Man reveals devastating impact of sister's 1974 death as killer jailed after five decades

Man reveals devastating impact of sister's 1974 death as killer jailed after five decades

THE BROTHER of a woman killed in London in 1974 has revealed the 'almost indescribable' impact the tragedy had on his life after her killer was finally brought to justice.

Eileen Cotter, 22, was found strangled by a block of garages in Finsbury Park on the afternoon of June 1, 1974.

On Friday, a little more than 49 years after her death, 80-year-old John Apelgren was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment having been found guilty of manslaughter a week earlier.

After the sentencing, Ms Cotter's brother Patrick Cotter, who was five when his sister was killed, revealed how her death led his father to drink, while his mother took her own life.

Mr Cotter himself suffered abuse after being placed into care following the breakdown of his parents' relationship.

Unhappy childhood

"The impact the death of my sister had on my life is almost indescribable, but I will try to put it into words," he said.

"Eileen and I shared the same father, but Eileen's mother had passed away, therefore my mother cared for her."

Mr Cotter revealed no one spoke to him about his sister's death and having no memory of her funeral, he has never been able to visit her grave.

Eileen Cotter was killed in 1974 (Image: Met Police)

"Following Eileen's death, the relationship between my mother and father broke down significantly," he added.

"Due to the fighting between them, I was placed in a care home, where I suffered abuse, until the age of about 11.

"It was never explained to me why I was placed in care, and I lived most of my childhood believing it [was] because of something I had done wrong."

Three years after Ms Cotter's killing, Mr Cotter's mother took her own life.

Having now lost both his daughter and partner, Mr Cotter's father turned to alcohol and was eventually admitted to Springfield Psychiatric Hospital.

Ms Cotter's death had a devastating impact on her father, stepmother and brother (Image: Met Police)

"Following this, my father went to live with his brother in Ireland, however his drinking became too much and he also died," he said.

"I spent a very unhappy childhood moving amongst various care homes and foster homes, however when I was 14 years old, I was placed with my foster parents, John and Yvonne.

"I was very fortunate to be placed in a loving, caring home.

"They explained various aspects of my life that I did not know or understand, 'filling in the gaps', so to speak.

"I also had a half-brother from my mother, who was 17 years older than me.

"However, when I was taken into care, he was told to avoid any contact with me.

"I felt as though I lost him as well.

"He was someone I was very fond of and have happy memories of, but this was also taken from me."

DNA leads to killer's arrest

Following the discovery of Ms Cotter's body in 1974, a murder investigation was immediately launched but despite lengthy and thorough enquiries, her killer could not be identified.

However, police got a break in February 2019 when Apelgren was arrested for a domestic assault.

After admitting this offence, his DNA was found to match samples recovered from Ms Cotter's body decades before.

The garages in Finsbury Park, London where Ms Cotter's body was found (Image: Met Police)

Ms Cotter had been a sex worker at the time of her death and various DNA samples had been recovered from her body.

Detectives worked closely with forensic scientists to prove that the location of the DNA evidence on Ms Cotter's body pointed to a timeline of events which meant only Apelgren could have been the killer.

In June 2022, Apelgren was arrested and charged with Ms Cotter's murder and was also charged with the indecent assault of another woman in 1972.

He appeared at Bromley Magistrates' Court where he was remanded into custody.

Apelgren had denied knowing Ms Cotter (Image: Met Police)

The prosecution argued that Apelgren had sex with Ms Cotter before he killed her and then left her partially undressed in a garage courtyard behind Hamilton Park, London N5.

During a police interview, Apelgren said at the time of the murder he was living in Leyton.

He denied having been to the Hamilton Park garages, said he did not know or recognise Ms Cotter and claimed he never went to the general Finsbury Park area.

He later conceded he did have sex with Ms Cotter but did not kill her.

On Friday, June 16, Apelgren was found guilty of the manslaughter of Ms Cotter and the indecent assault of an 18-year-old woman at his own wedding in 1972.

Apelgren was also found guilty of the indecent assault of a woman at his own wedding in 1972 (Image: Met Police)

The woman told police about this when she was spoken to during the investigation into Ms Cotter's death — she had never disclosed it to anyone before then.

As well as his sentence for the manslaughter of Ms Cotter, Apelgren was also sentenced to six months for the indecent assault, to run consecutively.

"This case demonstrates the Met's deep commitment to solving any act of violence against women and girls, no matter the length of time that has passed," said Detective Chief Inspector Laurence Smith.