BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: UK: Northern Ireland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 17:55 GMT
Murder conviction was 'unsafe'
Iain Hay Gordon being taken for trial for the murder
Iain Hay Gordon being taken for trial for the murder
A pensioner convicted of a notorious murder in Northern Ireland 47 years ago has begun an appeal against his conviction.

Iain Hay Gordon, 68, was convicted of the 1952 murder of a judge's daughter but has always maintained his innocence and insisted police forced him to confess to the crime.

In March 1953 he was found guilty but insane of the murder of 19-year-old Patricia Curran.

She had been stabbed 37 times in the grounds of her family home in Whiteabbey, County Antrim.

Iain Gordon
Iain Gordon has maintained his innocence
Mr Gordon, originally from Glasgow, hopes the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast will be the last leg in an eight-year long campaign to clear his name.

The appeal is expected to last up to three days.

Launching the appeal on Tuesday, Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, for Mr Gordon, said the verdict of the trial on 3 March 1953, was "not just unsatisfactory but unsafe".

He told the three judges that "material irregularities" went to "the very heart of a fair trial".

He said evidence to the original trial that the confession had been dictated by Mr Gordon to police was inaccurate.

Sir Louis said the appeal was allowed on the grounds of a mistrial in 1953 and had not depended on fresh evidence.

But he said there was a "great wealth" of fresh evidence which was crucial to the appeal. He said that the legal standards of today must be applied to what happened in the past.

Detective 'lied'

Sir Louis criticised the conduct of Mr Gordon's trial and criticised the Scotland Yard detective who led the investigation and obtained the confession from Mr Gordon.

He accused Detective Superintendent John Capstick of having lied to the 1953 jury, that Mr Gordon had voluntarily dictated his statement.

The superintendent was never asked about the statement in front of the jury, but during legal arguments in their absence, had insisted the statement was voluntarily dictated.

Sir Louis said: "Superintendent Capstick lied about that."

He said evidence from independent psychologists recently brought in by the defence and by the Criminal Case Review Commission contradicted his evidence.

"They say a considerable amount of the evidence must have been by question and answer. It's only on that ground and that ground alone this evidence is unsafe," he said.

He added: "The Lord Chief Justice was lied to by Capstick, the court was deceived."

Sir Louis said he believed it unthinkable that in the modern day, the superintendent would not have been called to be questioned about the statement in front of the jury.

He said that while he accepted the reputation of the those who conducted Mr Gordon's defence, "looking over the transcript of this trial I have to say that I think he was not well defended."

He questioned the time of Miss Curran's death.

He said the Crown had a "fixation" that the time of death was 5.45pm, when in fact, the forensic pathologist had said that while death was likely to have occurred at around 6pm, it could have been anything as much as four hours later.

Sir Louis also outlined some information which was not disclosed to the defence at the time of the trial, including a statement from a sergeant at the RAF base where Mr Gordon lived, who could have provided a partial alibi.

At the end of Tuesday's hearing, Ronald Weathrup QC began to put the case for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He said it had to be borne in mind that "tactical decisions" were taken at the time of the trial which could not be speculated upon.

Patricia Curran
Patricia Curran: Stabbed to death
The murder victim, Patricia Curran, was a student at Queen's University in Belfast, and the daughter of Sir Lancelot Curran, then a High Court judge who later became the Lord Chief Justice in Northern Ireland.

Gordon was a 20-year-old RAF national serviceman at the time.

After being convicted, he spent seven years in Holywell Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in Antrim, before being released under a deal which allowed him to return to Glasgow.

It was on condition that he changed his name and did not discuss the case.

He started his campaign to prove his innocence eight years ago when he retired.

In July, the Criminal Cases Review Commission announced that the case had been referred to the Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland.

The commission was only able to launch an investigation into his case after a change in the law last year.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

20 Jul 00 | Northern Ireland
Murder case sent to appeal court
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Northern Ireland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Northern Ireland stories