Lady-in-the-lake husband was caring, says son

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The Independent Online

The retired schoolteacher accused of the "lady in the lake" murder of his wife was a "big softie", his son told a court yesterday.

The retired schoolteacher accused of the "lady in the lake" murder of his wife was a "big softie", his son told a court yesterday.

Gordon Park, 60, killed his wife Carol by bludgeoning her with an ice axe before wrapping her body in a nightdress and dumping her in Coniston Water, Cumbria, in July 1976, it is alleged. Her body was found by divers in 1997 - 21 years after the killing - and Mr Park was subsequently arrested.

The couple both had affairs before Mrs Park, described as "petite, pretty and vivacious", vanished and there were sometimes rows and arguments, the jury at Manchester Crown Court heard.

Yesterday, his son, Jeremy Gordon Park, 34, said his father was a caring man and as a child he sometimes felt rejected by his mother. Mr Park, who was six when his mother disappeared, described his dad as a "big softie really, full of fun and affection, liberal, he would read us stories at bedtime".

He told the court he recalled his mother going off to live with another man and he would visit her with his two sisters, Vanessa and Rachel.

"I can remember certain rejections from her. She was a fun person, she liked adult company, not particularly affectionate to children. But she played the role ... of mother."

Mr Park, of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, denies murder. He said he took the children to Blackpool on the day of the alleged murder, 17 July 1976, and when he got back home his wife, also a teacher, had disappeared.

Jeremy Park said he could remember in detail the day trip to the coast. He said he tried to persuade his mother to come along but she refused. "I remember she was not keen on coming, I felt the rejection at that."

He said his father was upset his mother had gone. "I have a recollection my dad was feeling down and I asked him, 'Where's mum?' He said, 'I don't know.'

"I said, 'Dad, are you crying?' He said, 'Yes, I am crying now.'"

Jeremy Park said he had never witnessed any violence by his father towards his mother but admitted he could sometimes remember rows.

His sister, Vanessa Fisher, 36, told the court that as an eight-year-old she could not recall any day trip to Blackpool when her mother disappeared. Ms Fisher is the daughter of Mrs Park's sister, Christine, who was herself murdered. Her aunt and Gordon Park brought her up as their own child.

She too remembered "shouting and arguing" sometimes after the children had gone to bed. She said Mrs Park was like any other loving normal mum.

She described Mr Park as a loving but "strict" father who would sometimes discipline the children with a cane.

"We used to get lined up and punished until somebody admitted," she said.

The trial continues.