The Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred Gordon Park’s murder conviction to the Court of Appeal.
Gordon Park was convicted in January 2005 at Manchester Crown Court for the murder of his wife, Carol Park, 29 years after she went missing in the summer of 1976. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Carol Park’s body was found by amateur divers in Coniston Water, Cumbria, in 1997 and the case became known as the Lady in the Lake murder. (See below for a detailed chronology of the case).
Mr Park appealed against his conviction but the appeal was dismissed in November 2008. Little over a year later, on 25 January 2010, he committed suicide in his cell at HMP Garth in Lancashire. In November 2010 members of Mr Park’s family applied on his behalf to the CCRC.
Following an exhaustive investigation, the CCRC has decided to refer Mr Park’s murder conviction for a fresh hearing at the Court of Appeal.
The Commission is referring the case because it considers there is a real possibility that the Court will quash the conviction in light of new evidence. In the Commission’s view that real possibility arises from the cumulative effect of a number of matters including:
- the non-disclosure of expert opinion undermining the consistent implication by the prosecution that Gordon Park’s climbing axe, Exhibit 1 at trial, could be the murder weapon.
- the non-disclosure of information undermining the reliability of a prosecution witness who gave evidence of a prison confession.
- new scientific evidence showing that Gordon Park was not a contributor to DNA preserved within knots of the rope used to bind Carol Park’s body.
- renewed relevance of expert evidence, presented for the appellant at the first appeal, that a rock found in the lake near Mrs Park’s remains could not specifically be linked to rocks at Bluestones (the Parks’ home).
The Commission’s painstaking and detailed review has considered numerous issues and lines of enquiry and involved several visits to Cumbria, interviews with multiple witnesses old and new, the use of cutting edge DNA testing and the investigation of multiple potential alternative suspects.
During the review we have used our section 17 powers dozens of times to obtain material from the Forensic Archive, seven individual police forces, the courts, the Crown Prosecution Service, prison authorities, the Probation Service, and a number of other government agencies and public bodies.
Chronology of the case
Carol Park went missing in the summer of 1976 having been last seen in mid-July.
In August 1997 human remains were found by amateur scuba divers in Coniston Water, Cumbria. The remains were found at a depth of 24 metres, about 200 metres from eastern shore of the lake; they were tightly wrapped in bags and bound with knotted ropes. The body was later confirmed as that of Carol Park.
Gordon Park was arrested following the discovery of the body and was charged with Carol Park’s murder. The prosecution was discontinued in January 1998 on the basis that there was no realistic prospect of a conviction on the evidence then available.
New evidence came to light following the broadcast in September 2000 of a TV documentary called ‘A Very British Murder.
Mr Park was arrested on 13 January 2004 and again charged with murdering Carol Park “on or about” Saturday 17 July 1976.
Media coverage of his arrest generated new information which was used in the case against Mr Park.
His trial at Manchester Crown Court began on 25 November 2004 and the jury heard evidence over 27 days. At 3.45pm on Friday 28 January 2005, after deliberating for nine hours and twenty-seven minutes, the jury, by a unanimous verdict, found Gordon Park ‘guilty’ of Carol Park’s murder.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommended minimum prison term of 15 years.
Gordon Park’s appeal against conviction was dismissed at the Court of Appeal in November 2008.
On 25 January 2010, on his sixty-sixth birthday, Gordon Park took his own life in his cell at HMP Garth in Lancashire.
Members of Mr Park’s family, aided by his legal representatives, applied to the Commission for a posthumous review of his conviction on November 2010.
Mr Park’s family were represented in their application to the CCRC by Mr Maslen Merchant of Hadgkiss, Hughes & Beale Solicitors.
This press release was issued by Justin Hawkins, Head of Communication, Criminal Cases Review Commission, on 07947 355231 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors
- The Commission is an independent body set up under the Criminal Appeal Act 1995. It is responsible for independently reviewing suspected and alleged miscarriages of criminal justice in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is based in Birmingham and is funded by the Ministry of Justice.
- There are currently 11 Commissioners who bring to the Commission considerable experience from a wide variety of backgrounds. Commissioners are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister in accordance with the Office for the Commissioner for Public Appointments’ Code of Practice.
- The Commission usually receives around 1,500 applications for reviews (convictions and/or sentences) each year. Typically, around 3.5%, or one in 29, of all applications are referred to the appeal courts.
- The Commission considers whether, as a result of new evidence or argument, there is a real possibility that the conviction would not be upheld were a reference to be made. New evidence or argument is argument or evidence which has not been raised during the trial or on appeal. Applicants should usually have appealed first. A case can be referred in the absence of new evidence or argument or an earlier appeal only if there are “exceptional circumstances”.
- If a case is referred, it is then for the appeal court to decide whether the conviction is unsafe or the sentence unfair.
- More details about the role and work of the Criminal Cases Review Commission can be found at ccrc.gov.uk The Commission can be found on Twitter using @ccrcupdate and on Facebook at
 Section 17 of the Criminal Appeal Act 1995 give the CCRC to obtain material from any public body.
 Broadcast on Channel 4 on Tuesday 12 September 2000.