Man arrested in connection with murder of woman and rapes from the 1970s

A MAN has today been arrested in connection with a murder and several rapes and attempted rapes from the 1970s.

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

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

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 had died from a blunt force injury to her head but it is not known what caused the injury.


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Sally was 22 years old and was at the time living with her parents in Towler Street, Peterborough.

Sally’s murder and the series of sexual offences, which also took place in the Peterborough area are being reviewed by a team of officers from the force’s Major Investigation Team.

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

He has been taken to a police station 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.”

The serious sexual offences being investigated include:

In December 1973, a 19-year-old woman reported being raped by a man who was giving her a lift home from a friend’s house. The offence took place in a car at a quarry in Helpston, near Peterborough.

On August 9, 1974, a 17-year-old girl reported that a man she had accepted a lift from had tried to rape her in a car at Ferry Meadows in Peterborough.

A 20-year-old woman reported being raped at an address in Peterborough in the early hours of June 25, 1975.

On March 15, 1979, a 20-year-old woman accepted a lift home from a man from the Bull Hotel, in Peterborough, because it was snowing. They went to the Ram Jam Inn, on the Great North Road, near Oakham, where they had a drink before she was driven to an isolated dirt track where he assaulted and raped her. The man then took her to the Angel pub at Yarwell, near Peterborough, where she tried unsuccessfully to get help. Eventually, she was taken to the Haycock Hotel, at Wansford, where he raped her again. The next morning he took her back to Peterborough.

On April 8, 1979, a 24-year-old woman was sexually assaulted by a man giving her a lift home. Police believe he attempted to rape the victim in a lay-by in the North Bretton area but she resisted and was pushed out of the car.

On June 28, 1979, a 17-year-old girl was raped by a man in the Castor Hanglands woodlands near Peterborough. She had travelled there in a car with the attacker through Helpston and Castor.

On August 24, 1979, a 16-year-old girl was assaulted by a man who also attempted to rape her. They had been travelling in a car on the road between Marholm and Ufford to the west of Peterborough when the man, who was driving, pulled off along a side road and assaulted her.

Anyone with information about the murder of Sally McGrath or the serious sexual offences should contact the Operation Highfields incident room on 0345 456 456 4, or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.

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