Statement from the brother of murder victim Shani Warren – Taplow
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The following statement is published by Thames Valley Police on behalf of Stephen Warren, the brother of Shani Warren, who was murdered at Taplow Lake on Good Friday, 1987.
Following an investigation by Thames Valley Police’s Major Crime Review Team, Donald Robertson, aged 66, formerly of Slough, was convicted at court today (17/5) of the murder, indecent assault and false imprisonment of Shani Warren.
During the same trial, Robertson was also convicted of the kidnap and rape of a 16-year-old girl in Slough in 1981.
Stephen Warren said: “From the day Shani was born, our family dynamic changed. Not just with the usual baby things, and the subsequent arrival of dolls, dresses and so on, but over time, our new little addition grew into a wonderfully pretty and happy child whom everyone immediately took to their hearts.
“As more years went by, Shani became a lovely girl, doted on by her parents but always mindful of the danger of being “spoiled”. It never happened. The photograph her mother took of her on her first day at grammar school shows an eleven-year-old girl in a smart uniform, pulling a face at the artificiality of it all. She had a ready humour with a dry, observational side that a few of us shared – and others missed out on.
“As she grew older, she wanted to succeed through her own efforts, so she wouldn’t work for the family, and decided to forge a career independently.
“She was frustrated when employers promised what they didn’t deliver, but she was ploughing on. We’d talk about things, giving her our opinions and advice – and she’d always listen, even if our “help” hadn’t been asked for.
“She was deep, but it was plain that she also wanted her own family. There were a few disappointments with boyfriends, but it was destined, we thought, to happen. After all, she only had to walk into a room, and heads would turn.
“This embarrassed her, by the way. She was loving, thoughtful, warm, caring and eager to help, sometimes to her own detriment. Her social life was active, with a good number of friends with whom she’d share an evening to talk about life, hopes, and plans. And her relationship with her parents was a central and integral part of their lives. She visited them every few days, had fun shopping trips with her mother, and even went on holidays with them both.
“Her determination to be self-sufficient was central to her existence. When her father bought a small house for her to live in, she insisted on paying rent and taking in lodgers to provide an appropriate income for him. He also bought her a car, but she immediately began saving, and planned to repay him with a cheque at a surprise champagne dinner.
“We hope this conveys some of how Shani was; kind-hearted, lively, positive, fun and ambitious. But it was all about to end.
“On Good Friday, 1987, after mowing the lawn, another duty she resolutely took on, she “popped out” to dispose of the grass cuttings, get some food, and buy a card and Easter egg for an ex-boyfriend. She was due back, likely in an hour or do.
“But it is one of life’s tragedies that everything can be destroyed in an instant. Somehow or other, Shani encountered the serial rapist Donald Robertson, whose practice was to attack unaccompanied young girls and women, terrifying them into submission with vicious threats and abuse.
“We cannot imagine what the last moments of Shani’s life must have been like, but you may agree that no punishment is enough for her attacker; a psychopath and a coward who lacked the courage to attend court, or even to give evidence via a live link.
“As you can imagine, the loss of Shani left a gaping hole in the family. Not just of a central member and surely its brightest light, but of a force of energy, hope and positivity. Her parents never recovered, and for us all, nothing felt the same again.
“Being forced to live with the lie that there had been no assault on her didn’t help, and the nonsensical notion of suicide, hurriedly advanced by a pathologist who strayed far beyond his remit and his expertise, was both a distraction to everyone and an insult to her memory.
“Her parents died last year, with Shani’s murder never being resolved in their minds. But it has become obvious during the trial that in passing away, they were spared the trauma of discovering the truth, and the detail, of what really happened to her.
“Shani, you were loved so much, and we have all, so many times, wished so hard that we could have – and would have – protected you on that terrible day. Nothing can ever even begin to make up for the pain that losing you has inflicted. You brought so much love and happiness into our lives, and losing you left us devastated forever.
“We’ll see you again one day, and laugh at absurdity as we always did; and maybe it will be you giving us some opinions and advice this time around. Until then, we can only pack away our grief once more, and keep on going as we always have.
“Bless you, our lovely, loving, irreplaceable little star.”
Notes to editors
The family of Shani Warren has asked that their privacy be respected.