Public inquiry into police failings in murder investigation of Emma Caldwell confirmed

7 March 2024, 18:41

Margaret Caldwell who has campaigned for a public inquiry into her daughter Emma's murder.
Margaret Caldwell has campaigned for a public inquiry into her daughter Emma's murder. Picture: Alamay

By Gina Davidson

An independent public inquiry into the police handling of the Emma Caldwell murder investigation will go ahead, Scotland’s justice secretary has announced.

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Last week Iain Packer, 51, was jailed for life after being found guilty of strangling the 27-year-old in 2005. He had been interviewed by police a month after her body was found but it took 19 years to bring him to justice.

Emma's family have said they believe police should be held to account for failures in investigating the case.

Today they were told by the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, Scotland’s top law officer, that when she worked in the prosecution service in 2008, she instructed the police there was “sufficient evidence” to charge Packer. Bain has also now pledged to bring in an external force to investigate both legacy force Strathclyde and Police Scotland’s actions.

But the confirmation of a public inquiry was made in Holyrood Justice Secretary Angela Constance - who also said it would need to be led by a judge from outwith Scotland.

She told MSPs what Emma Caldwell's mother Margaret said to her: “My daughter Emma and the many victims who so courageously spoke up deserve nothing less than a robust, independent public inquiry and a judge who will act without fear or favour.

“There are those who say that such inquiries take too long. My family have struggled for 19 years to get justice and we will wait however long it takes to see the truth, and will accept nothing less.”

Police Scotland has already apologised to Emma’s family and his other victims, saying they were "let down" by policing in 2005.

Today the Caldwell family said that apology was not accepted - and revealed the Lord Advocate had told them there was evidence to prosecute Packer in 2008.

Packer, 51, was sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow last week after being found guilty of murdering Emma as well as 11 rapes and 21 other charges, including sexual assaults, against other women.

In a statement outside Holyrood, Aamer Anwar, the lawyer representing Emma Caldwell's family, said: "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."

He ruled out the Met investigating as an external force, given its previous Deputy Commissioner Stephen House was the first Chief Constable of Police Scotland from 2012-2018, and before that Chief Constable at Strathclyde police force from 2007..

Mr Anwar said: "That apology is not accepted. Officers who retired or who sabotaged the case must face justice. Iain Packer raped and raped again, and was allowed to do so because the police covered up, and continued to cover up.

“There must be no connection to the Met because Stephen House is quite clearly an individual who has fingerprints all over this case and he also must come to a public inquiry and potentially a criminal investigation, and answer as to what happened on his watch”.

He added: "The Lord Advocate confirmed that had the solicitor general and her instruction been followed through by Strathclyde Police, on the available evidence in 2008 the Lord Advocate and her team believe there was a sufficiency for prosecuting Iain Packer for murder.

“The Lord Advocate apologised today and said the Crown Office should have done more and failed to do so after 2008."

Mr Anwar said Ms Bain and the then solicitor general asked Strathclyde Police to re-investigate the case using new officers in 2008, but it was "impossible to work out what happened after that instruction was given".

He accused the police of a "cover up" and said "criminality has never been fully investigated by Police Scotland.”

Ms Bain said she is taking advice on instructing an external police force to investigate the actions of police.

Police Scotland said they "fully support any further police investigation".

Mr Anwar said: "Today the family paid tribute to the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC and her prosecution team who have been unwavering in their commitment to justice, without her leadership, the work of the Crown Office and the present police murder team, justice would have been buried forever."

Ms Bain 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.

"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."

She said the way Police Scotland and the Crown Office work together has been "transformed" in recent years and "allegations of violence against women are heard and acted upon".

Margaret Caldwell was asked about her feelings after the announcement that there will be an inquiry into her daughter's murder and the fight for justice.She said: "It isn't finished yet."

Miss Caldwell's brother Jamie said it was "difficult to tell at this stage" how to feel about the announcement.

Aamer Anwar, said: "For a mother, today is a chance for a legacy for Emma Caldwell and for the victims of sexual violence."Emma's family hope her name will live on long after her killer's name has turned to dust."

Packer is appealing against his conviction and sentence.

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