In September 1994, Carol Wardell, the
manager of a building society in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, was murdered
and around £15,000 stolen from the branch.
Her husband, Gordon, appeared at a press conference
and told reporters he had returned home from the pub on a Sunday
afternoon to find his wife being held captive by a man who was wearing a
clown mask and was armed with a knife.
Wardell claimed he had been punched and forced to the
ground and fell unconscious after a chloroform-soaked cloth was pressed
over his face.
Wardell, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, told
journalists: "A man got hold of my wife and was threatening her with a
He claimed he had been tied up by the gang who took
his wife off to the building society early the following morning.
But within a month police realised his story was a
pack of lies and he was arrested.
Sentencing him to life imprisonment, the judge at
Oxford Crown Court said Wardell had gone to elaborate lengths, including
tying himself up and inflicting injuries, to make it appear as if the
couple were the victim of robbers.
In August last year, Wardell, 54, was told he would
not be eligible for release for another 18 years.
Husband 'faked raid to conceal
Independent, The (London)
Nov 15, 1995
The husband of a building society manageress beat,
trussed and gagged himself after suffocating his wife to make it appear
she had been killed during a robbery which had gone wrong, an Oxford
jury was told yesterday.
42, a car component executive, of
Meriden, Warwickshire, denies
murdering his wife Carol, 39, at
their home in September last year.
Oxford Crown Court was told that Mr Wardell killed
the Woolwich manageress before dumping her body and stealing cash from
the branch where she worked to make it seem she had lost her life in a
raid. Richard Wakerley QC said Mr Wardell concocted "an elaborate scheme
to quite literally get away with murder".
The jury was told that Mrs Wardell, a keyholder to
the Nuneaton branch of the Woolwich, was asphyxiated at the couple's
house before her husband launched his scheme to "deceive and divert
suspicion from himself".
Her body was
found in a layby two miles from
Nuneaton by a motorist on 21
September. No attempt had been made
to conceal the body. Later that
morning, the apparent raid on the
building society was discovered. No
signs of forced entry were found and
the alarms did not sound but cash
was missing and Mrs Wardell's
personal security code had been used
to open the vault at 5am that day.
2pm the same day, armed police
surrounded the couple's home and
discovered Mr Wardell bound on the
lounge floor. Mr Wakerley said: "It
was a remarkable sight. He was on
the floor lying on his back in the
middle of the room dressed only in
his underpants. His clothes and
shoes were close by.
"He was apparently gagged with a strip of cloth and
tied to a refuse sack holder with two ratchet ties around his wrists. He
was conscious and alert but apparently had some bruising on his stomach."
Mr Wardell told police and ambulance staff he
returned from a local pub just before 10pm on Sunday night to find men
in his house. They knocked him unconscious and he had not regained his
senses until Monday morning. Asked when he had last seen his wife, he
said: "Last night - she went off with those men that were here."
Mr Wakerley said ambulance staff later said Mr
Wardell's blood pressure was not high and his heart rate was steady
despite his reported ordeal. He added: "The prosecution say that that
was all a sham. It was part of a false scheme to induce the police to
believe that Carol had been killed by a gang of robbers after they took
her under force to the building society - leaving him unconscious and
"He was not attacked by any gang. He was not then
rendered unconscious and tied up. He tied and put the gag on himself.
His bruises were self- inflicted.
"We say he did that after he killed his wife and left
her body in the layby, After that he had been to the building society to
fake the robbery and the scene at the house which confronted those
police officers was all part of the sham." During the two days following
the discovery of his wife's body, Mr Wardell had "spoken at great length
about what he claimed had happened to him."
Life for husband who murdered 'devoted'
By Jason Bennetto -
The husband of a building society
manageress was jailed for life yesterday for murdering his wife after a
jury rejected his story that the couple were victims of a gang of armed
Gordon Wardell, 42, had claimed that he had been
drugged and gagged by criminals for 16 hours during a raid.
A jury at Oxford Crown Court unanimously rejected his
story and decided he strangled his 39-year-old wife Carol last September
and dumped her in a lay-by near Nuneaton, in Warwickshire.
Sentencing Wardell, Mr Justice Cresswell said: "You
are an extremely dangerous, evil and devious man. You killed your wife
in a brutal manner then cynically attempted to escape detection by going
to elaborate lengths to make it appear that your crime was the work of a
gang of robbers.
"This murder was an outrage to your wife, her family,
and to everybody who knew her."
There were gasps
of "yes" from the public gallery and
Mrs Wardell's mother, Joan, burst
into tears. Wardell, a 6ft 3ins tall
fitness fanatic, looked pale and
shook his head.
Before passing sentence the court was told of a
previous conviction when Wardell, as a 17-year-old student, was jailed
for four years for wounding with intent after indecently assaulting and
stabbing the wife of his science master.
The murder trial was told that Wardell
staged a raid at the Nuneaton branch of the Woolwich building society,
stealing pounds 14,000 and leaving one of his wife's sandals in the
office in an attempt to cover his tracks. He bound and gagged himself at
the couple's home in Meriden, Warwickshire, where he was found by police.
