Neighbours reveal horror as killer is convicted of rape and murder

The monster next door unmasked 50 years on: Neighbours reveal their horror as double jeopardy killer posing as a kind-hearted soul who mowed their lawns is convicted of 1975 rape and murder of teenage girl

  • Dennis McGrory raped, stabbed and strangled 15-year-old Jacqui Montgomery
  • Jacqui’s father found his daughter’s lifeless body on the floor of their front room
  • The killer was a smiling presence who helped out in his neighbourhood 
  • One neighbour said: ‘We’d even thought of inviting him round for Christmas’ 

Pensioner Dennis McGrory was the kind of neighbour who, as the old saying goes, would lend you a cup of sugar if you knocked on the door of his bungalow.

Almost everyone in his street in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, had a story about the 74-year-old, who had been a smiling presence in this small corner of the market town for many years.

There was the man who lived next door to him, for example.

Dennis was happy to roll up his sleeves to help him knock down a wall in his coal shed which he was turning into a larder.

The mugshot issued by the Metropolitan Police of Denis McGrory, who has been found guilty of the vicious rape and murder of a teenager nearly 50 years ago

Pictures taken of Dennis McGrory after he had raped and murdered Jacqui Montgomery, 15. He told detectives these injuries had been sustained when he was attacked and beaten up by four strangers

The old lady down the road . . . Dennis was more than willing to mow the lawn for her.

And the father who had recently moved into the neighbourhood . . . when he mentioned in passing that he liked to go fishing with his young son, Dennis — who used to run an angling shop in nearby Stony Stratford — gave him some reels for his rod.

‘He would always say hello and have time for a chat,’ said the father’s partner. Scotsman Dennis’s pride and joy was his immaculately kept garden (complete with bird-feeder and bird bath and a lawn bordered with flower beds) and his allotment around the corner, bursting with raspberries, beans and courgettes. He had also built a network of paths to help fellow green-fingered locals negotiate the plot.

Dennis could be found there most days — when he was a little lighter on his feet — with his beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Bubbles (named after Michael Jackson’s pet chimp, he told a neighbour), who was always dressed in a tartan coat, a nod to his owner’s roots.

Most recently, Dennis, who found it increasingly difficult to walk, had become a familiar figure in the neighbourhood on his red mobility scooter. Could there ever be a more unlikely monster?

Dennis McGrory was 28 when he sexually assaulted, stabbed and strangled 15-year-old Jacqui Montgomery (pictured) in her home in Islington, north London

McGrory killed Jacqueline, 15, in this Islington street (pictured) nearly 50 years ago

Nearly half a century ago, it transpires, Dennis McGrory’s 28-year-old unshaven face, framed by long, greasy hair and sideburns, was staring out of a police mugshot.

He told detectives investigating the murder and rape of a teenage girl in London that the bruises on his lip and knuckles and scratches on his neck, wrist and arm had been sustained when he was attacked and beaten up by four strangers.

But the officers were convinced — and everyone else now knows — that he was lying, and his injuries had been caused by 15-year-old Jacqueline Montgomery as she desperately fought for her life when McGrory raped, stabbed and then strangled her at her home in Islington, North London in June 1975.

Yes, the very same ‘neighbourly’ Dennis MGrory.

The murder charge against him, however, was thrown out by a judge at the Old Bailey after he decided the prosecution’s evidence, which was circumstantial, was too weak.

It meant — to quote Jacqui’s older sister, Kathy — McGrory ‘has spent nearly 50 years as a free man doing as he pleased’.

Until one day in March 2020, when police arrived to arrest him at his home in Newport Pagnell, where he had been hiding in plain sight for all these years.

Swabs taken from his victim had been kept and retested using new scientific techniques. These showed that DNA found in Jacqui was one billion times more likely to belong to McGrory than anyone else.

His retrial finally took place at Huntingdon Crown Court last week, when he appeared by video link from his solicitor’s office due to ill health.

The jury took just over an hour to find him guilty of rape and murder.

The case made legal and criminal history, becoming the oldest ever double jeopardy conviction in England and Wales, following the scrapping in 2005 of the ancient law that prevented a defendant being charged twice with the same offence.

Swabs taken from his victim had been kept and retested using new scientific techniques. These showed that DNA found in Jacqui was one billion times more likely to belong to McGrory than anyone else

The past tells us that monsters, whatever their crimes might be, come in many different guises.

But surely the description has never before applied to someone who zipped around on a motorised shopping cart.

How did the news go down with his neighbours? Well, just ask yourself how you would feel if the kindly old man living a few doors away turned out to be a rapist and murderer.

‘My blood ran a little cold,’ said the partner of the man who was given the fishing reels. ‘We’d even thought of inviting him round for Christmas because he was on his own.’

McGrory did not lead a blameless life after what he did to Jacqueline Montgomery, however. Individuals who commit such depraved sexually motivated attacks rarely do.

He had a history of ‘violence toward women’, the Crown Prosecution (CPS) said, and had used ‘knives to threaten and attack others’.

Evidence of his dark past can be found at the home of a woman in another part of the Home Counties, who was involved in a relationship with McGrory around 15 years ago.

When we visited her home, her son became angry at the mention of McGrory’s name, and said he had sexually assaulted his mother and sister when she was still a child. ‘He’s a paedophile,’ he shouted.

McGrory was never prosecuted over these allegations, but he did have a conviction in 2009 for ‘unrelated offences’.

