“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.”
Those are the words of the sister of Jacqueline Montgomery, known as Jackie, who was raped and murdered in Islington in 1975, when she was 15.
Her killer, Dennis McGrory, has finally been jailed, 48 years later.
McGrory, of Cherry Road, Newport Pagnell, received a 26-year prison sentence today (January 13) at Huntingdon Crown Court.
The 75-year-old was convicted under double jeopardy legislation after a 1975 prosecution was unsuccessful.
In November 2015, detectives from the Met’s Specialist Casework Team commenced a review of the case following a request from Jackie’s family, who had been living with unanswered questions for decades.
Jackie’s sister, Kathy, said today: “Jackie and I always said that we could trust no one. 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 Jackie.”
Jackie’s body was discovered by her father in the early hours of June 2 1975 at their home address in Offord Road, Islington. A post-mortem revealed she had been stabbed several times, strangled with the flex of an iron, and received blunt force trauma injuries to her face. The scene also showed signs that she had been sexually assaulted. The state of the room was consistent with a struggle and the phone was off the hook. The fact the line was engaged from late on the morning of June 1, indicating the murder likely took place before then. The disturbed phone was believed by police to be an attempt by Jackie to call for help.
At the time of the murder, McGrory was the ex-long term partner of Jackie’s aunt. He was arrested and taken into custody. Images taken of him at the time revealed a number of visible injuries, including a bruised lip and long scratch to his neck, and smaller scratches to his wrist and arm.
On July 10 that year he was charged with Jackie’s murder. But he was later acquitted by a jury following a direction from the judge.
For the new prosecution, officers from the Specialist Casework Team had to demonstrate that the new evidence against him was compelling.
The evidence came in the form of a DNA sample found on the victim, which forensic experts were able to establish was “one billion times” more likely to belong to McGrory than anyone else.
Detective Constable Jane Mascall, from the Met’s Specialist Casework Team, said: “In 1975 there was no way of testing for DNA, so detectives had to rely on other forms of evidence. Samples from the time were carefully labelled and securely retained. And this is how they remained until all these years later when they were retrieved for further testing during a review of the case, as requested by Jackie’s sister.
“Forensic experts discovered a trace of McGrory’s DNA on a swab taken from Jackie which meant we were also able to establish that he had raped her, something officers at the time could not prove. This crucial piece of evidence has allowed us to apprehend this violent man who thought he had got away with murder. Kathy was determined that her sister’s case should not be forgotten and that determination has paid off. I hope for her sake, and for the rest of Jackie’s family, that this outcome will provide some comfort and a certain sense of closure.”
The Specialist Casework Team – part of the Central Specialist Crime Command - can be tasked to reinvestigate non-recent homicides where new lines of enquiry have come to light.
In 2015 the team of detectives set about carrying out a thorough review of the original case papers and identified an opportunity to take advantage of developments in forensic technology. A swab taken from Jackie’s body at the time of the murder was re-submitted for examination and found to contain the DNA of a second individual. Inquiries revealed them to be McGrory – whose details were already on the system following a conviction in 2009 for unrelated offences.
The DNA evidence also made it possible to confirm that Jackie had been raped before she was murdered.
In March 2020, McGrory was re-arrested for Jackie’s murder at his home address. He was charged with her murder for the second time in June 2020, 45 years after she was killed.
McGrory was 28 when he raped and murdered Jackie while she was home alone. He had attended the address looking for Jackie’s aunt, who had recently ended their relationship and moved to Manchester in an attempt to get away from him.
She was not at the address when McGrory turned up, and it is likely he took his anger and frustration out on the teenager.
Earlier that evening he had been drinking heavily, leaving a nearby premises in N16 at around 4am.
After the murder he went to see a neighbour and was visibly shaking and excitable. He showed this neighbour a piece of paper with an address allegedly for Jackie’s aunt written on it. He claimed it had been given to him by four “geezers” who had assaulted him before passing the note on.
But officers were able to establish that the piece paper – which McGrory was found to be in possession of when arrested by officers during the original investigation – had in fact been torn from Jackie’s diary which was found at the murder scene with a page removed.
During the course of the trial, it came to light that McGrory had previously made comments towards Jackie which had suggested a sexual interest in her, including a threat to rape her.
Detective Supterintendent Rebecca Reeves, Central Specialist Crime, said: “McGrory’s conviction coming after so many years demonstrates the lengths that police and prosecutors will go to in the hope of securing justice for victims and their families, no matter how much time has passed.
“McGrory is a violent man, a bully who terrified the women in his life. He thought he had managed to evade justice, but thanks to the hard work of specialist detectives and expert forensic scientists, he has now finally been held accountable for taking the life of a young girl in 1975.
“Jackie was courageous and bright. She stood up for her aunt who had fled from McGrory’s violence and abuse. She is missed deeply by her siblings and by the other members of her family who are still alive and my thoughts are with all of them today.
“The case officer for this investigation, DC Mascall, has been working on this case for the last seven years and I would like to praise her dedication and skill, as well as the skill and professionalism of the Met’s forensic scientists. Up and down the country, there are small teams of specialist detectives working tirelessly on unsolved cases in the quest for justice for victims’ families and to protect the public from dangerous offenders.
“We know that we cannot bring answers to every family with a loved one lost to murder, but we never give up and we work with the benefit of cutting-edge modern forensic techniques.
“I hope this case, in its own way, sends a message to domestic violence offenders today about the determination of police and prosecutors to make London safer for women and children.”