The Lady in the Lake Languished Leagues Below the Surface for 21 years

Carol Price was a boomer baby, one among millions of brand new babies after her father returned home from the war. Carol was adopted and she grew up in the town of Barrow, carolin England. Pretty, brown-haired and brown-eyed, Carol was a sweet girl and lived a happy life with her adoptive family. Pretty and intelligent, Carol enrolled in teacher’s college after high school. Around that time she met Gordon Park, an attractive “man about town” who became smitten with Carol. The two however were very different. Carol was an extrovert, Park the introvert. No matter. Sometimes opposites attractive and it clearly did with Carol and Park. But there was a darker side to Park: he was controlling and aloof. He could turn a cold shoulder to Carol when she displeased him in some small way but Carol remained smitten by her strong, outdoorsy boyfriend and ignored these warning signals.

Park and Carol were married and moved to Leece, a posh village outside Barrow. Park had built a beautiful, modern bungalow for his new wife. Their first few years of marriage were carolreportedly happy although it didn’t last. Two years later, Carol’s sister, Christine, was murdered by her boyfriend, John Rapson. Gordon and Carol adopted Christine’s daughter, Vanessa, who was a year old when her mother died. After recovering from the tragedy, the marriage took a decidedly unpleasant twist. Park was no longer the charming prince Carol thought she’d married. Park demanded a lot of his wife and he refused to allow her to socialize without him. He took her salary and banked it without allowing her access to her own money. In spite of her intellect and former independence Carol was browbeaten and acquiesced to anything her husband demanded. Park forced his wife to partake in ‘wife-swapping’ parties and Carol slept with several men.

Finally in 1974 Carol took a lover. In December 1974, Carol moved out of the marital home and moved to Middlesbrough to live with policeman David Brearley. They met at an Open University summer school. She, her boyfriend and her children moved into a guest house in Littlesburg, at the Lakes. Park drove his family to the house to live, well aware that Carol had a lover. He remained in the car while his family turned and walked away. Over time, Carol told her mother “there is more than one way to be cruel and I’ve always had to obey him.”  Too frightened to meet with her husband alone to discuss custody of the children , Carol met with Park in public places. She refused to get into his car gordonwith him except once. Park brought her home in one piece. On two other occasions, Carol ran from her violent husband. During Christmas holiday, 1974 the custody battle between her and Park was ongoing. He controlled her access to the children; it was minimal. Carol’s children were her life. She would be distraught without them. During a custody hearing, Carol admitted to her affair. Park had also had an affair during the marriage but he lied in court and denied it. The judge awarded him full custody of the children. The only way Carol could be with her children was to return to Park and a bitter marriage. Just before doing so, Carol became enmeshed in two lesbian affairs. Hey, this was the 70’s. Carol left Bearley and reluctantly returned to the controlling, angry Park.

Carol lived a very unhappy life for a year after she returned to Park. She mentioned to the landlady that she had only returned to the house to be with her children. The summer of carol-park-2529592501976 arrived. The very first night of her summer holiday, Carol went missing. The landlady noticed her absence but assumed she had gone on holiday alone. As a rule, they didn’t see her often. One day the landlord knocked on the door and inquired politely as to Carol’s whereabouts. Park admitted Carol had been missing for six weeks and he hadn’t reported it to police. Instead, after the landlord checked on Carol, he reported it to his attorney. Park told police he believed she had “gone off with one of her boyfriends.” Police discovered Carol had left her purse, credit cards and wedding rings behind. A police detective asked Park if he could speak to the children. Park refused. Without a body, police couldn’t bring Park in for questioning.

carolEventually, Park divorced Carol on the grounds of “desertion” and twice remarried. Quite unlucky in love you might say. He was often seen sailing on the lake near the bungalow. Park lived a quiet life and kept a low profile. The children, who obviously missed their mother, appeared happy overall and seemed to be treated well. 21 years later, in 1997, two amateur scuba divers went out for a fun dip in Conestin Lake, never expecting to discover a large, suspicious bundle, wrapped in garbage bags and rope. They notified police. Police found Carol’s watery grave and brought her to the surface. Upon opening the bulky bag, police discovered the grisly remains of Carol Park. Carol was a dreadful, unrecognizable mess. Her head and face had been destroyed by an axe. Right away, Park was arrested and questioned for two days. Incredibly, Park had a smart-ass attitude with police, toying with them during the interrogation.

