In November 1997 Nick Tucker, an R.A.F squadron leader who had served his country
for twenty-eight years service, was jailed for murdering his wife Carol. He was convicted,
by a majority of ten to two, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Six and a half years
on, however, Tucker continues to protest his innocence, maintaining that the crash
that killed his wife, and almost ended his own life, was entirely the consequence
of an accident. If true then Tucker has not only had to suffer the loss of his wife,
but he has also lost his liberty as a result of what must be considered to be one
of the most tragic miscarriages of justice that has ever been seen in Britain.
‘Crime’ It was on Friday 21 July 1995 that Tucker and his wife were travelling home
by car having visited the Red Lion pub in the village of Icklingham in Suffolk, where
they had had a meal. The evening had been a joyous occasion, during which the couple
had celebrated Carol’s final day of work and Tucker’s return from Croatia, where
he had spent six months carrying out peacekeeping work. Carol had been drinking wine
that evening and so Tucker was driving his wife’s car.
As the Ford Fiesta drove towards
a bridge at the village of Lackford, Tucker claims to have seen two deer, which had
strayed on to the road, ahead. Swerving to avoid the animals the car left the road
before the bridge and plunged ten feet in to the River Lark. A fisherman thought
it was at around 22:30 when he heard a screech of tyres, a skid and a thud. Soon
later a cyclist saw the Fiesta in the river. A motorist, who had been alerted to
the situation by the cyclist, found Tucker. He appeared unconscious, bleeding from
a head wound, and was discovered beside the driver’s door having fallen from the
vehicle. Carol Tucker was later found, after the police had arrived, floating in
the water underneath a bridge. After attempts to revive her failed, she was declared
dead at the scene.
Tucker Becomes a Suspect Exactly four weeks after the crash Tucker
was admitted in to hospital, where he was diagnosed as suffering from depression
and post-traumatic stress disorder as a consequence of his service in Yugoslavia,
the crash and his wife’s death. On this same day he was arrested on suspicion of
murdering his wife.
In March 1996 Tucker was charged with the ‘crime’ and remanded
in to custody. However, after spending seven weeks on remand he was granted bail
by Mr Justice Hooper who asked, “Where is the evidence that a murder has taken place?”
Tucker remained free throughout his trial until he was convicted in November 1997.
cause of Carol Tucker’s death has never been determined and no coroner’s inquest
was ever held. Pathologists who conducted post-mortem examinations, and those who
have studied the pathological reports, have been unable to agree upon the reason
why Carol’s life was ended. The explanations that have been suggested are that death
was due to ventricular fibrillation secondary to immersion in water (heart stoppage
as a result of drowning), death as a consequence of Carol having choked on food and
It is highly worrying that at no time has an inquest been heard. Instead
of a coroner’s court having heard all of the relevant evidence to decide upon how
Carol died, Tucker was suspected of having committed an act of murder even when experts
did not know how she died. If cause of death cannot be determined at a mortuary then
why should it be discussed in a courtroom? In the absence of strong evidence of murder
a case should not be prosecuted or lead to a conviction.
If the reason for Carol Tucker’s
death could not be determined then what evidence is there to suggest murder was committed?
is no physical evidence to prove that Carol did not die in an accident. The appeal
judges, at Tucker’s hearing in December 1998, admitted that, “We immediately recognise
that there was no, and is no, direct evidence that the appellant murdered his wife.”
was alleged Tucker drove the vehicle in to the river in order to stage an accident.
At trial the prosecution claimed that Carol had been strangled and her head held
under water until she died. However, the fisherman who was close by when the vehicle
entered the water did not hear anything suggesting that a struggle had taken place.
It was therefore claimed that Tucker had strangled or throttled, but not killed,
his wife at some undetermined location before drowning her in the river and driving
the vehicle in to the water. This was an entirely unfounded belief, contradicted
by all of the evidence from medical experts.
At trial three pathologists (Dr Cary,
Dr West and Dr Harrison) testified that it was highly unlikely Carol Tucker was murdered.
Cary believed, “… there was nothing to show death as a result of a third party and
nothing to show that it was homicide.”
