Family’s anger at police failures as Emma Caldwell’s killer is jailed

Emma Caldwell

Iain Packer has been convicted of murdering Emma Caldwell in remote woods almost 19 years ago.

The 27-year-old’s death in April 2005 had been one of Scotland’s most high-profile unsolved murders.

The sex worker’s body was found in Limefield Woods, South Lanarkshire, in May 2005 – five weeks after she was last seen in Glasgow city centre.

Packer, 51, was found guilty of her murder as well as 32 other charges against a total of 22 women.

The offences included 11 rapes and multiple sexual assaults.

Packer was also found guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by dumping Emma’s body in the woods and disposing of her belongings, and of indecently assaulting her.

He was cleared of a further three charges – one indecent assault and two sexual assaults – against a further three women, after the jury returned not proven verdicts.

Iain Packer

Packer remained impassive in the dock at the High Court in Glasgow as the verdicts were delivered by the jury. He will be sentenced by judge Lord Beckett on Wednesday afternoon.

In the public gallery, Emma’s mother Margaret Caldwell, 76, wept and was comforted by relatives as her daughter’s killer was finally brought to justice.

Emma Caldwell had been living in a hostel in Glasgow at the time she went missing.

She had left home after becoming addicted to heroin and began working as a prostitute to fund her habit.

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Mrs Caldwell told the trial that she last saw her daughter when she dropped her off at the hostel on Sunday 3 April 2005.

She and her late husband, William, searched for Emma for weeks after she went missing.

Packer, who was 32 at the time, had driven Emma to the remote forest near Biggar, where he strangled her and disposed of her naked body.

A major murder inquiry was launched after Emma’s body was discovered by a dog walker the following month.

Over the next two years police took hundreds of statements as they investigated the murder.

Her picture was projected onto a derelict block of flats in Glasgow and a reconstruction featured on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme.

Emma Caldwell

The police investigation originally focused on a Turkish café in the city which was known to be frequented by a number of sex workers.

A small blood stain from Emma was found on a duvet, and in 2007 four Turkish men were charged with her murder.

However, the case collapsed the following year after it emerged that conversations which were recorded during a covert surveillance operation had either been taken out of context or translated incorrectly.

Police Scotland has apologised for how the original inquiry was handled by what was then Strathclyde Police.

“Emma Caldwell, her family and many other victims, were let down by policing in 2005. For that we are sorry,” the force said.

“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.”

A number of women had previously raised concerns about Packer, a man who regularly used sex workers and had a reputation for being aggressive.

He started using prostitutes when he was 18 and would drive to an area known as “the drag” looking to pick women up as often as he could afford. This was how he first met Emma.

He was said to be infatuated by the 27-year-old and would drive around looking for her and scaring off other potential clients.

He picked up Emma on more than one occasion and took her to Limefield Woods once or twice.

CCTV footage of Emma

In 2004, Packer indecently assaulted Emma in the city’s Barrowlands area.

He told police differing versions of how he knew Emma over the course of six different interviews following her murder.

At one point he led officers directly to the wood where Emma’s body had been found.

However, former detectives involved in the inquiry have told BBC Scotland News that senior officers told them not to pursue Packer as a suspect.

Instead, they focussed on the Turkish men who were initially believed to have killed Emma.

After the collapse of the case against the four Turkish men, the murder case went cold until the lord advocate ordered police to re-open the investigation in 2015.

That same year, the Sunday Mail newspaper named former sign fitter Packer as a “forgotten suspect” in the murder inquiry.

In 2018, he contacted the BBC asking to tell his side of the story in an attempt to clear his name.

He was interviewed twice by journalist Sam Poling, whose documentary Who Killed Emma? was broadcast the following year.

One of Packer’s former partners told the murder trial that he was “white as a sheet” after the second interview.

“You could see something had gone badly wrong. It was as if it was all closing in on him,” she said.

Limefield Woods

Just hours after the documentary was broadcast, she contacted police and told them she had been stalked and attacked by Packer.

He was arrested and jailed for two years in February 2020 after pleading guilty.

In February 2022, Packer was arrested and charged with Emma’s murder. He stood trial two years later, accused of dozens of charges of physical and sexual violence against women.

Police Scotland said it had been 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”.

The force described Packer as “a calculating sexual predator who targeted women over many years” and said the re-investigation of the case had been the largest police inquiry of recent times in Scotland.

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