UK

‘Blood on their hands’: Family say police must answer ‘for betrayal’ after man found guilty of strangling sex worker

A man has been convicted of murdering sex worker Emma Caldwell in 2005 after he was finally brought to justice despite major police failings.

Former sign fitter Iain Packer, 51, was found guilty of what the jury heard was the “execution” of the 27-year-old.

Emma, who spiralled into a life of heroin addiction after the sudden death of her sister, was lured from Glasgow’s red-light district, driven to remote woods 40 miles away, strangled and dumped naked in a ditch.

Iain Packer. Pic: BBC
Image:
Iain Packer. Pic: BBC

Packer was a habitual user of sex workers in Glasgow in the 1990s – and admitted to police in the initial 2005 investigation that he had previously paid to take Emma to the forest for sex.

He was not arrested or charged for 17 years as officers wrongly focused on a group of Turkish men.

Packer faced 36 charges involving offences against 25 women and denied all the allegations against him at trial.

Emma’s mother, Margaret, told Sky News: “I feel as if I can breathe again that this man is gone.

“I hope he gets long enough [in jail] that he cannot harm anyone else.

“I did once ask them [the police] if they were biased because of what Emma did and they said it was like any other case. But they just wanted to get it over, put it in a drawer and forget about it.”

Limefield Woods, where Emma Caldwell was murdered in 2005. Pic: PA
Image:
Limefield Woods, where Emma Caldwell was murdered. Pic: PA

The 76-year-old is still haunted by the moment she learned her daughter had been killed after desperately trying to get her clean from drugs in the weeks before her death.

She said: “It is absolutely devastating. The pain… you felt like someone was punching you in the chest. Someone had actually taken your child’s life. It was awful.

“It is my daughter, and I am going to stand up for her. It didn’t make any difference to me what she did.”

Margaret Cardwell
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Margaret Caldwell said she was determined to stand up for her daughter

A fresh set of cold case detectives re-examined the case in 2015 and they finally began to close in on Packer.

Sky News has learned other sex workers at the time raised concerns that Packer was sexually violent years before Ms Caldwell was killed.

The women, who have now rebuilt their lives, say they were ignored. One survivor was even arrested for prostitution after reporting Packer had attacked her.

They say police have “blood on their hands” and could have halted Packer in his tracks to block him from killing Ms Caldwell.

Emma Caldwell. Pic: Family handout
Image:
Pic: Family photo

Asked if she agreed that the former sex workers had come to the right conclusion about the police’s handling of the case, Margaret said: “If it’s true that they know about Iain Packer and didn’t arrest him and didn’t deal with him, then yes.

“The first police investigation had gone wrong. I think they knew who it was quite early on in the investigation. And then it was shelved and nothing else was done about it.”

Margaret’s husband died from cancer before seeing justice for his daughter. He urged his loved ones to get to the truth in the moments before he passed away.

“I go on for Emma and my husband because he asked me to. They would both be urging me on and saying: ‘Well done mum,'” Margaret said.

Emma Caldwell. Pic: Family handout
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Emma was savagely killed. Pic: Family photo

The family and their legal team are now pushing for the police officers involved in their original botched investigation to be brought back and questioned as part of an inquiry.

Following Packer’s conviction, Police Scotland issued an apology.

Assistant chief constable for major crime and public protection Bex Smith said: “Emma Caldwell, her family and many other victims, were let down by policing in 2005. For that we are sorry.

“A significant number of women and girls who showed remarkable courage to speak up at that time also did not get the justice and support they needed and deserved from Strathclyde Police.

“Police Scotland launched a reinvestigation of the case in 2015 after instruction from the Lord Advocate.

“It is clear that further investigations should have been carried out into Emma’s murder following the initial enquiry in 2005.

“The lack of investigation until 2015 caused unnecessary distress to her family and all those women who had come forward to report sexual violence.

“It is the courage, resilience and determination shown by Emma’s family, in particular her parents William and Margaret, and all those who survived Iain Packer’s horrific catalogue of offending that got us to where we are today.

“William is, sadly, no longer here to see this day, but I hope this verdict gives Margaret and all those affected by this case, the justice they deserve.”

ACC Smith said the reinvestigation was “without doubt the largest police enquiry of recent times in Scotland”.

More than 30,000 documents and statements were gathered and reviewed along with in excess of 23,000 productions.

New forensic tests were carried out and new witnesses were identified and interviewed.

ACC Smith added: “We have reflected and learnt from the initial investigation and subsequent reinvestigation.

“Significant changes have been made in recent years to improve our organisational culture and our response, particularly in respect of investigative structures, victim care and processes to these types of crimes.

“Our Violence against Women and Girls Strategy demonstrates our absolute commitment to tackling the violence and abuse that disproportionately affects women and girls.

“What shone through to the enquiry team throughout the investigations into Emma’s life was her gentle personality, and I want to finish by saying that our thoughts remain with Emma, her family and all those affected by this terrible case.”

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