Who is the real Emma Caldwell? The timid, polite girl behind the headlines

Friends and caseworkers recount the woman they knew in the weeks and months leading up to Emma's murder in 2005.

Emma Caldwell’s name became synonymous with one of Scotland’s most high-profile unsolved murders.

An image of her with curly blonde hair and blue eyes appeared countless times in newspapers and on nightly television news bulletins.

People walking around Glasgow city centre were confronted with posters featuring a photo of Emma, urging them to come forward with information about her murder


The public knew her as a victim, a drug addict, a sex worker.

But she was also a daughter, a sister and a friend to many.

Aged just 27, her life ended in the most harrowing circumstances. She was subject to the “most appalling course of violence” by Iain Packer over a period of two decades.

Prosecutor Richard Goddard KC told jurors in his closing speech that Emma’s murder was the “most horrifying chapter” in that cycle of violence.

In the years leading up to her death, Emma was living at Inglefield Hostel in Govanhill, which housed homeless women in the city.

Anne McIlveen remembers the day that Emma arrived.

Anne McIlveen.STV News

“When I first met Emma, I met her outside the church and she was crying”, she told STV News.

“She was ready to go into the hostel and I said to her, ‘come on in and get a wee cup of tea’. I didn’t know her at this point and she came in and I spent two-and-half-hours with her breaking her heart.

“She hated what she was involved in. She told me all about her sister. She told me about her horses and that she had a normal life. She came for a loving family and she was just caught up with drugs.

“Later I was heartbroken to see a deterioration in Emma from then onwards.”

Teenage Emma Caldwell on horseback.Aamer Anwar & Company

Anne has now retired from a Christian ministry called Salt and Light that worked to support women in Glasgow.

The ministry ran a drop-in service from a bus in a church car park opposite the hostel where Emma lived.

Anne says she knew Emma for around two years before she vanished.

She added: “After Emma’s body was found, the volunteers started taking registration numbers.

“A couple of the volunteers would just walk around the circuit of the drag and when they saw a lassie get in a car, they would take the registration and the make and model of the car.

“And we would just pray that they would come back.

“One of the girls came over to the church and asked if we had seen Emma. I just had a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach and I thought, ‘no, she is away’.

“It was a journalist that phoned and told me that her body had been found. I just broke. It was soul-destroying because that was one that I really thought that we could have saved.

“She did want to go into rehab. She was desperate, but Emma never got the chance to live her life. It was taken away from her.”

Aamer Anwar & Company

Anne welcomed Packer’s conviction on Wednesday, saying it had “been a long time coming”.

“It’s been a long process but I just thank God that’s been brought into the light and it can be dealt with,” she said.

“Packer is a monster. An absolute monster. I do think that there needs to be an inquiry into why he wasn’t reinvestigated sooner.

“Emma has been in my thoughts for 15 plus years. I’m so proud of her mum. She never gave up. She went to the highest in the land for it to get justice for her daughter.”

STV News also spoke to two former sex workers who were friends of Emma and victims of Packer.

Both of them turned to sex work from the age of 15.

Nicki (not her real name) said Wednesday’s guilty verdict meant closure for her and many of his other victims.

Iain Packer.STV News

“It means I can finally put a lid on that box and nail it shut forever – knowing he will never walk the streets again and never hurt another person,” she told STV News.

“He is a danger to all women.

“Giving evidence about what happened to me was hard but I felt that I had to do it for Emma. It wasn’t something that I could ignore and watch for a distance because I felt every word said could give Emma’s mum the peace she deserves and the justice that Emma deserves.

“That’s important to me because my mum still sees her daughter walking through the door and there’s a mum that wishes she had that. Packer has taken that from her, so if I can take his liberty, I will.”

Nicki recalled how she was living at the hostel on Inglefield Street at the same time as Emma.

Inglefield House. STV News

She said: “We had the same group of friends. She was a nice girl and we always stopped and spoke to each while we were out on Cadogan Street.

“Emma wasn’t built like us. She wasn’t streetwise or hardened to it like us. She was timid, polite and well-spoken.

“I put Iain Packer’s name in the beware book at Base 75 (intervention team for street sex workers) at least twice and I know he was put in there by other girls several more times. The police failed Emma and us, big time.”

Claire, not her real name, added: “I knew Emma from the town and we’d chat about if it was busy. Drugs was the common bond. We were all in the same circumstances.

“When I heard what had happened to Emma, I came off the streets straight away because I was scared.

“The police presence just blew up and it really difficult for us to work. I was small and blonde at the time.

“The police told me at first they thought it was me so came to my door to double check I was there. People had a type and Iain Packer liked blonde, small, skinny and on drugs. Really vulnerable girls, which I was at the time.”

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