Harrison also stated that he did not believe
there was evidence suggesting any actions upon Tucker’s part had led to the death
of his wife, adding there was no evidence that she had been deliberately drowned.
report by Dr West found that, ‘There is nothing to positively indicate that the deceased
had been subjected to an assault. … There is no medical evidence to indicate that
Mrs Tucker has died as the result of a direct physical act carried out by another
Even the expert consulted by the prosecution, Professor Knight, believed
that there was, ‘insufficient evidence on medical grounds for any successful hypothesis
to be maintained that the death was due to the actions of another person.’, adding
that, ‘The medical evidence cannot take forward any intention to bring criminal charges.’
Unfortunately the jury was not made aware of this expert’s view because he was not
called to provide evidence at trial and his report was not referred to at all.
Shepherd’s conclusion has never been heard in court because it was only reached after
the conviction, as part of a television documentary. His opinion was that, “There’s
no marks at all on this lady that would indicate that she was held under the water
and drowned … there is no pathological evidence that I have seen that indicates that
Mrs Tucker was murdered.”
Very recently Professor Derrick Pounder, a pathologist specialising
in cases of drowning, has written that, ‘The case is clearly quite extraordinary
from the point of view of the pathology since there is essentially an absence of
pathological evidence to support the allegation of homicide. … no anatomical evidence
was found of strangulation or any other form of mechanical asphyxiation. … in this
case strangulation could be excluded with reasonable medical certainty.’
the jury only heard the expert opinions of three of the six pathologists who have
studied the evidence and do not believe murder took place, they were convinced by
the prosecution’s argument of how Carol was killed. Tucker has his own views as to
why the jury believed what no pathologist has even suggested, ‘Dr Cary said after
my trial that it should never have been left to a jury to decide over medical evidence
that they clearly did not understand.’ Referring to the prosecution’s argument that
Tucker had strangled, and later drowned his wife, Pounder wrote, ‘It is difficult
to understand how such a prejudicial and unsupportable allegation came to be presented
to the jury.’
There were no injuries to the neck, throat or larynx consistent with
strangulation and there were no head injuries that would indicate that Carol had
been deliberately injured. Carol was wearing a necklace and earrings yet none of
these were out of place when her body was found, further indicating that Carol did
not fight for her life. Additionally, other than the wound to his head, bruising
to his head and whiplash injuries, Tucker had no injuries that suggest he had engaged
in a struggle with his wife.
Taking in to consideration the pathological evidence,
as covered by experts in pathology, it seems remarkable to conclude that Carol Tucker
Why Was He Convicted? Tucker was convicted because the jury dismissed
his account of events leading up to Carol’s death. However, is there sufficient evidence
to prove what pathology does not even suggest, that murder, by Tucker, occurred?
reading what follows, bear in mind the words of Mr Justice Gage (the judge at Tucker’s
trial), “If you are not sure that he has lied about anything, then that is the end
of the prosecution case because the prosecution say that he has lied about the whole
thing and particularly lied about what happened that evening. … If he may be telling
the truth about the accident and what happened, then plainly your verdict would be
one of not guilty.”
The Impact Speed The police originally did not suspect that anything
untoward had occurred, noting that the incident was a, ‘Straightforward RTA with
no apparently suspicious circumstances.” However, doubts were soon raised when it
was realised that the Fiesta was not badly damaged. Suspicion fell upon Tucker when
the police decided that the impact speed was insufficient to cause a loss of consciousness
and therefore both driver and passenger should have survived the crash. The impact
speed was estimated, by the police, to 10mph.
With this belief in mind, the police
began to consider the possibility that the crash had been staged to create the appearance
of an accident when in reality it had been a deliberate act to kill Carol Tucker.
it is known that the seatbelts in the Ford Fiesta were from a batch with a recognised
fault and that they might fail in an emergency. Indeed Ford later recalled this batch
of vehicles informing members of the public that there was a fault with the seatbelts.
