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Court to review 1991 murder verdict

A 23-year-old conviction for the murder of a missing teenage girl has been referred to the Court of Appeal by the body responsible for reviewing possible miscarriages of criminal justice.

Alan Charlton was convicted of the murder of Karen Price on February 26 1991 at Cardiff Crown Court and sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 15 years but remains in jail.

After a failed appeal in 1994, Charlton applied to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) for a review of his case in August 2009.

Following a lengthy investigation, the CCRC has referred Charlton's conviction to the Court of Appeal as it considers there is "a real possibility that the court will quash the conviction".

Karen was 15 years old and living at a residential children's home in Cardiff when she was last seen on July 2 1981.

Her skeletal remains were found on December 7 1989, wrapped in a carpet in a shallow grave by workmen digging at the rear of a property in Fitzhammon Embankment, Cardiff, where Charlton was living at the time of her disappearance.

The CCRC said it had contacted the watchdog Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), the Chief Constable of South Wales Police and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) following the referral of the case to the Court of Appeal.

Its decision was based in part on new evidence that a number of officers from South Wales Police who were involved in two other, separate murder inquiries - involving victims Lynette White and Philip Saunders - were also involved in Charlton's case.

These officers may have used investigative techniques similar to those which led to the quashing of convictions in the White and Saunders cases, the CCRC said.

Breaches in the Karen Price case regarding the detention, treatment and questioning of people by police officers, t he credibility of prosecution witnesses and c oncerns about "oppressive" handling by the police of key witnesses also led to the CCRC referral.

A new appeal must be heard once a case is referred by the CCRC and it is up to the Court of Appeal to schedule the necessary proceedings.

Charlton's 1994 appeal was heard alongside that of his co-defendant, Idris Ali.

The court dismissed Charlton's appeal but quashed Ali's conviction and ordered a retrial.

At his retrial, Ali pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was released from prison at the end of the proceedings.

After failed attempts to identify Miss Price's body, Richard Neave, of Manchester University, created a clay facial reconstruction of the skull.

Both the reconstruction and DNA samples taken from the skeletal remains compared with the DNA of her parents helped identify her.

IPCC commissioner Jan Williams said: " Today's Criminal Cases Review Commission reference to the Court of Appeal in relation to Alan Charlton's conviction raises 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.

"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."


From Belfast Telegraph