A former prison officer who murdered his friend and hid her body in a remote forest has been jailed for life and will serve a minimum of 20 years behind bars.
Ross Willox killed Emma Faulds after arranging to party with her at his home in Monkton, Ayrshire, on Sunday, April 28, 2019.
Ms Faulds was reported missing by her family on April 30, 2019, two days after she was last seen.
Her body was found about six weeks later in Glentrool Forest, in the Galloway Forest, Dumfries and Galloway, after a major search involving specialist officers and search dogs.
Ross Willox, 42, had denied the charges but was found guilty of murder and attempting to defeat the ends of justice following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow in May.
He was sentenced to life with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of 20 years when he returned to the court for sentencing on Tuesday.
Judge Lord Mulholland told him: “You have been convicted of murdering a young woman, Emma Faulds.
“Only you will know what happened in your house that night that led you to murdering your friend.
“Having murdered her, you then embarked on an elaborate scheme to cover up your crime.”
He said that Willox placed the body of Ms Faulds in a shallow grave and covered it up and tried to ensure it would decompose more quickly by placing it in a wet area.
The judge said: “You had hoped and expected that she would never be found, and her devoted family would have to spend the rest of their lives wondering – wondering why she disappeared, where she was, and whether she was alive or dead.
“That was wicked of you.”
Willox was convicted of murdering Ms Faulds by unknown means at a property in Monkton, Ayrshire, on April 29, 2019 and of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by various means between April 29 and May 8, 2019.
He concealed the dead body in Monkton and elsewhere and went on to dispose of his friend’s naked body in ground at the end of a remote forestry track in Glentrool Forest, concealing it with soil, clumps of moss and other vegetation.
After Ms Faulds was reported missing, Willox told police he had been partying with her at his flat but said they then went in her car to her flat in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire, where he claimed he left her fit and well.
However, police became suspicious about his movements when they found CCTV footage that showed a man driving her car back to her street.
They then found CCTV footage of Willox driving his Mercedes jeep through Girvan on April 29 towards the Galloway forest area, a region where he had previously worked building wind farms.
He was also captured on CCTV in Ayr before his trip to the forest going to various shops buying bottles of bleach, rubber gloves, shower curtains, tins of outdoor disinfectant and waterproof trousers.
Police said that, put together circumstantially, this painted a suspicious picture of Willox in relation to the disappearance of Ms Faulds.
The Galloway Forest covers an area of about 700 square miles, however, by using specialist techniques, police were able to focus on a search area.
Using cell site analysis from Willox’s phones, overlaid with CCTV analysis and time and distance runs with cars, officers were able to narrow down the search area to 10-15 square miles and the missing woman’s body was recovered on June 12, 2019.
Willox, who became friends with Ms Faulds when they both worked at HMP Kilmarnock, was arrested on May 8, 2019 and later charged with her murder.
Judge Mulholland told Willox: “You were not as clever as you thought you were as your elaborate and deceitful plan provided the clues which led to your downfall.”
He sentenced him to life with a minimum of 20 years for the murder charge, and six years for attempting to defeat the ends of justice, to run concurrently.
Donald Findlay QC, representing Willox, said it would not be appropriate to express any contrition on behalf of the 42-year-old when Willox says he was not responsible.
He said that while what happened will never be known, it appears all was well when drugs were delivered to Mr Willox’s home in the early hours of the morning.
Mr Findlay said: “He is not the kind of person I would have expected to have found himself guilty of a crime of murder, murder of somebody that he knew and cared for – they cared for each other, not in any romantic sense, but as friends.
“Something catastrophic went wrong in the early hours of the morning, and one life was lost.”
Detective inspector Peter Crombie, deputy senior investigating officer on the investigation, described Willox as a “selfish, arrogant monster” and said no motive for the crime has been identified.
David Green, Procurator Fiscal for homicide and major crime, added: “Emma Faulds’ family have suffered a devastating loss and our thoughts are with them as they attempt to come to terms with her murder.
“Ross Willox not only took Ms Faulds’ life, but he then hid her body and tried to cover his tracks, attempting to deny her family the knowledge of what had happened to their loved one.
“It is thanks to painstaking work analysing CCTV footage and mobile phone data that Willox has been brought to justice.”