Police and Crown 'must explain' why Packer was not prosecuted ten years ago

The murder inquiry into Emma Caldwell's death comprised of two parallel operations - one focusing on Iain Packer and the other on a group of Turkish men.

Retired detectives believe Police Scotland and the Crown Office wasted time and money pursuing the wrong suspects in the Emma Caldwell murder investigation.

They also believe they had enough evidence to convict Iain Packer of Emma’s murder for almost two decades.

The 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.

Ex-detective Davie Barr, who questioned Packer and went to the woods with him, was part of the intelligence-led Operation Grail.

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

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.

Former detective Davie Barr.STV News

Mr Barr told STV News: “He took us down into the fir trees. There was still a kind of shrine. which I hadn’t seen. and you got a shiver up your back.

“If we had dealt with him as a suspect, we would probably have got the truth from him. That is my feeling. He was slowly, slowly giving everything up.”

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.

“The location where Emma’s body was found was probably one of the most unique locations I’ve experienced in my time in the police,” said Barr.

“He had the ability or the power to do what he wanted to these girls down there and he subsequently, when I took the statement, that he was getting more and more aggressive and more demanding of the girls. He always wanted the girls to be naked.

“Myself and my colleague were told that no matter what he tells you, he will not be an accused for the murder of Emma. We didn’t know what evidence Operation Guard had that was so strong that that would have been the case?”

Meanwhile, in the parallel investigation, surveillance set up in a Glasgow café produced what police believed to be were tapes of incriminating conversations.

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

Lawyer Aamer Anwar was instructed to act on behalf of one of the Turkish men accused of Emma’s murder.

He said: “It begs the question that in 2005, Emma is murdered. In 2007, the four Turkish men are falsely accused of the crime, one of whom happened to be my client. We knew very early-on as defence lawyers – Iain Packer is in the frame.

“We knew there was evidence there. Police officers within Strathclyde Police at the time knew it was him, so you had two distinct teams. Yet, for some reason, those police officers had their lives ruined, their careers ruined, the ones who pointed the finger at Iain Packer.

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“And the ones who were involved in going after the false occasion – because they were false, it wasn’t the four Turkish men – they went on to bigger and better things.

“And we are now asking for a full statutory inquiry into the actions of Strathclyde Police – and Police Scotland after that – and those individuals whose fingerprints were on this case because six of those women, apart from Emma, are now dead, they never saw justice.

“We have no criticism of Police Scotland’s team, who since 2016 have admirably shown the utmost professionalism, worked day and night, as have the Crown Office. They have thrown everything at this, they worked day and night, were full of compassion and empathy, and they were the Crown Office and the police at its finest.

“But that shows why those who went before must answer for their actions because they’re still working. All those women that appeared in the High Court, that spoke up bravely – more bravely than those officers that went after the Turks, more bravely than any of those officers that perpetuated a lie, they deserve answers.”

By 2015, Emma’s murder remained unsolved and Packer was dubbed the forgotten suspect.

“For the police to evolve, they need to learn with their mistakes and the mistakes made in that inquiry were inexcusable, to be honest with you,” said Mr Barr.

“It was not the 70s, it was 2005. Police Scotland then had the ability to solve that murder without covert inquiries and operation Grail solved that and we were just we were told to forget all that.”

Seven weeks after this Sunday Mail front page on April 5, 2017, the then Lord Advocate agreed to reopen the murder investigation but it was another seven years before Packer was arrested.

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Brendan McGinty, the former deputy editor of the Sunday Mail, said: “It was almost shocking to me that this man existed and that a case, which had lay dormant for so long, had done so with this person clearly having been on the police radar.

“This is somebody who elicited extreme reactions from people. There was one door which I knocked to attempt to identify a picture that we’ve taken of Iain Packer.

“A woman who looked at it and closed the door on me straight away. She later got a message back to me telling me that the reason she had done that was that she felt that she was going to be physically sick.”

Brendan McGinty - Sunday Mail.STV News

Mr McGinty says he confronted Packer at his home in South Lanarkshire, asking him if he had anything to say to Emma’s family.

“I asked him what he had to say about his status as a suspect and directly asked them the question of whether he killed Emma Caldwell.

“He had nothing to say to any of that and in fact ran away. He ran away round to the back of his house and created such a scene that neighbours came out from surrounding houses.

“The point has to be made now that Iain Packer’s conviction cannot be the end of the story. It has to be the beginning of a re-examination of why it took so long. Not just in between 2015 and now, but since Emma Caldwell’s body was found and the passage of time that it took until Iain Packer’s conviction.

“We know, for example, that the case against the Turkish suspects collapsed and then nothing seemed to happen very quickly after that, for years and years, despite the existence of this viable suspect. I think what the public deserves to know now, exactly why that happened.”

During the trial, jurors traced the journey Emma would have taken with her killer – more than 40 miles down the M74.

Packer had claimed he found this remote spot by chance and it was used by others. With no blood, DNA or fingerprints, it was soil recovered in the footwell of Packer’s van that proved to be the most damning piece of evidence.

It was a 97% match with samples taken from a molehill next to where Emma’s body was found.

Limefield Woods.STV News

Almost 19 years on Packer, handcuffed to a guard was using a walking stick when he was brought back to these woods.

He was wearing a face mask as jurors walked past him while they viewed this site during this trial. He remained impassive as he stood by the ditch where he had dumped Emma’s body “

Mr Barr said: “What can you say about somebody that gets a pleasure from raping women? Murdering women? Just an out and out liar. He is just a despicable person.”

Jim Wilson, who was editor when The Sunday Mail exposed Iain Packer in April 2015, said Police Scotland and the Crown Office must now be compelled to explain why Packer was not prosecuted ten years before and why, after his exposure, the reopened inquiry took another nine years.

He said: “Iain Packer will finally pay for his crimes but the police and prosecutors who allowed him to remain free for almost 20 years must now also be held to account.

“Police Scotland and the Crown Office had the evidence to convict Packer for almost two decades but did nothing because it was too professionally embarrassing to admit their mistakes and put them right.

“A killer was concealed because the authorities did not want to explain a murder investigation that lasted two and half years, cost £4m, targeted the wrong men and left the prime suspect free to commit more crimes and inflict more grief and misery.”

Retired detective Michael McCarron was the family liaison officer for the Caldwell family and latterly interviewed and charged one of the Turkish men with Emma’s murder

“It’s such a monumental error by the police really,” he said. “I’m a bit embarrassed by all to be honest with you, but if I thought it was my fault, then I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you.

Michael McCarron.STV News

“It’s dreadful and the people who are responsible should really hang their heads in shame.

“Obviously, I’ve been quite outspoken about this throughout my service since Emma’s murder, and quite honestly, I think it’s a disgrace.

“Iain Packer was known to the police in 2005 and in 2007, the decision was made to go down a different route and charge the Turkish suspects with the murder.

“But when that case collapsed at the end of 2007, it’s always puzzled and annoyed me that we never went back immediately and looked at Iain Packer. He certainly was never investigated as thoroughly as he should have been at the time. The fact we didn’t is shameful really.

“It’s now 2024 – almost 19 years later to get justice for Emma’s family and I just think that’s an absolute disgrace. After the Turkish case collapsed, why would you not reinvestigate it?

“Particularly when there is a clear suspect there – Iain Packer.”

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