Gary Walker: Ex-police officer’s 2004 murder conviction overturned

A former police officer who spent 17 years in prison for the 2003 killing of his pregnant partner has had his case thrown out during a retrial.

Gary Walker, now 57, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2004 for murdering Audra Bancroft in Burton-upon-Trent.

Following a review of his case by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the Court of Appeal ruled in January the conviction was unsafe.

A retrial at Warwick Crown Court found he had no case to answer.

The ex-Avon and Somerset Police officer had always denied the murder of his partner.

The retrial heard Ms Bancroft, 36, had died as a result of a paramedic moving her from the recovery position on to her back, where she stayed for five hours, leading to “positional asphyxia”.

It had been alleged Mr Walker, who was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years, had strangled mother-of-three Ms Bancroft shortly after finding out she had run up £4,000 in debt on a credit card.

Defence QC David Emanuel told the hearing Mr Walker’s case was that he had not assaulted his partner and any injuries she had received were due to “force he used in self-defence” after she “went for him with a potato peeler”.

Mr Justice Holgate QC told the jury the only way the prosecution could establish that Mr Walker had caused her death was by making sure the injuries from the alleged assault “had made a significant contribution to her reduced state of consciousness by the time the paramedic started to treat her”.

He said: “I came to the firm conclusion that no reasonable jury could be sure that the prosecution had proved this very special causal link to the high standard of proof required.

“For that reason the issue of causation could not, as a matter of law, be left to the jury to decide, and so Mr Walker had to be acquitted of both murder and manslaughter.”

At the end of the prosecution case, Mr Justice Holgate agreed with a submission by Mr Walker’s barrister there was no case to answer.

The ruling was challenged by prosecutor Rachel Brand QC but following a hearing in the Court of Appeal on Friday, the judge’s ruling was upheld.

As a result, a not guilty verdict was entered and Mr Walker was freed.

West Midlands Ambulance Service Trust said the former Staffordshire Ambulance Service – which it had since merged with – had responded to the incident in 2003.

“An internal investigation was undertaken at the time by the then trust with the findings provided to police as part of their investigation,” a spokeswoman said.