‘We just never got a straight answer’ – Karl Carson’s grieving family speak after cliff death inquest

Karl Carson
Karl Carson

A family who hoped for closure over the death of a South Tyneside father say they will have to live with the “what ifs” for the rest of their lives.

Karl Carson was found by police at the bottom of cliffs near Marsden, South Shields, on July 6 last year.

Karl Carson with Laura Nisbet,

Karl Carson with Laura Nisbet,

The 26-year-old had earlier managed to escape from an unmarked police car after he had been placed in the vehicle by officers probing his alleged involvement in a fracas at the Marsden Grotto pub.

An inquest held at Gateshead Civic Centre this week heard a jury deliver an unanimous decision that his death was accidental.

However, despite being able to quiz officers on what happened that fateful night, his family say they still feel as if they are no further forward in getting the answers they crave.

They say that – while the actions of Karl leaving the car was a “bad error of judgement” on his part – police should also take some responsibility over his death.

We have to live with the what ifs for the rest of our lives.

Laura Nisbet

They also felt “appalled” after hearing how an officer effectively blamed Karl’s death on his two friends.

The devastated mother to Karl’s two young children, Laura Nisbet, said: “Our solicitor did the best he could. He asked the questions, but we just never got a straight answer.”

Police had been called to the car park of the Marsden Grotto after reports of a fracas outside.

They later stopped Mr Carson, of Arnold Street, Boldon Colliery, on the Coast Road, along with his two friends, after being told to find the father-of-two had been named as the instigator.

The car park at Marsden Grotto

The car park at Marsden Grotto

Mr Carson had been placed into a police car, but while officers struggled with one of his friends he clambered out of the window, ran off into the darkness and was later found at the foot of the cliffs.

Ms Nisbet added: “If things had been done differently right from when the police turned up at the Grotto then Karl would still be here.

“There are a lot of things we as a family feel the police should have done differently, and they need to take some responsibility instead of just blaming his friends.

“Why did the police continue to pursue the matter after they arrived at the Grotto? The situation had defused.

Karl Carson.

Karl Carson.

“Why did they leave Karl in the car on his own and not handcuffed?

“Why did officers choose to believe one girl saying it was Karl who was the instigator rather than others who said it wasn’t Karl, including the person who threw the punch?

“We just feel we have been put through days and days of hurt for no reason at all. We knew it was going to be accidental death.”

She added: “We wanted the chance to ask questions of the police but every time we asked them something, we don’t feel we got any real answers.

“They said they didn’t have time to handcuff Karl but, as far as we are concerned, they did. We have got to live with the ‘what if’s’ for the rest of our lives.

His mum, Julie Carson, said: “The whole thing has been heartbreaking. We should have been able to grieve for our son but we haven’t been able to as we have had this hanging over us.

“I was annoyed when the police said his death could have been prevented if it wasn’t for the actions of his friends. We accept it was an accidental death. We accept what Karl did was a bad error of judgement on his part – but he shouldn’t have been in the position where he was able to make that decision.”

“The police need to take some responsibility for what happened. They shouldn’t just shift the blame.”

The family say while they feel they will never be able to get closure over the tragedy, they would to thank the medical team who tried to save their son’s life.

Mrs Carson added: “From the bottom of our hearts we would like to thank the medical team for trying to save our son. They worked on Karl for 45 minutes. They really did try their best and we will always be grateful.”