A man convicted of murdering a Cardiff teenager whose remains were found wrapped in carpet 25 years ago has had his case sent to the Court of Appeal.
Alan Charlton is serving a life sentence for killing 15-year-old Karen Price, who disappeared from a children’s home in 1981.
He was convicted in 1991 and an appeal failed three years later.
But it has now been referred because of concerns over techniques used by South Wales Police to investigate the case.
‘Body in the carpet’
The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) said there had been concerns about the alleged “oppressive handling” of key witnesses by officers and alleged breaches of police regulations.
It became known as the “body in the carpet” case after the teenager’s remains were discovered wrapped in carpet in a shallow grave on 7 December 1989.
A plastic bag had been placed over her head and her arms had been tied behind her back.
The body was found by workmen in the garden of a property in Fitzhamon Embankment, Cardiff, eight years after Karen had disappeared.
After failed attempts to identify her body, Richard Neave, of Manchester University, created a clay facial reconstruction of the skull.
Karen was identified following the reconstruction and DNA samples taken from her parents and the skeletal remains.
Charlton, from Bridgwater, Somerset, was living at Fitzhamon Embankment at the time the teenager went missing.
He was convicted on 26 February 1991 at Cardiff Crown Court and sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 15 years, but he remains in jail more than 20 years later.
In 1994, Charlton’s appeal was heard alongside that of co-defendant Idris Ali, from Birchgrove in Cardiff, who was Karen’s pimp.
The court dismissed Charlton’s appeal but quashed Ali’s conviction and ordered a retrial, where he admitted manslaughter and was released from prison.
But following a lengthy investigation, the CCRC has now referred Charlton’s conviction to the Court of Appeal as it considers there is “a real possibility that the court will quash the conviction”.
CCRC has said a number of officers involved in the case also investigated two notorious cases that resulted in miscarriages of justice – the murders of Lynette White and Philip Saunders.
The CCRC has also told the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary about its concerns.
IPCC commissioner Jan Williams said it raised important questions about the conduct of South Wales Police during the 1980s and 1990s.
“In the light of questions around other similar cases, this clearly raises serious issues for public confidence in the integrity of the force at that time,” she said.
“We therefore expect South Wales Police to review all the evidence from the CCRC, make a decision, and record and refer any conduct issues that may come to light and which may then require IPCC action.”
Following news of the appeal, South Wales Police Chief Constable Peter Vaughan said: “We note that the Criminal Cases Review Commission has referred the conviction of Alan Charlton for the murder of Karen Price to the Court of Appeal.
“In light of this referral we must now allow the judicial process to take its course and therefore cannot comment further at this stage.”