Mary McLaughlin killer finally jailed after 35 years as DNA tech solves mystery

An evil rapist has been jailed for murdering a mum-of-11 35 years ago.

Graham McGill strangled Mary McLaughlin with the chord of her dressing gown at her flat in Scotland in September 1984 after his DNA was found at the crime scene.

McGill, who has repeatedly denied the murder charge, was on temporary release from jail when he killed the 58-year-old. He was back behind bars just hours after the savage attack.

But he was freed from HMP Edinburgh – less than 50 miles away from the Mary's home – within weeks. He had just celebrated his 23rd birthday.

It would take another 35 years before the cold case would be finally solved thanks to advances in DNA profiling technology.

Mary was last seen leaving a chip shop in Dumbarton Road, Glasgow, after being out drinking at pubs on the night of September 26, 1984.

She was found dead in her home on October 2, 1984 – six days after her murder.

The case baffled police in the decades that followed.

That was until new DNA technology was able to match a tiny sample from Mary's dressing gown chord to McGill – something not available when she was killed.

During his murder trial, the court was told how McGill started speaking to Mary and walked her back to her flat in Laurel Street, where she lived alone.

Detectives said McGill was a stranger to the area and to Mary, who was a grandmother and more than double his age at the time.

Prosecutor Alex Prentice QC told the jury: "Mary McLaughlin was someone who was friendly and trusting and I would suggest that ultimately brought about her death."

Once inside the third-floor flat, McGill launched what was described in court as a brutal, sexually-motivated attack.

At the time, McGill, who had been convicted of rape in 1981, was in the final weeks of a six-year sentence, which had been halved due to good behaviour.

As part of a training for freedom programme, he was granted temporary release from HMP Edinburgh on September 21, 1984, according to the BBC.

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Her body was discovered – covered with a green dress which had been put on back-to-front – by her son Martin Cullen's ex-partner.

A post-mortem examination concluded Mary died from strangulation at least five days earlier.

At the time, detectives had little to work with.

In a pre-internet and surveillance era, there were no witnesses or useable evidence – and there was a poor response from the local community.

But in 2019, after four failed DNA tests, a breakthrough occurred.

New technology was able to match McGill's DNA to that found in a knot tied by the killer on her dressing gown.

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Det Supt Suzanne Chow said McGill was confused when officers finally turned up at his door on 4 December 2019.

She said: "He was quite tight lipped. You could tell he was shell-shocked and he probably wasn't expecting his past to come back and haunt him 35 years later."

Following his conviction last month, the jury was told he had also sentenced to life in 1999 for a brutal assault with intent to ravish and released on licence in 2007.

The 59-year-old was jailed for life yesterday, Tuesday, and ordered to serve a minimum of 14 years in prison.

Judge Lord Burns said McGill had murdered Mary after a "chance encounter", and that he had shown no remorse.

"Hopefully he dies in jail," said Mary's son Martin after the sentence.

Officers now hope the prosecution will now give hope to other families waiting for justice.

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"These cases are not forgotten about," Det Supt Chow said. "Just because they are not resolved at the time doesn't mean that we don't still think about these people who have been victims of crimes and that we don't think about their families."

She added that McGill's conviction also sends out a powerful message to other cold case killers.

"Your past doesn't go away. It will come back and haunt you one day."

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