Serb lover `used sex' to control RAF man

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The trial of an RAF officer accused of murdering his wife was told yesterday that he neglected military duties in Bosnia for his beautiful Serbian interpreter. Kim Sengupta reports on claims of how operations were run on her `whim'.

The Serbian interpreter with a UN military observers unit in Bosnia "used sex to manipulate people", and Sqn Ldr Nicholas Tucker became her "lapdog", a court was told yesterday.

Lt Timothy Stear, of the Royal Marines, who served with Sqn Ldr Tucker in former Yugoslavia, told the jury that military operations were sometimes decided "on the whim" of Dijana Dudukovic. The 44-year-old officer would go shopping with her in Zagreb while he should have been on patrol.

Sqn Ldr Tucker, of Honnington, Suffolk, is accused of murdering his wife Carol, 52, in a staged car accident after becoming "infatuated" with Ms Dudukovic, 21. He denies the charge.

Lt Stear told Norwich Crown Court that while in Bosnia Sqn Ldr Tucker was, in his view, "inefficient, unprofessional and idle". He said: "It appeared to me he was running around after her, fetching and carrying beer and food for parties, in effect being her lapdog. She manipulated him, and treated him quite badly."

David Cox, QC, for the defence, suggested to Lt Stear that Ms Dudukovic "was a good-looking woman and attractive to men. Nobody could have had any illusions about her settling down to a cosy long-term relationship". Lt Stear responded: "What I was aware of sir, was that it passed to whoever was in charge."

Lt Stear worked with Sqn Ldr Tucker at Sector North in Krajna after serving in Bihac. The lieutenant told the court that by his actions Sqn Ldr Tucker was "letting the side down".

He told the court that while Bihac was in the centre of fierce fighting life was comparatively much easier in Sector North and Sqn Ldr Tucker "appeared to be enjoying himself". He said: "He was unaware of an incident when the RAF officer had been hijacked by masked men in balaclavas." Lt Stear also said that a former operations officers at Krajna from the Norwegian Army also felt that Sqn Ldr Tucker's actions were unprofessional.

Asked to comment on an official report by UN headquarters staff that Sqn Ldr Tucker's conduct had been "excellent", Lieutenant Stear said in the reports "everyone was excellent".

Yesterday morning the judge and jury went to the scene where Sqn Ldr Tucker crashed his car at river Lark in Suffolk.

While there Sqn Ldr Tucker, standing in an area of long grass next to Lackford Bridge, straddling the narrow stretch of water, cried and wiped his eyes. He had claimed following the crash in July 1995 that the family's car had swerved into the water when his wife had suddenly gripped the steering wheel in order to avoid a herd of deer. The case continues.