RAF Murder: Squadron leader jailed for life for murdering his wife

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A senior RAF officer was yesterday convicted of killing his wife and trying to cover his tracks by staging a bogus car crash. Kim Sengupta describes how Nick Tucker's obsessive love for a Serbian interpreter led to murder.

Squadron Leader Nicholas Tucker prided himself on being meticulous and careful, and he planned the "perfect murder" of his wife meticulously and carefully. The prizes he must have felt so near to his grasp were a new life with Dijana Dudukovic, a beautiful woman half his age, and more than pounds 300,000 from his wife's life insurance.

But the elaborate planning that went into staging a car crash which killed 52-year-old Carol Tucker was unravelled by painstaking investigation by detectives who simply refused to accept the Royal Air Force officer's account of an accidental death. Tucker had throttled then drowned his wife in the river Lark at Lackford, Suffolk, in July 1995 before faking the crash.

Yesterday, Tucker became the most senior officer ever to be convicted of murder outside a war zone. After a 15-day trial, a jury took seven and a half hours to find him guilty on a majority verdict of 10 to 2. Sentencing him to life imprisonment, Mr Justice Gage said: "This was a planned, callous and coolly executed act. The motive for it is that you have become besotted with a young woman interpreter you had met while serving with the [United Nations] forces in Bosnia. This is an appalling crime."

Detectives who arrested Tucker described his arrogance and condescension towards them. Detective Chief Inspector Michael Bier, in charge of the investigation, said: "The Squadron Leader thought he had planned the perfect murder, he was too cocky. He was a deceitful man who had planned the murder of his wife, a woman who was a devoted wife and mother, supportive and loyal."

While carrying out investigations in former Yugoslavia, Det Ch Insp Bier and his team discovered that a former boyfriend of Ms Dudukovic had died in a car crash under suspicious circumstances, and she had been interviewed by the local police. However, officers pointed out, that accident had taken place in 1993 before she met Tucker, and there is no suggestion that she had any connection with the murder of Mrs Tucker.

Ms Dudukovic said about the accident: "Yes I was interviewed by the police but it was not my fault. This was a horrible thing to happen to someone close to you." She is now married and living in Switzerland. She did not give evidence in court, and has said she knows "nothing about the murder".

The Tuckers' daughter, Vanessa, gave evidence against her father in court, describing how her mother had suspected he was having an affair just a few weeks before she was killed. Her brother, James, has stayed with his father.

After the case Tucker's solicitor, David Shipman, said that his client maintained his innocence and an appeal would be lodged on the grounds the verdict was "unsafe".