Dennis McGrory was 28 when he sexually assaulted, stabbed and strangled 15-year-old Jacqui Montgomery (Pictures: PA)
A pensioner who raped and murdered a teenager in a vicious attack carried out nearly 50 years ago has finally been brought to justice after the oldest double jeopardy case in England and Wales.
Dennis McGrory was 28 when he sexually assaulted, stabbed and strangled 15-year-old Jacqui Montgomery in her home in Islington, north London, in 1975.
Now 75, he had been ‘wild with rage’ trying to track down his ex-partner Josie Montgomery, who was her aunt.
Prosecutor Sarah Przybylska told jurors he ‘took out his anger on the next best thing, Jacqui Montgomery, both raping and murdering her’.
During the attack, he ripped out a page of the teenager’s diary with her aunt’s address on it.
Jacqui’s body was found by her father, Robert Montgomery, lying on the floor of their living room in Offord Road in the early hours of June 2, 1975.
She had suffered fatal stab wounds as well as blunt force trauma to the face and been strangled with the flex of an iron.
McGrory was tried the following year on a circumstantial case and cleared of murder on the directions of a judge.
But justice finally caught up with him after the ancient double jeopardy legal principle was scrapped.
It meant he could be charged with the offences again after swabs from Ms Montgomery’s body produced a one-in-a-billion DNA match decades later.
McGrory faces dying behind bars when he is sentenced next month (Picture: PA)
Ms Przybylska told jurors at the Old Bailey earlier this year: ‘Many years ago, this defendant, then in his twenties, attacked, raped and brutally murdered the 15 year old victim, Jacqueline Montgomery, in her own home, when she was all alone.
‘The defendant did so when angry and almost certainly whilst still drunk. He was desperate at the time.
‘He was trying to track down his ex-partner, Josie Montgomery, who had recently left him, and he wanted to harm her.
‘Josie was Jacqui’s aunt and they were close. The defendant knew that Jacqui was likely to know where Josie was.
‘She was an obvious point of contact. In addition, Josie had been staying for a short time at Jacqui’s house very shortly before the murder.
‘Therefore there was every chance that she would either be there or Jacqui could be forced to reveal her whereabouts.
‘However, Josie was not there and whilst Jacqui may have known where she was, whether she ever told the defendant, only he knows.
‘No doubt furious with rage and wanting to attack Josie, the defendant took out his anger on the next best thing – Jacqui Montgomery – raping and murdering her.
‘The events that you will be considering occurred in 1975, just short of 50 years ago. Before some of us were even born. However, we say that justice has now finally caught up with the defendant.
‘That is because, in addition to the array of pieces of circumstantial evidence establishing that the defendant murdered Jacqui, and raped her, we now have scientific evidence in the form of DNA evidence which compellingly establishes that the defendant was, and is, both the murderer and the rapist of Jacqui Montgomery.’
Composite photo from 1975 of Dennis McGrory showing marks on his face and body (Picture: PA)
That trial, in March, was halted when McGrory, of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, fell ill.
The pensioner appeared for his retrial Huntingdon Crown Court by video link where he was found guilty of rape and murder.
The jury there deliberated on Monday for just over an hour before finding him guilty on both counts.
McGrory was remanded into custody to be sentenced on January 13, when he faces the prospect of dying behind bars.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Max Hill KC, hailed the guilty verdict, saying: ‘This crime took place a full decade before the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) opened its doors so it’s certainly the oldest case that I’ve encountered.
‘It is one of the very small handful of double jeopardy cases that I’ve personally authorised to be taken to the Court of Appeal.
‘We are very close now to the 50th anniversary of this crime so I’m particularly pleased that we’ve been able to bring this matter through to conviction after all these years.
‘It is an extremely serious and rare step to ask the Court of Appeal, as I did, to set aside an acquittal for murder, whether that acquittal took place five years ago or 50 years ago.’
A swab taken from the body of Jacqui Montgomery (Picture: PA)
Mr Hill praised the ‘excellent’ work of the police and CPS in bringing McGrory to justice.
He went on: ‘This was a particularly vicious murder of 15-year-old girl, where a sexual assault was part of the murderous attack.
‘That meant that on further investigation, we were able to prove that there was a scientific link between McGrory and the body of Jacqueline Montgomery.
‘His DNA was found on her body in circumstances where he denies to this day that he was even at the scene or at the house in which she was murdered.
‘So that formed a really important new piece of evidence alongside the circumstantial evidence, which included finding on him at his arrest in 1975 a page torn from Jacqueline’s diary.
‘When you put those two elements together, it became impossible for him to explain his possession of the diary page and the DNA sample that he left on this poor girl’s body in any way other than him being present and being the killer himself.’
Mr Hill added: ‘Our thoughts are with all those who still mourn greatly and have suffered her loss – that is what drives investigators and prosecutors.
‘Speaking as a lawyer, we don’t recognise any limitation of time on serious crime and the fact that a murder was committed five decades ago makes it no less important.
‘In this case, McGrory at last now faces the prospect of the end of his life being spent behind bars.
‘I’m sure that this individual McGrory believed that he had gotten away with murder. But since the double jeopardy principles were enshrined in statute in 2003, I and my recent predecessors have had the ability to try to put matters right.
‘Although these cases are rightly very rare, where we see a significant miscarriage of justice, such as a wrongful acquittal for a murder, which was clearly committed, the message is: the system will catch you in the end. And that is what we’ve done in this case.’
Jacqui’s sister Kathy said: ‘A violent man who had been living within our family (raped and) murdered my sister. He has been able to live his life. He has spent nearly 50 years as a free man doing as he pleased.
‘I find that unbearable when my sister didn’t even reach her 16th birthday. His actions caused trauma to so many people and there were no consequences for him.
‘The investigation of the last few years has meant revisiting memories of the murder which has caused pain and stress for me and my family and I am relieved that we finally have justice for Jacqui.’
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Dennis McGrory evaded justice for nearly 50 years.