Public inquiry announced into Emma Caldwell murder investigation

Scotland’s Justice Secretary has announced an independent, judge-led statutory public inquiry will be held to examine the police response to the murder of Emma Caldwell almost 20 years ago.

The announcement comes after both Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf and his Justice Secretary Angela Constance met with the murdered woman’s mother earlier this week.

Miss Caldwell was killed by serial rapist Iain Packer in 2005 – but while he was interviewed by police 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 of Miss Caldwell and his other victims, saying they were “let down” by policing in 2005.

Emma Caldwell murder
Emma Caldwell’s body was found in 2005 (family handout/Aamer Anwar/PA)

She said Mrs Caldwell told her: “My daughter Emma and the many victims who so courageously spoke up deserve nothing less than a robust, independent public inquiry and a judge who will act without fear or favour.

“There are those who say that such inquiries take too long. My family have struggled for 19 years to get justice and we will wait however long it takes to see the truth, and will accept nothing less.

Ms Constance told MSPs: “Following that meeting with the Caldwell family, I can today announce that there will be an independent, judge led, statutory public inquiry, and preparations will begin immediately.”

She said consideration is being given to whether a judge from outside of Scotland should be appointed to take the work forward.

Angela Constance
Scottish Justice Secretary Angela Constance announced the inquiry during a ministerial statement at Holyrood (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Ms Constance said: “Nineteen years have elapsed between Emma’s murder and a conviction and there can be no doubt of the serious failings that brought a grieving family to have to fight for their right, for Emma’s right to justice.”

Packer, 51, was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 36 years at the High Court in Glasgow last week after being found guilty of murdering the 27-year-old in 2005, as well as 11 rapes and 21 other charges, including sexual assaults, against other women.

With Packer having announced he plans to appeal both his convictions and sentence, Ms Constance stressed there are “restrictions” on what she can say about the case.

The announcement comes after Mrs Caldwell also this week met Police Scotland Chief Constable Jo Farrell and Scotland’s most senior prosecutor, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC – who revealed Packer could have been prosecuted for the murder back in 2008.

Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay praised the Caldwell family and Margaret in particular, saying their “strength and their dignity are truly humbling”.

Margaret Caldwell
Margaret Caldwell wiped her eyes as she looked on at Holyrood to hear the announcement of a public inquiry into her daughter’s murder case (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“But let me be clear, the only reason that her daughter’s killer is now behind bars is because of her love and her strength.

“Left to Police Scotland and the Crown Office, I believe that Iain Packer would certainly still be out there – raping women with impunity.”

Mr Findlay pushed the Justice Secretary on whether the judge appointed to lead the inquiry will come from outside Scotland, with Ms Constance saying she is “open” to the suggestion.

Scottish Labour justice spokeswoman Pauline McNeill said: “It is the job of this Parliament to ensure no family should ever have to wait two decades for justice.

“Scottish Labour stands full square behind the Government and Angela Constance today in her decision to hold a public inquiry to establish why, among other things, there was no prosecution in 2008 when it appeared the police and the Crown had enough evidence to do so.

“A public inquiry must get to the truth of this – and that includes questioning all of the criminal justice agencies who have questions to answer.”

Ms McNeill went on to back a judge from outside of Scotland being appointed to head the inquiry, and urged Ms Constance to ensure the probe begins “in a timely manner”.

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