With the driver’s seatbelt adjusted, with a klink-klip device, for his wife who was
overweight, the belt would have been far too loose for Tucker and so he could easily
have struck his head upon the interior of the vehicle, rendering him unconscious.
a reconstruction of the accident, which took place after Tucker’s conviction, suggested
that the impact speed would have been greater than 15mph and that the sudden change
in velocity of the vehicle would have caused Tucker’s head to come in to contact
with the steering wheel, accounting for the bruises and cut to his forehead, in addition
to the whiplash injuries he sustained.
Was Tucker Play Acting? The prosecution alleged
that when the motorist found Tucker he was play-acting and that he was not really
unconscious but merely pretending to be, as to create the impression that an accident
had taken place.
Mr Justice Gage, in his summing-up, told the jurors that, “When he
[Tucker] was seen by witnesses following it [the crash], he was simply play-acting.
Either he was not rendered unconscious at all or, if he was, it was only for a few
Is there sufficient evidence to suggest he was play-acting? No expert neurologist
was called to provide evidence, which is unfortunate as the effect of an impact upon
Tucker is a central issue in this case. However, Mr Wilson, an expert in emergency
care, told the court at Tucker’s trial that he had “no doubt that [Tucker] was initially
unconscious, and what witnesses saw was a phase in his recovery.”
According to Gage,
if play-acting could be ruled out, “then that really is an end of the prosecution
case, if he is right about that.”
The ‘Missing’ Hour Tucker and his wife had arrived
at the Red Lion, at around 20:20. They ordered a main course, dessert, coffee, chocolates
and then had more coffee. On the basis of the fisherman’s evidence it is believed
that the Fiesta entered the river at around 22:30, at a location only a short distance
from the pub. However, the bill for the couple’s meal was calculated at 21:20. Therefore
the prosecution alleged the couple must have left the pub soon after 21:20, leaving
approximately an hour unaccounted for.
Tucker claims that they left the Red Lion shortly
before the accident and that they were still sitting in the restaurant at 22:00.
It would take a significant amount of time for the couple to arrive, be seated, wait
to order their meal, have their meal presented to them, eat all courses and have
the bill presented. Is there any evidence to suggest this took place in a period
of time greater than one hour? If there is, then it destroys one of the prosecution’s
main arguments in this case.
It was discovered that staff at the Red Lion often totalled
up the bill long before it was ready to be paid. Is it not possible that the bill
could have been calculated long before Tucker and his wife had finished their meal?
Someone that evening paid their bill at 22:11. Could this have been Nick Tucker?
has further been shown that the till does not always show the correct time. It was
discovered that the time was not changed when British Summer Time came into effect
in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999. It is therefore possible, is it not, that the time
had also not been altered during the summer of 1995?
It is quite conceivable that
the time shown on the bill was not the time at which the couple were ready to leave.
The staff at the Red Lion have never disputed that the time could have been incorrect;
it was the police and prosecution that used this piece of information to construct
their case against Tucker.
The prosecution claimed, due to the fact that the fisherman
had not heard a struggle at the river, that Carol Tucker had been killed, or forced
in to unconsciousness, elsewhere. If Tucker paid for the meals at 22:11, and the
couple left soon later, then it does not leave very much time to travel to the scene
of the alleged offence, attack his wife in such a way that left no marks of assault
or defence injuries, and then travel to the river where the accident was allegedly
faked, all of which had taken place by 22:30.
The Bloodstains on the Car Crash investigators
found four bloodstains on the Fiesta; two of the stains were identified as being
Tucker’s blood. One was located near the lock on the front passenger’s door and the
second stain was located on the rear of the car. The prosecution theorised that this
indicated that Tucker had dragged his wife from the passenger seat in order to kill
Tucker claims that the stain most likely resulted from the motorist who found
him having gone to the passenger door. As Tucker was bleeding from the head when
he was dragged from the water it is logical to believe that some blood was transferred
on to the motorist, first on to the rear of the car and then on to the passenger
door. Thirty-nine people in total were present at the scene of the crash and a further,
unknown, number of people moved the car to a garage the day after the incident. Therefore
it is conceivable one or more individuals could have accidentally transferred the
blood; the vehicle was not treated as a forensic exhibit and so its integrity as
evidence must be considered to be highly questionable.
It is known that Tucker had
cut his hand removing a dog gate from the car on the day before the crash, following
which he had opened the passenger seat door in order to get a first aid box which
was stored beneath the passenger seat. It is not impossible that the blood originated
from this incident and not from the crash.
