Emma Caldwell: Public inquiry into botched murder investigation announced

Scottish justice secretary Angela Constance confirmed that a judge-led inquiry will examine police failings during the Emma Caldwell murder probe.

Scotland’s justice secretary has announced a public inquiry into the handling of the Emma Caldwell murder investigation.

Angela Constance was visibly emotional when she confirmed during an urgent statement to Holyrood that a judge-led independent inquiry would begin immediately.

First Minister Humza Yousaf has come under pressure from Emma Caldwell’s family as well as opposition politicians to announce a probe.

He said last week that he wanted to meet with the family first and on Tuesday he met with Margaret Caldwell, Emma’s mother.

Emma was killed by serial rapist Iain Packer in 2005 – but while he was interviewed by police officers the month after her body was found in May that year, it was only last week he was convicted of her murder, along with a series of rapes and other offences.

Police Scotland has already apologised to the family and his other victims, saying they were “let down” by policing in 2005.

Chief constable Jo Farrell said she backed calls for a public inquiry which will look into the force’s failings during the case.

Emma Caldwell's mother Margaret in Holyrood as the Scottish Government confirmed a public inquiry into her daughter's murder.

Constance said: “Margaret Caldwell and her family have waited far too long to get justice for Emma. I have expressed directly to them on behalf of the Scottish Government how deeply sorry we are for their loss, and for the pain and grief they have had to endure.

“Nineteen years have elapsed between Emma’s murder and a conviction, showing serious failings occurred in the investigation. Given this, along with the gravity of this case, the length of time that it took for justice to be served for so many women and the horrific extent of the sexual violence suffered by the victims and survivors, the case for holding a public inquiry is overwhelming. 

“The family want to have answers and deserve nothing less. The First Minister made clear that we would give serious consideration to the Caldwell family’s call for a public inquiry after hearing directly from Margaret Caldwell and her family, and pledged we would do so quickly.

“I am glad that now we have been able to answer their call by announcing that we will set up a public inquiry.”

Constance said it was time the police’s handling of the Caldwell case came under “fresh scrutiny” to understand what went wrong, what lessons can be learned and to provide answers to all of Iain Packer’s victims.

She continued: “I have asked my officials to start immediate preparatory work to set up an inquiry. As part of that work they will explore different options for who would lead such an inquiry.

“After discussing this with the family we are in agreement that what is most important is that the person who leads the Inquiry has the confidence of the family, understands their trauma and has the necessary expertise to lead an Inquiry of this nature and importance.

“This includes looking at judiciary within and outwith Scotland. To be clear I have faith and confidence in the independence and integrity of the Scottish judiciary.

“There is, however, some precedence in looking beyond Scotland for a chair and at this stage it is important to explore every option.”

Justice secretary Angela Constance announces the inquiry into Emma Caldwell’s murder.

Last week, Packer was jailed for life after being found guilty at the High Court in Glasgow of murdering 27-year-old Emma in 2005 and of multiple sex offences involving 22 other women.

The serial rapist had been a suspect in the case but it took nearly two decades before he was charged.

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

Packer has lodged an appeal against all convictions and his sentence.

He committed 19 of his crimes after murdering Emma, “believing he had lifelong immunity” due to police inaction, a press conference with her family on Wednesday was told.

Caldwell lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said Packer is now “irrelevant to the family”, and their focus is on the authorities.

Criticising authorities, he said evidence existed to prosecute Emma’s murderer in 2008.

Emma’s mother Margaret met Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC at the Crown Office in Edinburgh on Thursday, ahead of an announcement of a public inquiry into the botched investigation of her daughter’s murder.

Speaking outside the Crown Office following the meeting on Thursday, Anwar said: “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.”

Anwar said 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”.

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”.

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.”

Margaret Caldwell, other members of Emma's family and lawyer Aamer Anwar at Bute House.STV News

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 and the family met Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell on Wednesday, and the officer apologised to them and the families of Packer’s other victims for having been “let down by policing in 2005” and backed calls for an inquiry.

She said: “We have reflected and learned from the initial investigation and subsequent re-investigation. Significant changes have been made to improve organisational culture and response, particularly in respect of investigative structures, victim care and processes to these types of crimes.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said on Thursday: “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.”

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