Detectives let Emma Caldwell’s killer go free and investigated journalists who revealed his identity

Emma Caldwell
Emma Caldwell's family led a campaign to have the inquiry into her murder reopened - POLICE SCOTLAND/PA WIRE

Scottish police investigated journalists who revealed the identity of a murderer instead of acting on their claims, it has emerged as the killer, a serial sex offender, was finally convicted after almost 20 years.

After Iain Packer, 51, was convicted on Wednesday for the 2005 murder of Emma Caldwell, a 27-year-old Glasgow sex worker, Police Scotland issued an apology for a catalogue of blunders in the investigation.

Packer was also convicted of a catalogue of other serious sexual and violent offences over a period of over 25 years.

He was finally charged in 2022 after a BBC podcast pinpointed him as the prime suspect. But in 2015, the Sunday Mail newspaper had branded him the “forgotten suspect” and claimed authorities had “concealed him”.

Iain Packer
Iain Packer, who was overlooked as a suspect while police focused on four innocent men - POLICE SCOTLAND/PA

Rather than act on the claims, Police Scotland launched an investigation into the newspaper’s sources.

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruled in 2022 that Police Scotland breached the rights of Jim Wilson, the newspaper’s editor at the time, with the probe.

Six years earlier, it found the force acted “unlawfully” when looking at the cases of individuals whose data was accessed as the force tried to determine how information about the murder investigation reached the press.

Iain Packer is interviewed by police in 2022
Iain Packer is interviewed by police in 2022, 17 years after he murdered Emma Caldwell and seven after he was linked to the crime by a newspaper - POLICE SCOTLAND/PA

Packer had been interviewed early in the investigation but police instead sank millions of pounds into a complex investigation into four  Turkish men who were innocent of the murder of Ms Caldwell.

Along with Ms Caldwell’s murder, Packer was convicted of 32 other charges, including 11 rapes and multiple sexual assaults against 22 women between 1990 and 2016.

Speaking after the conviction, Mr Wilson said Police Scotland and prosecutors must be held accountable for their failures.

“Iain Packer will finally pay for his crimes but police and prosecutors who allowed him to remain free for almost 20 years must also be held to account,” Mr Wilson said.

“Police Scotland and the Crown Office did nothing because it was professionally embarrassing to admit mistakes and put them right.

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

“The decision to investigate our sources instead of reopening the inquiry was appalling but only one example of the official
concealment, delay and denial that has characterised this scandal.”

Emma Caldwell's mother Margaret looks on with other family members as lawyer Aamer Anwar gives a statement outside court
Emma Caldwell's mother Margaret looks on with other family members as lawyer Aamer Anwar gives a statement outside court - JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES

Ms Caldwell’s body was discovered  in Limefield Woods, near Biggar, Lanarkshire, on April 5 2005.

The Turkish men were arrested and charged with her murder before the case against them collapsed when it emerged apparently incriminating tapes from a bugging operation were based on faulty Turkish to English translations.

Packer was repeatedly dismissed as a suspect because of the belief from senior officers that the Turkish men were responsible.

Margaret Caldwell after seeing her daughter's murderer brought to justice after nearly 20 years
Margaret Caldwell after seeing her daughter's murderer brought to justice after nearly 20 years - JEFF J MITCHELL/GETTY IMAGES

Aamer Anwar, the lawyer who represented Ms Caldwell’s family, said that a “toxic culture of misogyny and corruption” within the police left Packer free to prey on women.

He claimed women and girls who made allegations against Packer were “humiliated, dismissed and in some instances arrested” meaning police had “gifted freedom to an evil predator to rape and rape again”.

Brave women ‘did not get the justice they deserved’

Bex Smith, assistant chief constable for major crime and public protection at Police Scotland, admitted Ms Caldwell, her family and “many other victims” had been “let down by policing in 2005”, and issued an apology.

“A significant number of women and girls who showed remarkable courage to speak up at that time also did not get the justice and support they needed and deserved from Strathclyde Police,” she said.

“Iain Packer was a calculating sexual predator who targeted women over many years. It is hard to comprehend how anyone could carry out such despicable, ruthless acts.

“We have reflected and learnt from the initial investigation and subsequent re–investigation.

“Significant changes have been made in recent years to improve our organisational culture and our response, particularly in respect of investigative structures, victim care and processes to these types of crimes.”