An “abhorrent” killer rapist who murdered a teenager nearly 50 years ago has been told by a judge he will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars in 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 during a “horrific, violent and sustained ordeal” at her home in Islington, north London, in 1975.
The 75-year-old was cleared of murder the following year on the directions of a judge but was finally convicted decades later after swabs from Ms Montgomery’s body produced a one-in-a-billion DNA match.
The victim’s family described the decades McGrory spent out of prison as “soul-destroying”, with her sister Kathy Montgomery saying they “knew he’d done it from day one”.
After a 2003 change in the law on double jeopardy, McGrory’s case was referred to the Court of Appeal and sent for a fresh trial.
On Friday at Huntingdon Crown Court, Mr Justice Bryan jailed him for life with a minimum term of 25 years and 126 days, and described the killer’s crimes as “abhorrent” and “hideous” – saying the idea a man could inflict that level of violence on a 15-year-old girl “beggars belief”.
The retrial, which was scheduled for March last year at the Old Bailey, was halted when the defendant, of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire, fell ill.
He appeared for his retrial at Huntingdon Crown Court by video-link and was found guilty of rape and murder last month.
The jury deliberated for just over an hour to convict McGrory on both charges.
Sentencing McGrory, who appeared via video-link from HMP Peterborough on Friday, the judge told the killer: “I have no doubt whatsoever that you intended to kill her in your brutal attack on her.
“You put Jacqui through a horrific, violent and sustained ordeal in her own home – a place where she was entitled to feel safe.
“In the decades that followed, you must have thought you had gotten away with your hideous crimes.
“How any man could inflict such sexual violence on a 15-year-old child that had done them no harm beggars belief.
“You have shown not one iota of remorse or compassion for Jacqui or Jacqui’s family.
“You cut short that life and deprived her of that life, and all the things she hoped for in that life.”
The judge said due to his age, he would “in all probability” die in prison.
McGrory appeared to show no emotion as the sentence was passed, wearing a surgical face mask throughout the entire hearing.
Jurors were told McGrory had been “wild with rage” when he murdered Jacqui as he tried to track down his ex-partner Josie Montgomery, who was the victim’s aunt.
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 had threatened to rape Jacqui in the past and, on that night, he “made good” on those words, jurors were told.
The sentencing judge told the killer he had “carried out your sexual fantasy to its fatal conclusion”.
At the hearing on Friday, Kathy Montgomery’s victim impact statement was read to the court, which 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.”
Speaking outside court after McGrory was jailed, Ms Montgomery told reporters: “I’m just relieved.
“I don’t know what to do with myself, it’s taken so long.
“She suffered, that girl … she didn’t deserve what she got – but he deserved what he got just now.”
Asked how she felt about McGrory being out of prison for decades, Ms Montgomery said: “Soul-destroying. Soul-destroying, knowing I could do nothing to get near him.
“We all knew he’d done it since day one.”