‘It’s not as simple as ‘he’s guilty’’. 

That was what a jury was told by the barrister defending Donald Robertson, the Slough man accused of kidnapping, assaulting and murdering Shani Warren 35 years ago.

The 26-year-old woman's body was found tied and gagged in Taplow Lake, Buckinghamshire, on April 18, 1987.

Robertson, 66, is also accused of the kidnap and rape of a 16-year-old woman in Slough in 1981.

The Slough man has not appeared for a single day of his trial at Reading Crown Court but denies the five charges levelled against him. 

Addressing the defendant’s absence from the court process, barrister Michael Ivers said: “Here I am, where’s my client?

“You may think if he can’t be bothered, why should I?

“You may make assumptions about the elephant in the room, or should I say the elephant not in the room?

“Is it because he’s guilty and he’s not got an answer? Is it because he’s in his late sixties and he thinks ‘what does it matter?’

“Maybe he thinks they will convict me anyway after they know about me and what I’ve done.

“It is not as simple as ‘oh well that means he’s guilty’. 

“There may be a number of factors in play as to why I’m here with no client.

“That doesn't make it less important that I address you about the issues in this case, and the number of difficulties there are in the prosecution case.”

Mr Ivers told the jury the prosecution’s points had been ‘utterly cherry-picked’ and suggested they had ignored certain pieces of evidence in building their case. 

The barrister also reminded the jury that Dr Benjamin Davis, the pathologist who originally examined Shani Warren’s body following her passing, suggested she had died by suicide. 

A key part of the prosecution’s case was to present evidence from pathologist Dr Ashley Fegan Earl, who disagreed with Dr Davis’s assessment following his own examination of Ms Warren’s artefacts and claimed her death came about as a result of ‘third-party involvement.’

However, Mr Ivers told the jury Dr Davis was an “experienced pathologist” who was “no rookie.”

The barrister also told the court Shani Warren had been ‘under stress’, ‘worried’ about medical problems, unhappy with her job and experiencing struggles with a former boyfriend in the weeks and days before her death. 

“Her mood when I spoke to her was certainly down”, a friend said in a police interview following Ms Warren’s death. 

Mr Ivers said: “It’s not for me to prove suicide, but with these things taken together, are they evidence there may be an alternative explanation that may be sufficient?”

The court heard other alternative scenarios presented by the defence advocate. 

One example centred around a convicted rapist from Leeds who admitted to three rapes, one attempted murder, four kidnappings, one serious sexual assault, one indecent assault and one assault occasioning actual bodily harm in 1999. 

The court heard how the Leeds man was allegedly in High Wycombe -- some 12 miles from Taplow Lake -- in Easter 1987 “without an alibi.”

Mr Ivers also addressed Robertson’s ‘awful’ previous convictions, which include the rape of a 14-year-old girl in 1981 and a 17-year-old girl in 1987. 

He said: “There are various details there that will make you hate him, of course. But nowhere in any of these [incidents] is there any hint of attacking somebody, in a sense of leaving them for dead or killing them.

“In a way, his convictions actually show they don’t fit the bill. They’re really horrible. When you go through these, and how awful they are… in the end, they don’t show a propensity to kill people.”

DNA matching Donald Robertson’s profile was found on Shani Warren’s bra and the mouth gag wrapped around her head, as well as the underwear and bra of the woman he allegedly raped when she was aged 16 in 1981.

These results were produced following advances in forensic technology not previously available in the 1980s. 

Questioning this evidence, Mr Ivers said: “DNA testing can be so sensitive that it is a victim of its own success. It can pick things up that may have got there in different ways. 

“It can pick up things that have got there not in the way we would hope.”

The trial continues.