'Blood on their hands': Family of murdered sex worker Emma Caldwell hit out at police after investigation 'failings'

28 February 2024, 17:47

Emma Caldwell and her mother Margaret
Emma Caldwell and her mother Margaret. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The family of a sex worker who was murdered by a serial rapist have said that police have "blood on their hands" after failing to catch the killer in an initial investigation.

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Iain Packer, 51, has been sentenced to life with a minimum of 36 years after being found guilty of murdering Emma Caldwell in 2005.

Packer was found guilty on Wednesday morning for murdering Ms Caldwell, 27, who went missing in Glasgow on April 4 that year. Her body was found in Limefield Woods, near Roberton, South Lanarkshire, the following month.

He was also convicted of raping 11 women among dozens of other charges, following a six-week trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

Packer was not arrested or charged for 17 years, despite admitting to police that he had paid Ms Caldwell for sex. Other sex workers are said to have reported concerns that Packer was violent before he killed Ms Caldwell.

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Margaret Caldwell
Margaret Caldwell. Picture: Alamy

Ms Caldwell's family said Police Scotland failed their daughter and the rape victims of Packer due to a "toxic culture of misogyny and corruption". They have called for a public inquiry.

Their solicitor said on the court steps that police "failed so many women and girls who came forward to speak up against Packer - instead of receiving justice and compassion, they were humiliated, dismissed and in some instances arrested, whilst the police gifted freedom to an evil predator to rape and rape again.

"We now know Packer carried out rapes, sexual offences and assaults some 19 times after Emma's murder in 2005.

Solicitor Aamer Anwar, beside mother Margaret Caldwell and other family members, reads out a statement
Solicitor Aamer Anwar, beside mother Margaret Caldwell and other family members, reads out a statement. Picture: Alamy

"Margaret believes that officers sabotaged an investigation into Packer for a decade and have blood on their hands, for far too long they have remained in the shadows, but must now answer for their betrayal."

The solicitor added: "Whatever a woman's job, whatever woman's status, wherever a woman's addictions or vulnerabilities, it should never be used as a reason to ignore sexual violence or to treat them as second-class citizens."

Police Scotland has apologised for the failings.

Assistant Chief Constable Bex Smith said: "Police Scotland launched a re-investigation of the case in 2015 after instruction from the Lord Advocate.

The site where Emma Caldwell was murdered in Limefield Woods, South Lanarkshire
The site where Emma Caldwell was murdered in Limefield Woods, South Lanarkshire. Picture: Alamy

"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."

Miss Caldwell vanished days after telling her mother Margaret about her hopes to kick a heroin addiction, which began following a family bereavement in her early 20s.

She came from a close-knit family and saw both parents twice a week and spoke to them daily, and was reported missing after she failed to respond to attempts by them to change a planned meeting.

A dog walker found Miss Caldwell's body in woodland, with a "garotte" around her neck, on May 8, 2005.

During Packer's trial, the court heard a soil sample taken in 2021 from the site where Miss Caldwell's body was found was a "97% match" with soil found in his blue work van, and Packer was charged by police in February 2022.

Packer denied all the charges - accusing all the women of lying - but admitted during evidence that he indecently assaulted Miss Caldwell.

He said he was "ashamed" of his actions towards her, and described his behaviour towards another sex workers as "disgusting".

But he denied murdering Miss Caldwell in his evidence, telling the court: "It wasn't me who killed her. It wasn't me. I didn't do anything to her."

The trial heard evidence from multiple women about Packer's brutal attacks on them.

Prosecutor Richard Goddard KC described Packer as a "violent" and "obsessive" user of sex workers with an "unhealthy addiction" to procuring their services.

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