.

Ms McNicol had travelled to a music festival in Liphook, Hampshire, on 2 August, 1991, and left three days later. She had been hitchhiking with a male friend but he got out of the car they had been travelling in at Junction 8 of the M25. It was the last time the teenager was known to be seen alive except by her killer. The only other person in the car at the time was the male driver.

Ms McNicol, who attended Chelmsford County High School, Essex, died unaware that she had passed four A-levels. The trial, which is expected to last two weeks, continues.