By Scott Lomax


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.

The ‘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.

The 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 drowning.

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?

There 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.”

It 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.

A 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 person.’

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.

Dr 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.’

Although 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 was murdered.

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?

When 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.

However, 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.

Furthermore 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 minutes.”

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?

It 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 her.

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.

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 position.’



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