Man convicted of murdering wife 28 years ago

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Friday, January 28, 2005

MANCHESTER, England — Retired schoolteacher Gordon Park, 61, was today convicted of murdering his wife in July 1976, after a ten week long trial known as the "Lady in the Lake" case.

Mother of three Carol Park disappeared from her home near Barrow, Cumbria, in July 1976 when she was 30 years old. She had had a tempestuous relationship with her husband, and had previously twice left him to live with a lover. Park reported that she was missing from their home when he returned with his children from a day trip to the seaside resort of Blackpool. Because of her earlier disappearances, he did not report her missing to the police for six weeks, shortly before she would have been expected to start a new school year as a teacher.

A jury at Manchester Crown Court however heard evidence that the keen climber and sailor had bludgeoned her to death with an ice axe, tied her body up in a foetal position, and wrapped it in plastic and a weighted carpet and dumped the body in Coniston Water, the third largest lake in England. The body was discovered by an amateur diving team in 1997. The jury heard that if the body had been dumped only a few feet further from the shore, it is likely that it would have sunk to the deepest part of the lake beyond the reach of divers, and would never have been found.

Park was arrested and charged with the murder in 1997, but his trial then collapsed through lack of evidence. Further evidence came to light, including geological evidence that the rocks which were used to weigh down the body were of a rare type which happened to be found in the rockery of the Parks' house, and the meticulous knots used to tie up the body were described as "unusual", of the type used by climbers or sailors, and Park was re-arrested in 2004.

The prosecution admitted that most of the evidence against Park was circumstantial, and there were some exclamations of surprise in the public gallery when the jury returned its verdict. In a plea of mitigation, defending lawyer Mr Andrew Edis QC said that Park, who had subsequently remarried twice, had lead an otherwise blameless life. Trial judge Mr Justice McCombe said that he was not sure if there was a significant degree of planning in the murder, but he did take into account the degree of violence employed in the killing, and the degree of suffering endured by many people, not least the Park children, because of the concealment of the crime for so long, in passing a sentence of life imprisonment with a recommendation that Park not be considered for parole for 15 years.

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See English "Lady in the Lake" killer found dead in prison cell, January 25, 2010