Detective: What was your first thought in your head when she went missing? What were you thinking?
Park: Here we go again.
Detective: Would you like to just explain that?
Park: Not really but I will. It’s when a wife walks out on you, you don’t know where she’s gone or why. It’s a very horrible feeling. It’s just awfully, totally disorientating. No doubt you’ve got experts who can tell you all about that. Happened before….and you wonder what’s going to happen this time and if there’s going to be another boyfriend.

gordonPark was charged with murder and incarcerated in Preston Prison. Within months charges were dropped and Park had once again gotten away with murder. Six years passed. Forensic investigation into the case revealed that Carol had been tied into the fetal position with the same type of rope Park kept in his home for his rock-climbing hobby. A detective compared the type of knot that had been used to tie Carol’s body and the bags around it. Rather than the typical “granny” knot or “reef” knot – a very simply, common knot people use, this was a complex type of knot that only someone familiar with boating or mountaineering would use. Most people are unable to tie this type of knot.

Seven more years passed. A rock found in the lake bed was also linked to Park. A green slate rock was found beneath the body, embedded into the bottom of the lake. This type of rock wasn’t found on or in Conestin Lake, meaning it was from a foreign location. Instead, this rock had been used to weight the body to keep it from rising to the surface. Similar slate was found at the bungalow Park had built for Carol. Interestingly, a type of rock was also found with Carol’s body that wasn’t a match for the rocks at the bottom of the lake. That too had come from the bungalow. And you never knew rocks were so fascinatingly unique, did you?

A cell mate with learning disabilities and a mental age of 9 came forward to tell police that while he was incarcerated with Park for a time, Park admitted to him he had indeed killed his wife. Although the man was mentally disabled, he was utterly certain about Park’s confession. The only time the man was able to lie, in fact, was when he tried to invent stories about himself. He provided an excellent witness for the defense. By January 2004, police had the ropes, rock, Carol’s clothing and the cell mate’s witness statement. They arrested Park again for Carol’s murder. Park had no reaction whatsoever. His main concern was he wished to shower and groom himself before he went to jail. Happily, Park pranced about nude in front of two male policemen before he got dressed. Weird or what?

Park spoke for hours about his knotting expertise, quite happy to brag about his ability. Eventually he realized his mistake and tried to back pedal, claiming sometimes he used ropemountaineering knots and sometimes he didn’t. Park was returned to his cell alone. He paced and talked to himself. He wept. He sat, stood, and paced. This time, 28 years had passed and finally Park was charged and he wouldn’t be released. Amazingly, a couple now contacted police and stated they’d seen Park dumping his wife’s body. John Young had proposed to his wife Joan on that particular day. The two happened to look out over Conestin Lake and Joan joked “I hoped that isn’t his wife he’s got in there.” Imagine that: One man is proposing marriage while another is dumping his dead wife’s body. Bit of a contrast, that.

The jury trial began. Park was a cool cucumber. Park’s composure began to slip over the weeks and he began to lie during questioning. One foolish lie was that Park claimed he hadn’t worn spectacles in 1973 when Carol was murdered, as the Youngs had claimed. But hundreds of photographs during that year showed that he did. More lies of that sort continued. It was determined that Park had smashed Carol in the face with a climber’s pick-ax. He kept her body in the freezer for some days until he disposed of it. When the defense and DA rested, it took the jury 10 hours to return a guilty verdict. Park had killed his wife when he was 32. A the age of 61 he finally paid for it with a prison sentence of life. The lady in the lake had lain languishing for 21 years. She languished for 7 more years until justice was served.

park_letterIn 2009, Park’s third wife Jenny sent him the Prison and Probation Ombudsman’s report. He read about serial killer GP Dr Harold Shipman’s suicide in Wakefield prison. Park assured Jenny he  ‘didn’t think it was necessary‘ to be on the [suicide] watch. In November 2008 Park’s appeal into his conviction failed. The following month, at the age of 66, Park committed suicide in his cell. Before his suicide,  Park  demonstrated behaviour typical of a suicide, by giving his possessions away to other inmates.

Park the Pathetic didn’t mind leaving Carol to languish in the lake for 21 years but he couldn’t live for 5 years in prison. Ironically, he hung himself by ligature and he placed a plastic bag over his head. I suppose there weren’t any rocks available in his cell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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