The Metropolitan Police did not specify what those offences were, but it is believed they were for burglary and possession of an offensive weapon.

Had he not been convicted back then, McGrory might never have been brought to justice for killing teenager Jacqui.

McGrory’s DNA flagged up as a match only when a painstaking review of the murder case began seven years ago because his details were already on the system.

It was his relationship with Jacqui’s aunt, Josie, which would inadvertently lead to Jacqui’s brutal death.

Ordinarily, the paths of Dennis McGrory and schoolgirl Jacqueline Montgomery would never have crossed.

The son of a retired captain in the Black Watch regiment, McGrory had left Dundee in his 20s to seek his fortune in London.

It was in the capital that he met Josie Montgomery — Jacqui’s aunt — with whom McGrory would have two daughters.

What kind of girl was Jacqui? Her diary, typical of one produced by a teenager long before the advent of the internet, provides a poignant glimpse into her tragically fleeting life shortly before she was killed on June 2, 1975.

Her boyfriend had just broken up with her (‘I’ll never know why,’ she scribbled) and her parents’ marriage had ended.

‘My mum left home today, got a flat near, Dad was very cut up,’ she wrote in an entry which was read to Huntingdon Crown Court.

Jacqui reveals how terrified she and her aunt were of McGrory, and how she had accompanied her aunt on a desperate trip north to escape from McGrory after she left him in the spring of 1975.

‘We went to the housing people in Manchester . . . they told us to get back to the smoke because they had 15,000 of their own to see,’ she explained.

‘We went straight to a police station [back in London] who got in touch with a welfare officer. She put us in a hotel called the Classic in King’s Cross. It was a doss hole, but a bed for the kids and us.’

Not long afterwards, McGrory found out that not only was Josie having an affair but she was involved with a good friend of his.

On the fateful day in question — ‘wild with rage’ — he went in search of her. He thought she might be at Jacqui’s home in Islington. She wasn’t but Jacqui was there alone.

When her father, Robert Montgomery, returned home, he found his daughter’s body on the floor of the front room.

She had been stabbed multiple times and suffered blunt force trauma to her face before being strangled with the flex of an iron.

When he was arrested, McGrory was in possession of a screwed up piece of paper from his victim’s bloodstained diary. It had her aunt’s new address on it.

Jacqui’s diary had a page ripped out of it which McGrory kept for 50 years

There was evidence, the prosecutor told the court, that he’d had a sexual interest in Jacqui all along and had previously threatened to rape her.

‘A circumstantial case suggesting that McGrory had been at the scene of the murder [in 1975] became a compelling scientific case when DNA linked him to the body of Jacqueline Montgomery,’ said Max Hill, KC, director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). ‘That’s what made the big difference here.’ Advanced techniques mean that samples which were once believed to be too scarce or damaged can now be used to reopen long unsolved cases.

The toll this all took on Jacqui’s family is evident on her sister Kathy’s Facebook page.

‘Ahead of the trial, Kathy, who lives in Hertfordshire, posted: ‘I’m up next week to give evidence about 47 years ago . . . I’m suffering insomnia badly.’ As the trial neared its conclusion, she posted again: ‘It’s been a really hard few weeks for me. The things I’ve had to listen to in court were worse than vile. The jury go out tomorrow afternoon so we just have to sit tight till they come back with the verdict.’

The judge, who had allowed McGrory to give evidence via video link, ordered him to appear in court to hear the verdict.

He will be sentenced on January 13, and Mr Hill said: ‘He at last faces the prospect of the end of his life being spent behind bars.’ After the murder of Jacqui, McGrory is known to have been married and divorced at least once. Records show he tied the knot in 2005, when he was 58 and working as a decorator in Stony Stratford, where he later opened his fishing tackle shop.

His wife was 39, and they appear to have divorced in 2011. According to their certificate at the General Register office, McGrory had been married before. His ‘previous marriage’, it says, of which we could find no record, was ‘dissolved’. Back in Newport Pagnell, neighbours revealed that after the police arrested McGrory and news started to leak out about what he had done, they began to keep a close eye on him because ‘we knew he was dangerous’.

In a video clip taken by one neighbour, McGrory can be seen waving to a little girl with her mother outside the local shops as he passed in his scooter.

‘I can’t believe someone could be capable of something so terrible and never do anything like it again,’ said a 47-year-old mother of two daughters who lives in the same street.

At the front of McGrory’s bungalow is a reminder of the image he cultivated — that of a friendly, gardening-loving neighbour. He had put up a home-made sign which jokes: ‘Gardening’s so exciting, I wet my plants!’

Two families have been left devastated by the killer’s wickedness. ‘The whole McGrory family is in shock,’ said his younger brother Martin, who wept when he found out his own flesh and blood is now a convicted murderer.

‘I didn’t get involved with Dennis too much when we were growing up,’ adds Martin, who’s in his 60s and lives in Hastings, East Sussex. ‘He was always a bit of a tearaway. I haven’t seen him for years, and we only talked on the phone.

‘He told me he was on bail, but didn’t go into to it too much. You never imagine your own brother could do such a wicked thing.’

Jacqui’s family is suffering a different kind of agony.

‘He has been able to live his life,’ her sister, Kathy, said in a statement to the court. ‘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 past few years has meant revisiting memories of the murder, which has caused so much stress for me and my family, and I am relieved that we finally have justice for Jacqui.’

Additional reporting: Ross Slater

Source: Read Full Article