Officer who led Caldwell murder investigation will 'tell story' to inquiry

Retired detective superintendent Willie Johnston backs calls for a public inquiry into the investigation of Emma's murder.

Police officer who led Emma Caldwell murder investigation will ‘tell story’ to inquiry STV News

The retired detective superintendent who led the initial inquiry into Emma Caldwell’s murder has welcomed Iain Packer’s conviction.

Willie Johnston, who was the case’s senior investigating officer, also backed calls by Emma’s mother Margaret for a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the investigation into her death.

Johnston, who retired in 2006, said: “I welcome the court verdict, which gives the Caldwell family the justice they have deserved but waited on for far too long. 

“I welcome the involvement of the press earlier, which brought matters about the case to light and led to a re-investigation. 

“I also welcome calls for a judicial public inquiry and more than content to tell my story there.”

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Emma’s murder inquiry comprised of two parallel operations – codenamed Grail and Guard – with one operation focusing on Packer and the other on a group of Turkish men.

Officers working on the intelligence-led Operation Grail believe they had enough evidence to convict Iain Packer of Emma’s murder for almost two decades.

Over a period of several months, Packer gave six voluntary statements. By the time he spoke to another retired police officer, Davie Barr, his story had changed – not only did he know Emma, he had taken her to woods in South Lanarkshire.

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Packer agreed to go with police to that location in 2007. Emma’s body was found just yards from where he told detectives to park.

Packer remained a witness, but not a suspect, at that particular point time.

This was because Operation Guard was focused on a group of Turkish men. One of them had made the last call to Emma’s mobile.

Four men were arrested as part of Operation Guard in 2007 but the quality of evidence was challenged and the case collapsed.

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

First Minister Humza Yousaf met with Margaret, other members of Emma’s family and lawyer Aamer Anwar at Bute House on Tuesday following Packer’s conviction last month.

Emma’s family has been promised a decision “within days” on whether there will be a public inquiry into failings that allowed one of the UK’s worst sex offenders to walk free for 17 years.

In a statement outside Bute House in Edinburgh after the meeting, Anwar said the family does not accept there have been significant changes in the police since the 2005 murder.

He said: “How many women have to die or be raped before our police service and criminal justice system is held to account?

“We welcome the public statements of Humza Yousaf on tacking misogyny and violence against women, and we hope he will now commit to a robust and independent public inquiry on the catastrophic failures in the Emma Caldwell case.

“We appreciate that the Government will seek the views of the Lord Advocate and Chief Constable, whom we will also meet over the next two days, but they cannot be allowed to investigate themselves.

“Both institutions of Crown Office and the police must answer as to why one of the worst sex offenders in the UK was gifted his freedom for some 17 years.”

Police Scotland has apologised to Emma’s family and Packer’s other victims, admitting they were “let down” by policing.

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.

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.

Iain Packer.Contributed

“We know that evidence exists that the abduction, rape and murder of Emma Caldwell and the subsequent rapes of women might have been prevented or at least disrupted had allegations against Packer been properly investigated,” Anwar said on Tuesday.

He said the family was angered by reports that an independent Crown Office investigation had concluded there was “insufficient evidence of criminality on the part of any police officer involved in the investigation of Emma Caldwell’s murder”.

“Such a conclusion is insulting to the family and contrasts sharply with the evidence presented by former police officers of their investigation into Iain Packer being sabotaged, in order to pursue a false allegation against four Turkish men,” Anwar said.

“Both institutions of Crown Office and the Police must answer as to why one of the worst sex offenders in the UK was gifted his freedom for some 17 years,” he added.

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