The lady, the lake, and a tale out of Chandler

Click to follow
A woman's body in a baby doll nightie found 70 feet underwater, a killer who thought for 21 years he had got away with it, and a detective who promised to hunt him down using the resources of modern forensic technology. These were the extraordinary elements in the launch of a murder investigation in the Lake District yesterday.

Police confirmed that the body discovered by divers in Coniston Water was that of Carol Park, a 30-year-old teacher, who vanished from her home in July 1976.

Last night officers were searching the home of Mrs Park's then husband, Gordon, in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. Earlier in the day officers had seized a boat belonging to Mr Park, a retired teacher, which was moored on Coniston Water.

The last time the mother-of-three was seen alive was by her husband at their bungalow in Leece, Barrow-in-Furness - 15 miles from where the body had been wrapped and tightly bound in sackings and bin-liners and weighted down with metal pieces - was eventually found. The couple had been due to take their children to Blackpool for the day, but Mrs Park remained behind saying she was ill.

Detective Superintendent Ian Douglas, of Cumbria police, said he would be interviewing members of the dead woman's family as part of a murder inquiry. This would include 53-year-old Mr Park, who is on a cycling holiday in France with his third wife, Jenny, and may not be aware of the discovery.

Det Supt Douglas stated Mrs Park's death was being treated as murder because of the circumstances in which her body was found, although the cause of death had not yet been established.

The body had been identified from dental records. Its condition indicated that it had been in the water for at least 15 years. Forensic specialists believe decomposition may have been slowed because of the low- water temperature and because of the wrapping.

Police yesterday started forensic examination of the Parks' home. Last night a Cumbrian police spokeswoman said scenes of crime officers were searching the boat and the house, having executed simultaneous search warrants.

The spokeswoman said that the search warrants had been obtained from Barrow magistrates yesterday morning and added that "all lines of inquiry will now be pursued".

Detectives are also expected to try and trace another boat, the Sail Fish, which Mr Park owned at the time of his wife's disappearance but sold several years ago.

Det Supt Douglas said: "It isn't too late. There have been vast advances in forensic science in the past 20 years."

He continued: "We are on the trail of whoever did this. Twenty-one years ago I am quite sure he or she thought they were safe. They are not.

"I am quite confident we will eventually arrest someone for this. It is a long and complicated inquiry and will be for quite some time. We will certainly speak to Mr Park, as we will speak to any other member of the family as and when we get the chance to do so."

Detectives will be talking to the couple's children, Vanessa, who was eight at the time of Mrs Park's disappearance, Jeremy, then six, and Rachel, then five.

The Parks adopted Vanessa after her mother, Mrs Park's sister Christine, 17, was strangled in l969. A man was convicted of the murder and jailed for life.

The Parks' marriage was dissolved in l979. In l981, Mr Park married a schools meals adviser. In 1993, he wed for the third time. His wife is also a teacher.

Mrs Park's brother, Ivor Price, said yesterday: "I must say now that I am feeling very numb. it has been a tremendously long wait and it is now the end of a 21-year-old nightmare.

"I could say at last I know we will be able one day to lay Carol to rest. I could say it was the end, but it will probably be a far worse nightmare that I am going to face - I don't even know how I am going to cope with it."