He told them a gang had kidnapped his wife, who was found suffocated.
mother, Joan Heslop, 67, welcomed
the guilty verdict and said that her
daughter could now "rest in peace".
She said: "She loved life. To have
it taken away so tragically in such
a way was terrible."
Mrs Heslop said
she had suspected her son-in-law
since the day after the funeral
where Wardell had continued his
charade of the grieving widower. "It
was just a mother's feeling I
suppose," she said.
sister, Susan Field, 42, said: "Carol
was the linchpin of the family. She
kept us together because the family
meant everything to her."
Superintendent Tony Bayliss, who led
the murder investigation, said that
a motive for the killing has never
been fully established though one
theory was that Wardell was at risk
of losing his job as an executive
for a car parts company. "Inevitably
it led to financial problems but I
believe the murder was domestically
oriented," said Mr Bayliss.
Carol Wardell was
described as devoted to her husband,
whom she married in 1982. She was
said to have concentrated on her
career at the Woolwich after finding
out she could not have children.
The court was
told that Wardell had not had sex
with his wife for six months before
her death and the relationship
worsened because he had suffered a
period of redundancy.
SEX: M RACE: W TYPE: T MOTIVE:
Killed wife; prime suspect in deaths of several prostitutas.
DISPOSITION: Life term for
wifes murder, 1995.
Case No: 2004/1098/MTR
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Royal Courts of
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
Before : MR.
- and -
GORDON DAVID WARDELL Defendant
Mr. Justice Teare :
1. This is an application under Schedule 22 of
the Criminal Justice Act 2003 by Gordon David Wardell (the applicant).
2. On 21 December 1995 the applicant, having been
convicted of murder, was sentenced to life imprisonment. On 1 July
19996 the Home Secretary set the period to be served to satisfy the
requirements of retribution and deterrence at 18 years (the minimum
3. The applicant is an existing prisoner within
the meaning of Schedule 22 of the CJA 2003 and has made an
application under paragraph 3 of that Schedule. My task is to
specify that part of his sentence which the applicant must serve
before the early release provisions will apply to him. The specified
part of his sentence cannot however be longer that the minimum term
notified to him by the Secretary of State.
4. In considering this matter I must have regard
to the seriousness of the offence and in doing so I have had had
regard to (i) the general principles set out in Schedule 21, (ii)
the recommendations made by the trial judge (18 years) and the Lord
Chief Justice (18 years) and (iii) the representations made by the
applicant and by relatives of the victim.
5. I am also required to have regard to the
effect that section 67 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967 would have
had if the applicant had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment,
provided that I am satisfied that, if he had been so sentenced, the
length of his sentence would have been treated as reduced by a
particular period under that section: therefore the court takes
account of any period that a person has spent in custody only
because he was committed to custody by an order of the court made in
connection with proceedings relating to the offence of murder of
which has been convicted. I am satisfied that in the present case I
should have had regard to a period spent in custody by the applicant
of 14 months.
6. The applicant was born on 8 May 1953 and so
was 42 at the time of sentence. The offence was committed between 10
and 13 September 1994 when he was 41.
7. The victim of the murder was the applicant's
wife Carol who was the manager of a branch of a building society. On
12 September 1994 she was found lying on grass verge adjacent to a
lay by in open country. A post-mortem revealed that she had received
numerous minor injuries to her head and body and that the cause of
death was asphyxia, probably a combination of pressure on the neck
and smothering. The defendant denied his guilt. The trial judge, in
his report to the Home Secretary, said that the applicant went to
elaborate lengths, including breaking into and robbing the building
society managed by his wife, tying himself up and inflicting
injuries on himself, to make it appear as if his wife had been taken
by a gang of robbers to the building society where she worked and
subsequently killed. £14,126.67 in cash was missing from the
building society which was never recovered.
8. I infer from the missing cash that this was a
murder committed for gain. There may have been additional
motivations but gain appears to have been one of them. It follows
that the starting point is 30 years.
9. The offence is aggravated by a considerable
degree of planning.
10. I cannot identify a mitigating factor.
11. The conduct of the applicant in prison, which
is the subject of his representations, can have little if any effect
on the seriousness of the offence. His progress, whilst commendable,
is not exceptional such as might possibly affect the minimum term.
It will however be a matter which the Parole Board will consider
after the minimum term has been served.
12. Applying the general principles in Schedule
21 of the CJA 2003 the minimum period to be served would be 32 years.
The recommendations of the trial judge and Lord Chief Justice were
for the much shorter period of 18 years. However, those
recommendations were made long before the passing of the 2003 Act.
In any event the court cannot specify as the part of the sentence to
be served before the early release provisions apply a part of the
sentence longer than the minimum period notified to the applicant by
the Home Secretary, which was 18 years.
13. I therefore specify as the part of the
sentence to be served before the early release provisions apply as
18 years less 14 months.