Scotsman has conviction for murdering North judge's daughter quashed


A 68-year-old Scotsman, Mr Iain Hay Gordon, has had his conviction for murdering a judge's daughter in Northern Ireland nearly 50 years ago quashed.

The Court of Appeal in Belfast yesterday quashed his conviction for murdering Ms Patricia Curran (19) in 1952.

Mr Gordon, a bachelor who lives alone in Glasgow, was overcome with emotion after the three judges quashed his conviction.

"I am delighted. At long last my name has been cleared. I feel a great burden has been lifted off my shoulders and that my contention I did not kill Patricia Curran has been justified.

"I never had any doubt my name would be cleared but I am overjoyed it has finally happened and that I am an ordinary individual once again."

In March 1953, Mr Gordon, then a 20-year-old RAF apprentice stationed near the Curran mansion at Whiteabbey, near Belfast, was found guilty but insane in the murder of the daughter of High Court judge Sir Lancelot Curran.

The body of the 19-year-old student at Queen's University, Belfast, was found in the grounds of her family home, The Glen, on November 13th, 1952. She had been stabbed 37 times.

Mr Gordon was detained in Holywell mental hospital in Antrim until he was released in 1960 on condition that he changed his name and did not talk publicly about the case.

Two years ago, the Criminal Cases Review Commission, set up to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice, referred his case back to the Court of Appeal. At a hearing last October, the prosecution lawyer said it was no longer relying on Mr Gordon's confession, the main evidence against him at his trial, as a voluntary statement or a reliable account of what had happened.

The court's 52-page reserved judgment was summarised by the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Robert Carswell, yesterday. It took him just over an hour to read out the salient features.

Sir Robert referred to the wealth of new evidence presented by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, who led the defence at the appeal in October.

He said if this evidence had been available at the original trial in 1953, there was little doubt the judge, former Lord Chief Justice, the late Lord MacDermott, "would have felt impelled to reject the confession as inadmissible".

Sir Robert said: "It then has to be considered whether the finding of guilt is safe once one removes the confession, which was at the heart of the Crown case.

"The remainder of the evidence against the appellant consists of a certain amount of circumstantial evidence and some suspicious behaviour on his part.

"We do not consider that if that evidence stood alone the conviction would be safe and Mr Weatherup [Crown counsel] did not seek to argue to the contrary.

"We therefore conclude that the jury's verdict cannot stand. There can be no question of ordering a retrial after this length of time and we therefore allow the appeal and quash the finding of guilt."