Public inquiry to be held into police investigation of Emma Caldwell murder

Police Scotland admit the family of Emma Caldwell, and Iain Packer’s other victims, were ‘let down’

Tara Cobham
Thursday 07 March 2024 19:08 GMT
Public inquiry into Emma Caldwell’s murder announced by Scotland’s justice secretary

A public inquiry is to be held into the police investigation of the murder of Emma Caldwell after it took almost two decades to bring her killer to justice.

It was announced on Thursday that preparations for an independent, judge-led statutory inquiry to examine the police response to the 27-year-old’s murder will start immediately – with consideration being given to whether a judge from outside of Scotland should be appointed to take the work forward.

Angela Constance, Scotland’s justice secretary, said: “There can be no doubt of the serious failings that brought a grieving family to have to fight for their right, for Emma’s right to justice.”

It comes after Ms Constance and Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf met with Miss Caldwell’s mother Margaret earlier this week, who has been calling for a public inquiry into the failings surrounding the investigation into the murder of her daughter.

Emma Caldwell was killed by serial rapist Iain Packer in 2005 (PA Media)

Miss Caldwell was killed by serial rapist Iain Packer in 2005. But although he was interviewed by police officers the month after her body was found in May that year, it was only last week that Packer was convicted of her murder – along with 11 rapes and 21 further charges, including sexual assaults and abduction, against multiple women over 26 years.

Packer, 51, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 36 years at the High Court in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Police Scotland has apologised to the family of Miss Caldwell and Packer’s other victims, saying they were “let down” by policing in 2005.

Following the justice secretary’s announcement, Mrs Caldwell said her fight for justice for her daughter “isn’t finished yet”.

The family’s lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said the apology from police was “not accepted” and ruled out the Met investigating as an external force. He said: “Iain Packer raped and raped again, and was allowed to do so because the police covered up, and continued to cover up.”

Margaret Caldwell, the mother of murder victim Emma Caldwell, listens from the public gallery as justice secretary Angela Constance speaks (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

In a statement to reporters outside Holyrood, Mr Anwar added: “Every single person who had fingerprints on this case must be brought to a public inquiry, must be subject to criminal investigations. This is the worst scandal ever to hit the Scottish legal system and one of the worst in UK legal history. I can’t put it any plainer than the fact that this man was given his freedom.”

Announcing the inquiry at Holyrood, Ms Constance told members of the Scottish Parliament that Mrs Caldwell said to her: “

As Mrs Caldwell looked on from the public gallery at Holyrood, Ms Constance told members of the Scottish Parliament: “Following that meeting with the Caldwell family, I can today announce that there will be an independent, judge-led, statutory public inquiry, and preparations will begin immediately.”

Iain Packer was jailed for life with a minimum term of 36 years at the High Court in Glasgow on Wednesday (PA Media)

With Packer having announced he plans to appeal both his convictions and sentence, Ms Constance stressed there are “restrictions” on what she can say about the case.

Miss Caldwell was reported missing by her family in April 2005 and her body was found the following month in Limefield Woods, near Biggar, South Lanarkshire.

In 2015, a Sunday Mail newspaper story branded Packer “the forgotten suspect” and Police Scotland launched a re-investigation of the case that year following instruction from the Lord Advocate.

Mrs Caldwell previously said her husband Willie died of cancer and “with a broken heart” in 2011 before seeing justice for his daughter. She said her daughter always said she would come home and sort herself out, adding “every day it breaks my heart” that she never got the chance.

Ms Constance and Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf met with Miss Caldwell’s mother Margaret earlier this week (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

The justice secretary’s announcement comes after Mrs Caldwell also this week met Police Scotland chief constable Jo Farrell and Scotland’s most senior prosecutor, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC – who revealed Packer could have been prosecuted for the murder back in 2008.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay praised the Caldwell family and Margaret in particular, saying their “strength and their dignity are truly humbling”. He added: “Left to Police Scotland and the Crown Office, I believe that Iain Packer would certainly still be out there – raping women with impunity.”

Scottish Labour justice spokeswoman Pauline McNeill said: “It is the job of this Parliament to ensure no family should ever have to wait two decades for justice. Scottish Labour stands full square behind the government and Angela Constance today in her decision to hold a public inquiry to establish why, among other things, there was no prosecution in 2008 when it appeared the police and the Crown had enough evidence to do so.”

Emma Caldwell’s mother Margaret Caldwell along with her family and their lawyer, Aamer Anwar arrive at Bute House for a meeting with First Minister Humza Yousaf on Tuesday (Getty Images)

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “The chief constable met Emma Caldwell’s family earlier this week and personally apologised for the failings of policing.

“We are aware of announcements today by both the Scottish Government and the Lord Advocate.

“We will fully support the public inquiry and any further police investigation.”

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC said: “Margaret Caldwell and her family suffered an unimaginable loss which was compounded by a painful wait to see Emma’s memory honoured through justice being done. I have been humbled and inspired by the family’s commitment to shining a light on what happened.

“In my meeting with the family, I apologised to them for the prosecution service not doing more sooner. Emma and all of the women harmed by Packer deserved better.

“I am full of admiration for the women who gave evidence in Packer’s trial. Any woman coming forward to report when they have been a victim of violence at the hands of a man must be listened to. As Lord Advocate, I am determined that Scottish prosecutors will do all they can to build up trust among women and secure justice for them.

“The way the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and Police Scotland work together has been transformed in recent years. There are new structures which, allied with changed attitudes, mean that allegations of violence against women are heard and acted upon.

“With respect to criminal actions of police, I am taking advice on instructing a force from outside Scotland to look further at allegations against officers. As previously stated, the Crown has reserved its position in relation to potential proceedings should evidence in support of those become available.”

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