Convicted killer's new evidence hope

NICK Tucker has maintained his innocence ever since he was convicted of murdering his wife Carol in 1997. In the first part of an exclusive interview with West Suffolk chief reporter Liz Hearnshaw, he speaks of fresh evidence he hopes will clear his name.

NICK Tucker has maintained his innocence ever since he was convicted of murdering his wife Carol in 1997. In the first part of an exclusive interview with West Suffolk chief reporter Liz Hearnshaw, he speaks of fresh evidence he hopes will clear his name.

NICK Tucker is adamant. The crime for which is he serving a life sentence, he says, simply did not happen.

And after more than seven years in jail, he is now hopeful that all the evidence needed to return his case to the Court of Appeal has finally been gathered.

"I am in here for something not only that I did not do, but something (a murder) that did not take place," he says from a small interview room off the main visiting area at HMP Ashwell, near Oakham.

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Tucker, a former squadron leader based at RAF Honington, was convicted of murdering 52-year-old Carol following a trial at Norwich Crown Court in November 1997.

His wife, a mother-of-two, died on July 21, 1995, after her Ford Fiesta - which had Tucker behind the wheel - veered off the A1101 into the River Lark at Lackford, near Bury St Edmunds.

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The prosecution at his trial claimed the officer had throttled his wife to the point of unconsciousness before deliberately driving into the waterway, dragging her body from the car and drowning her.

A short-lived affair with 21-year-old Serbian interpreter Dijana Dudukovic, whom he met whilst serving in Yugoslavia, was cited as his motive.

But Tucker has always insisted he was knocked unconscious as a result of the accident, which happened after he swerved to avoid deer in the roadway.

And he has now won the backing of some of the country's leading neurologists, who say the force of the impact would have at least left the former squadron leader concussed and clouded his memory of the evening's events.

In a police interview 48 hours after the tragedy, Tucker told officers the car had been heading for the water, nose down, before he realised what was happening.

"I shouted to my wife 'get out, get out'. I hit my seatbelt button. I banged my head and from then on I don't remember anything else," his statement read.

The fresh bundle of evidence, containing reports from three additional experts casting doubt on these recollections, has now been handed to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which will make a decision on granting a second appeal hearing.

"The critical issue at the (first) appeal was whether Carol had been killed by me or whether it was a tragic accident," said Tucker.

"These reports cover the evidence of the trial, extracting the key elements which were either misrepresented or represented in an absence of the material that has since come to light."

The prosecution at Tucker's trial estimated the couple's car to have left the top of the bank leading to the river at 10mph. As such, they claimed the impact would not have been sufficient to knock out the driver.

But a reconstruction carried out in 2000 at the Cranfield Impact Centre by scientists working for Channel 4's Trial and Error programme showed the smash must have happened at around 15mph in order to replicate the damage on the Fiesta.

Furthermore, a crash test dummy sitting in the driver's seat during the investigations was thrown forward as the car struck the water, hitting its head on the steering wheel. Tucker has a scar in the same place, above his left eye.

This new data has now been examined by expert neurologists, who say any memories Tucker may have of the evening's events should be disregarded as "unreliable."

"In the car crash, my head split open above my left eye," said Tucker. "It was the sort of injury you would get from a blunt blow, like if you were hit by a boxer in a boxing ring.

"I never knew what my head had hit. The police asked me and I told them I didn't know. All I was aware of was that I went forwards.

"But when I saw the Trial and Error programme and the dummy's head hit the steering wheel, my hair stood up on end. I thought 'bloody hell, that's what happened.'

"Three neurologists are now involved and have said that in an accident like that, at a minimum you would be concussed and as a result your memory is unreliable.

"It is a natural phenomena. People who have suffered head injuries fabricate, in the medical sense, meaning you fill in the gaps with what you think is reasonable and must be the most logical solution as to what must have happened."

Professor Michael Trimble, from the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, has now submitted evidence to the CCRC after reviewing statements describing Tucker's state following the crash from witnesses at the scene.

"He has said I had a head injury which led to concussion and as a result my mental state was clearly abnormal. He said it created trauma and, because of that, my memories of the crash would be friable and unreliable - in other words, of no use to either the defence or prosecution.

"A main issue at trial was the jury's belief or otherwise of my account. The judge said if I was telling the truth, I was not guilty, but because of the head injury whether I was telling the truth or not cannot be brought into it."

Tucker said a precedence had been set for hearing such evidence in appeals last year, when security guard Graham Huckerby's conviction for assisting raiders who stole £6.6m from his van was quashed due to medical evidence regarding his state of mind at the time. A second man, James Power, was also cleared of any involvement.

"In all probability, the CCRC would have referred my case back last time it was considered, as they accepted the reconstruction as fresh evidence," said Tucker.

"But their one and only real doubt was because of what they called 'inconsistencies' between the reconstruction and things I had recollected.

"The significance of Prof Trimble's evidence is that it removes the one thing causing reason for the CCRC's doubt last time round. He says it does not matter if I was knocked out or not - the trauma of the crash means my memories are not good enough to be used in criminal proceedings."

Tucker now has reports from seven separate pathologists, who all agree there was no evidence of foul play in Carol's death.

Amongst these is a submission from Prof Derrick Pounder, head of the Forensic Medicine Department at the University of Dundee, which has also been sent to the CCRC for consideration.

In it, he says: "There can be little doubt that the pathological evidence presented at trial was in some areas wrong and, above all, both misleading and highly prejudicial."

This evidence all taken together, Tucker says, has left him "very confident" his case will be heard again.

"The submission to the CCRC has been prioritised for immediate review and I will not have to wait in a queue," he said.

A spokesman for the CCRC confirmed the body had received a bundle of material, adding: "We will obviously be looking at exactly what material has been submitted.

"The case is eligible for prioritisation, but all applications for prioritisation do need to go before the relevant committee."

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