Police charge man, 79, with the 1974 Islington murder of Eileen Cotter, 22

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Pensioner, 79, appears in court accused of murdering 22-year-old prostitute who was found beaten and strangled in 1974

  • John Apelgren, 79,  has been charged with the murder of Eileen Cotter, 22 
  • She was found dead on June 1, 1974 outside a block of flats in Islington
  • Nobody was charged at the time of her murder in June 1974, police said
  • Apelgren has also been charged in connection with an indecent

A pensioner, accused of the murder of a prostitute, who was beaten and strangled to death five decades ago, appeared in court for the first time today.

John Apelgren, 79, a dual UK and South African national appeared in custody at Bromley Magistrates’ Court.

Bespectacled Apelgren, of Sydenham was dressed in a white shirt and blue Ralph Lauren Polo jacket.

Eileen Cotter, 22, was found dead on this street in Islington, north London on June 1, 1974

Eileen Cotter, 22, was found dead on this street in Islington, north London on June 1, 1974

He is charged with the murder of Finsbury Park sex worker Eileen Cotter, 22, whose body was discovered in front of a block of garages behind Hamilton Park, Highbury on the afternoon of June 1, 1974.

Apelgren is also charged with indecently assaulting an 18 year-old female guest at his wedding to ex-wife Ann Smythe in 1972.

Prosecutor Maureen Edwards told the court Apelgren – who has since re-married and has at least one son – was a ‘one in a billion’ DNA match to evidence found on Eileen’s body.

He was allegedly matched after submitting to a DNA test on an unrelated matter in 2019.

Eileen was discovered face-down with her buttocks exposed in an area frequented by prostitutes and their clients, accessible via a single track.

A post mortem confirmed the cause of death as manual strangulation, and there was evidence she received a black eye and bruising to her face and neck.

A murder investigation was launched at the time, but nobody was ever charged.

Apelgren, who was arrested yesterday on suspicion of murder, spoke only to confirm his age and address and indicate a not guilty plea to the indecent assault charge.

He is accused of pressing his penis into the hand of the complainant on his wedding day when she left the ladies toilet.

District Judge Sarah Turnock remanded him in custody on the murder charge to appear at the Old Bailey on June 27.

He was granted bail on the indecent assault charge on condition he does not contact the complainant, who is still alive, and a surviving witness.

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