‘Lady in the Lake’ killer jailed 35 years ago for choking and murdering woman


A man found guilty of raping and killing a 26-year-old woman who was found bound and gagged in a lake has been sentenced to life in prison.

A jury at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday delivered a unanimous verdict convicting Donald Robertson of the appalling crimes committed by Shani Warren, taking the jury just seven hours and 18 minutes to reach their verdict.

The judge sentenced Robertson to life imprisonment with a minimum of 30 years in prison.

At this point, in 2052, a parole board will decide whether Robertson can be released if he is still alive.

And now the pensioner responsible for the young woman’s death has been brought to justice, some 35 years after the infamous murder of Shani in April 1987 by the Lady in the Lake.

Speaking to an absent Robertson at the sentencing hearing, Justice Wall noted that Shani’s remaining family members had to wait 35 years before they knew for sure he was responsible.

“They were sometimes told that she might have killed herself, and other times she might have been killed by another man,” he said.

A police manhunt for Shani has been launched after she disappeared from her home in Stoke Poges, Bucks. one night in April 1987


HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)

Shani was eventually found with her wrists tied with a jumper cable and her ankles tied with a tow rope


HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)

“The agony of waiting so long for the truth to come out must make the suffering so hard to bear.”

Judge Wall told the court he would consider whether the defendant should be eligible for release at a later date.

He said the sentence was compounded by the circumstances of the murder, which included Ms Warren’s drowning – something that was a distinctive trait of hers.

Another complicating factor is the defendant’s criminal record.

Mr Justice Wall revealed that Robertson had raped another girl aged 15 in 1977.

There is also the rape of a 14-year-old girl in 1981 and a 17-year-old girl in 1987.

While Robertson, 66, was arrested for the crime the same month Shani’s body was found, he was only charged last year after a police cold case team found new DNA allegedly linking him to the murder brought.

The jury found on Tuesday that Robertson had wrongly detained and indecently assaulted Ms Warren, who lived in Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire and was found in Taplow Lake over the Easter weekend of this year.

For the first three days after Shani’s body was found, police treated her death as a suicide


HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)

She was found with her wrists tied with a jumper cable and her ankles tied with a tow rope.

Robertson was also found guilty of a separate charge; the kidnapping and rape of a teenager in 1981.

He is in prison and did not attend his trial at Reading Crown Court.

He denied the false imprisonment, indecent assault and murder of Ms. Warren between April 16 and April 19, 1987.

But his claims have been contradicted by evidence suggesting he murdered Shani after she disappeared from their home in Stoke Poges, Bucks., just moments after mowing the lawn at the home of her multimillionaire parents had brought her.

She had driven her car to dispose of grass clippings on the compost heap at her parents’ home in Gerrards Cross, Bucks, but Shani never returned to the home she shared with two housemates.

Her body was found in a lake in Taplow by Marjorie Arnold walking her dog.

The German shepherd showed an unusual interest in something in the lake and when Ms. Arnold investigated she tripped over Shani’s bound and gagged body lying face down in the water.

Shani Warren’s body was found in a lake in Buckinghamshire



Before her body was discovered, a truck driver saw her car parked in a parking bay on the nearby A4, where he intended to park for the night.

According to a reconstruction by BBC TV series Crimewatch, the car had been left unlocked, with the door slightly open, and some of Shani’s personal belongings were found in the undergrowth near the vehicle.

Despite the publicity, no one was ever arrested for her murder and the coroner recorded an open verdict at the time as there was no clear evidence of Shani’s fate.

For the first three days after Shani’s body was found, police treated her death as a suicide.

Only after a comprehensive autopsy was a murder investigation launched.

At the time of Robertson’s arrest, Shani’s family announced that both of her parents had died during the Covid-19 pandemic, unaware of who killed their daughter.

The gag found on Shani’s body


HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)

Robertson also denied kidnapping and raping a 16-year-old girl, who cannot be identified, on July 16, 1981.

But the trial heard he was convicted of raping two girls, ages 14 and 17, in separate incidents in August 1981 and June 1987, respectively.

Prosecutor John Price QC said the first attack was relevant as it bore similarities to the alleged attacks on Shani, 26, and the other teenagers.

He told the court: “The only thing they have in common, it is claimed, is the man who kidnapped and raped [the 16-year-old] is believed to be the same man who sexually assaulted, bound, gagged and murdered Ms. Warren six years later, according to prosecutors.

The crime scene where Shani’s body was found


HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)

The 16-year-old told police she was attacked on her way home.

She said: “I screamed and ran into the street. I squatted and screamed.

“He said, ‘Don’t scream, don’t scream. I have a knife and I’m going to kill you.’ I believed him.”

Reading Crown Court heard her then being led to a nearby wood and raped.

Robertson reportedly told her before the attack, “You’d better please me or you won’t see anyone again.”

The next day he was arrested on suspicion of rape and agreed to take part in an ID parade, but the alleged victim was unable to locate him.

The jury also reported one conviction for burglary with intent to rape and kidnap a woman in an April 1990 incident.

The tow rope found on Shani’s body in 1987


HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)

Prosecutors said new DNA evidence that came to light decades after the attacks was the “cornerstone” of the case against Robertson.

The jury was told that DNA found on both victims’ underwear, as well as on a mouth gag used on Ms Warren, matched Robertson.

Robertson did not testify in his defense, but his attorney cautioned the jury against convicting him of his other crimes.

Michael Ivers QC defended the reliability of the DNA evidence and suggested another suspect may have been charged in the murder.

Shani’s car was found at a service area off the A4 near the lake


HNP Newsdesk/Hyde News & Pictures Ltd)

Mr Ivers argued that the charges relating to Ms Warren’s death could have been brought “bluntly” against a lorry driver convicted of offenses including kidnapping, rape, robbery and attempted murder between 1982 and 1995.

The man was treated as a suspect and a file was turned over to prosecutors during a renewed police inquiry into Ms Warren’s death, but he was not charged.

Mr Justice Wall, who presided over the trial, told the jury he needed to consider “recommending that he (Robertson) should never be released from prison” and thanked them for advising on such a “difficult and traumatic” case .

In 2052, a parole board decides whether Robertson can be released if he is still alive.

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