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48 year fight to clear name – Iain Hay Gordon (2000)

"Reminants of a Murder" by Earl. Found on flickr, used under Creative Commons and edited for size.

“The murder of Patricia Curran (19) in November 1952 sent shockwaves all over Ireland and beyond. By the end of the year the RUC were being criticised for lack of progress in finding the killer and by this time had enlisted the help of Scotland Yard who sent over Superintendent John Capstick – known as a hard man – and Detective Sergeant Dennis Hawkins. Almost 40,000 statements were taken and every male over the age of 16 in the Whiteabbey district was fingerprinted.

The body had been discovered 40 yards from her home some hours after her death and although her body was soaked in blood from 37 stab wounds there was no blood on the ground where she lay. It had been raining for most of the night yet her clothes were dry. It also transpired that the dead girl’s father, Judge Lancelot Curran, did not let the RUC into the Curran home until a week after the murder.

Patricia Curran’s brother, Desmond, a barrister, attended the local Presbyterian church. He was a member of a crusading religious group. He met up with a young Scot named Iain Hay Gordon and invited him to dinner in the Curran home. He had hoped Hay Gordon would join his group but his efforts were unsuccessful. Hay Gordon was 20 years old, an RAF technician barracked at nearby Edenmore.

In mid-January Desmond Curran told Capstick that Hay Gordon was very knowledgeable about the murder and was asking questions about it. Capstick wrote in his autobiography that Curran also told him that Hay Gordon had confided to him that he liked to use knives. Capstick claimed Desmond Curran believed that Hay Gordon had killed his sister.”

On a cold and drizzly night in November 1952 the body of Patricia Curran was discovered in the grounds of her family home near Belfast. The 19-year-old had been stabbed 37 times.

The murder of the judge’s daughter led to what many believe was a major miscarriage of justice that saw an innocent man “fitted up”, as the establishment closed ranks and covered up the killing. The victim of this alleged conspiracy was Iain Hay Gordon, a 20-year-old Scotsman who was carrying out his National Service with the Royal Air Force in Northern Ireland.

“The frail, bespectacled pensioner, painfully thin and ghostly pale in a neat navy blue suit, sat bolt upright listening intently to every word in the Belfast court of appeal’s 52-page judgment summary.

It took just over an hour for Sir Robert Carswell, Northern Ireland’s lord chief justice, to read the finding, but it was the verdict that the 68-year-old Glaswegian had waited 48 years to hear: not guilty of the notorious killing that shocked 1950s Ulster.”

“Mr Hay Gordon always maintained that he signed a confession under duress when exhausted and after police threatened to tell his mother about an alleged homosexual liaison. He was found guilty but insane and sentenced to serve a term of imprisonment in a mental institute. One of the terms of his release was that he change his identity.

Sir Robert Carswell said that independent experts in evidence had concluded that there were serious questions about the reliability of the confession. He said that in a key interview in the murder investigation Det Supt John Capstick, a senior Scotland Yard officer, had set out to achieve a “sapping of the appellant’s (Gordon) will. “If the appellant had not been questioned at length about his sexual proclivities on the morning of Jan 15, he would not have been so ready to make the confession after lunch that day.””

“The last sentence of Gordon’s alleged confession, obtained after three days of intensive interrogation, contained the phrase, ” . . . if I am spared, I shall redeem my past life.” It is one of the few parts of the confession that Gordon claims he actually wrote, and the supporters of his campaign have maintained since the early 1950s that the rest was obtained through extreme duress and put in his name by detectives. Nevertheless, that one phrase presents a possible double irony. By coincidence, both Gordon and Desmond Curran started radically new lives eight years after the murder. In 1960, Gordon was quietly released from Holywell Mental Hospital in County Antrim and put on a plane back to Scotland. At the same time, Desmond Curran was being ordained as a priest in Rome.”

“The Curran case continued to fascinate criminologists, both professional and amateur. Such a one was Sir Ludovic Kennedy. His 1970 television documentary about the Curran case was suppressed by the Stormont government led by James Chichester-Clark. The only surviving member of the family is Desmond, now a Roman Catholic priest with a mission station at Khayelitsha in South Africa, whose work among the dispossessed is exemplary.

When interviewed in January 1995 for a BBC documentary, More Sinned Against Than Sinning, he insisted that the family were not involved in Patricia’s murder and that Gordon was guilty. He converted to Catholicism after his sister’s death and was, consequently, barred from the family home.”

About INNOCENT (134 Articles)
Challenging miscarriages of justice since 1993.

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