An 80-year-old man has appeared in court accused of strangling a woman and dumping her body almost 50 years ago. 

John Apelgren, of Byden Close, Sydenham, appeared before a jury at the Old Bailey on Tuesday (June 6) accused of murdering Eileen Cotter in Highbury in 1974 when he was 31. 

Advances in DNA profiling led to a breakthrough in the cold case as Apelgren’s DNA was found to match samples from Ms Cotter’s mouth and anus. He denies murder. 

He is also on trial for the unrelated matter of indecently assaulting a guest at his own wedding two years before he is alleged to have killed Ms Cotter. 

Opening the trial, prosecutor Alexandra Healy KC said 22-year-old Eileen Cotter was a sex worker who was found lying face down half naked in front of some garages in Hamilton Park, Highbury, on June 1, 1974. 

Apelgren is alleged to have had sex with Eileen, then attacked and strangled her. 

“Having killed her, he pushed her out of his car. Her body was discovered in the position it fell, without shoes, and with her tights and underwear still around her right leg,” Ms Healy said. 

Police often visited the area as it was known that sex workers frequented the area. They visited a number of times between 10pm and 12.50am, but they did not see a body. 

The following day Eileen’s body was spotted by residents in Hamilton Park in a prone position, naked from the waist down except for a pair of tights and pants tangled round her right leg.

Her handbag, glasses and shoes were all missing. 

A post-mortem revealed she had been struck in the face, as she had a black eye and bruising to the face, and the pathologist have the cause of death to be manual strangulation, the court heard. 

Apelgren is also accused of an indecent assault following an allegation which came to police attention when his ex-wife was spoken to as part of the investigation into Ms Cotter’s death. 

He and his former-wife met in 1968 then got married on October 14, 1972. 

Two years before Eileen’s death he is said to have cornered a guest at his own wedding and forced his penis into her hand, the court heard. The guest did not tell anyone about this. 

The prosecutor said: “She did not tell anybody about this at the time, but eventually some many years later she was to tell Ann after the defendant and Ann were divorced.” 

Apelgren and his wife had two children in the first three years of their marriage but they were divorced by 1978 after she discovered he had been having an affair with her brother’s wife, Ms Healy told the jury.   

Ms Healy said: “The allegation came to the attention of the police when Ann was spoken to as part of the investigation into Eileen Cotter’s death.” 

Apelgren was interviewed under caution in June 2019. He said in 1974 he was living in Warren Road in Leyton. 

He said he did not know Eileen Cottter and that he had never had sex with a prostitute. 

Apelgren denies the charged of both murder and indecent assault. 

The trial, which is expected to last for two to three weeks, continues.