The Road Conditions The stretch of road
at which Tucker’s vehicle left the road, and entered the river, had been the scene
of one hundred and nineteen accidents between 1990 and when the council improved
the road conditions after the incident that led to the death of Carol Tucker.
has always maintained that he swerved off the road to avoid two deer. Whilst in hospital
he thought that they were ‘dogs’ that caused the accident. This is understandable
because the species of deer present in the area, Muntjac deer, could very easily
be thought to be dogs in the darkness, due to their size and appearance. It would
be suspicious if he had referred to the creatures as deer, for this would have shown
that he had possibly formulated a lie in his mind. Large numbers of deer live in
the region and, due to the fact that there is nothing preventing them from straying
on to the road, they have been the cause of many accidents in the locality.
The ‘Motive’ Whilst
in Croatia Tucker had a relationship with a Serbian interpreter named Dijana Dudukovic.
It was suggested that he was infatuated with her and was, according to a prosecution
witness who had been with Tucker for only one month, “like a lap-dog, doing her bidding.”
In his summing-up Mr Justice Gage told the jury that Tucker was “besotted” with the
translator. The prosecution claimed that in order to continue seeing the interpreter
Tucker murdered his wife.
However, this affair, which Tucker has never denied, does
not provide a motive for murder. According to Tucker the relationship was, at the
time of his wife’s death, nothing more than friendship, a close and ‘unique friendship
borne out of circumstances and experience of Yugoslavia’; circumstances that included
Dudukovic having prevented Tucker from being killed during a patrol. A brief affair
had taken place but this had ended after a short liaison in London, which had been
a “complete and utter disaster” according to Tucker.
Before Tucker had returned to
Britain Dudukovic had moved to Zurich in Switzerland to live with another man. She
later married, in March 1996.
Unfortunately Dudukovic was not able to give evidence
at trial due to her fears that such action cold jeopardise her refugee status in
Switzerland and create problems for her family in Yugoslavia. However, Dudukovic,
her husband and her family all provided statements explaining that the relationship
was nothing more than a friendship. Dudukovic’s husband, as well as the deputy leader
of Tucker’s UN team, both described the relationship as “normal”. Unfortunately these
statements were never read in court and so the jury had to consider whether to believe
Tucker’s protestations or the prosecution’s rhetoric.
Commenting on the issue of the
alleged motive, Tucker tells that, “The prosecution’s case began with my relationship
with the interpreter: that was not denied, it had happened. Thus, that was proved
and I was guilty of being unfaithful. Therefore with their minds set, the jury decided
I was guilty of everything else it was alleged had followed. I was found guilty of
murdering my wife solely on the grounds that I had been unfaithful to her. It was
nothing short of moral indignation and prejudice.”
Without a motive would Tucker go
to such lengths to kill his wife? It seems unlikely, particularly when one considers
that if he staged the crash he would be putting his own life in danger. According
to the motorist, who found Tucker, he had “pulled man’s [Tucker’s] head from water
preventing him drowning.” Tucker was only moments away from sharing the same fate
as his wife.
Accident or Murder? Consider the words of Mr Justice Gage’s summing-up,
“What you have to decide is whether this defendant killed his wife; whether it was
murder, or may it have been a case either that she died as a result of an accident,
or of natural causes – by which I mean a choking fit.”
Are you able to say, beyond
all doubt, that Carol Tucker was murdered? Or is it not more likely that Tucker has
been convicted of a murder that never even took place?
Nick Tucker continues to fight
to clear his name and, following Professor Pounder’s encouraging report, he is hopeful
that the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the British organisation which investigates
suspected cases of miscarriages of justice, will once again refer his case to the
Court of Appeal. However, he is aware that he still has a huge struggle to prove
that his wife died in an accident, and not as a result of a premeditated act of killing,
but he is determined to clear his name, writing in December 2003, ‘The fight will
go on, no matter how long or how many hills there are still to climb. At times it
is difficult to muster the mental and physical strength to embark on yet another
battle, but it has to be done, not only for me but for others who are in a similar
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