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HMA v Iain Packer


Feb 28, 2024

At the High Court in Glasgow, Lord Beckett sentenced Iain Packer to life imprisonment with a punishment part of 36 years after the offender was convicted of the murder of Emma Caldwell and 32 other serious offences.

On sentencing Lord Beckett made the following remarks in court:

"Mr Packer, you have been found guilty of the murder of Emma Caldwell and a large number of other very serious crimes. For murder, the sentence is fixed by law. You will be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Over more than 25, years you pursued a campaign of violence and appalling sexual mistreatment of a very large number of women. You have caused great harm to so many people as you indulged your pathologically selfish and brutal sexual desires. The women involved resisted and protested but you would not listen. The trauma you caused has led to suffering which has endured for decades as you will now hear from their voices.

I have read statements from eight of the complainers who survive but will refer only to those in respect of whom you have been convicted. I have read a statement from the mother of the complainer on charges 7 and 8. I have read a statement from Emma Caldwell’s mother, brother, and his partner.

In every one of these statements, there is a raw, honest, articulate, and heart-rending account of the terrible and enduring consequences of your actions for those you assaulted and their loved ones.

Mrs Margaret Caldwell explains that from the moment her daughter Emma went missing, her life, already blighted by the premature death of her older daughter, changed forever. Mrs Caldwell has been preoccupied and consumed by Emma’s disappearance and death ever since. The pain she felt on having confirmation that Emma had been murdered was unimaginable. It still endures. She feels it every day. She has been overwhelmed by grief, depression and anxiety. She is haunted by the knowledge that her gifted daughter had spoken of rehabilitation and all the potential she had to look forward to, still only 27 when she died. Mrs Caldwell has been unable to move on with her life, which has strained family relationships. She will never feel closure.

The partner of Emma’s brother describes the burden she has carried in trying to support her partner and his parents whilst seeking to hide her own grief and emotion. She has found the details disclosed in the trial unbearable which has reignited her own grief. She grieves also for the life to come which you stole from Emma.

Emma’s brother relates how such a cruel and sudden death meant he was never able to say his goodbyes to the sister he loved and with whom he shared such a happy childhood. She was kind, always wanting to protect the vulnerable. She had a heart of gold. 

He is tortured by the knowledge of what happened to her and the terror she must have felt. He has suffered anxiety, isolation and extreme grief which has blighted his work and his whole life. He recognises the agony felt by his parents from which they tried to shield him and his partner.

With great compassion and insight he demands justice not only for his sister but for all those other women, he correctly describes as courageous, who have bravely spoken out, opening up old wounds, as a voice for Emma and truth.

The complainer on charges 6, 9 and 10, now realises that she was already suffering from a serious medical condition when you began to rape her. She has never been able to overcome the consequences of what you did to her. You showed her no respect, which robbed her of her self-respect. You stole her trust in men with terrible consequences for her relationships, even with her beloved late husband. She suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to which your actions contributed.

The complainer on charges 7 and 8 died in 2021 aged 43. She had awful experiences at your hands. She knew Emma Caldwell well and felt guilt that she could not help her.  This complainer had gone into hiding from you at the time when Ms Caldwell disappeared. Her mother feels that survivor’s guilt has much to do with her daughter’s premature death.

The complainer on charge 12 still suffers from her awful experiences with you. They have haunted her, causing ongoing depression, preventing her working and inhibiting her daily life.  The occurrence of the trial has aggravated her depression, unwinding some of her recovery. She is angry and sad which is not who she was.

The complainer on charges 28 and 29 was traumatised by the two-week period when you repeatedly detained her in her home and once held a knife to her. She thought you were going to kill her. She was pregnant at the time. She lost her confidence and social life. She became isolated and depressed. She had extreme difficulty forming relationships. It has taken a long time to stabilise her situation.

The complainer on charges 32 and 33 has complex PTSD and suffers from anxiety, with flashbacks and nightmares, and depression. She suffers intrusive thoughts about what you did to her and Ms Caldwell, her close friend for  whom she still grieves. She has difficulty trusting people and struggles to maintain relationships. She has overcome addiction but her life is now ruined by her mental health which gives her difficulty eating, problems sleeping, panic attacks and night terrors which have made relationships impossible for her. She is inhibited in how she can travel.

Following what you did, the complainer on charge 37 has felt lacking in self-worth which has caused her isolation, which has been a serious problem in her personal relationships.

The complainer on charge 11 has suffered appalling personal consequences from your contemptuous disregard of her wishes. She had considerable potential in many different fields in her youth and has not fulfilled them. Your actions have made a material contribution. She has had difficulty holding down jobs and has frequently had to move to try to shield herself and her family from this case. She has suffered depression but was doing well and had a responsible job until she became involved in the renewed murder inquiry. She fell back into depression and lost her job. She has not worked for years with all of the financial implications that entails. She can rarely leave her house. She cannot maintain healthy relationships with men because of what you did. Her family relationships have been severely damaged.

I hope that with the conclusion of these proceedings she can fulfil her aspiration of rebuilding her life and that all of the survivors in this case, and all of the families of those who were attacked, can do so.

These testimonies are heart-rending but the courage and perseverance shown by so many women is truly heart lifting.

Through her determined and unflinching pursuit of justice, Mrs Caldwell surely influenced the re-awakening of the investigation which has finally given her the justice she and her family sought for her daughter. Her campaigning is a living testament to her love for her daughter and the enormity of her loss.

It is notable that the patient, persistent and professional police work undertaken from 2005-2007, exemplified by the vital work of retired detectives Stuart Hall and David Barr has stood the test of time. Credit too goes to `investigative journalists, notably Samantha Polling, who shone a light on your activities.

You would not listen to the many selfless women who, despite the substantial discomfort involved in re-opening chapters of their lives which many would rather have left behind, came forward and spoke out about what you did. It was extraordinarily difficult for many of them, but they testified out of solidarity for all of the other women you abused, to protect other women in the community and in the hope that justice would be done. This jury listened and heard them loud and clear.

 I take account of what has been said in mitigation by senior counsel who left no stone unturned in scrutinising the Crown case and promoting your defence. I note that you are 51 and have some history of employment. You have not previously appeared in this court.

You are a father but it is not clear that you have fulfilled the role of a parent to any great extent. I note the age that you were when you committed some of the earlier offences and take it into account but it can carry only very limited weight given the overall pattern of offending which extended through your thirties and forties.

I take account of the limited mitigating factors I have mentioned in fixing the punishment part of your life sentence which is the period of time you will serve in prison before being considered for parole. In fixing it, I must punish you for this terrible murder and seek to deter you and others from committing murder. According to law, I must ignore any risk that you may pose to the public in the future. This does not mean that you will serve just this period. It will be for the Parole Board to determine when it is safe for you to be released. The question of parole cannot arise before the punishment part has been served.

I must take account of the seriousness of the crime of murder of which you have been convicted, combined with the other offences on the indictment.

I will deal first with those other crimes. I listened carefully to the evidence and have carefully considered the statements to which I have referred. Yours was an extraordinary campaign of sexual violence carried out in a single-minded pursuit of your sexual desires leaving no room for the wishes or wellbeing of the women you abused.  You did this in almost every sphere of your life. You would look for vulnerability and exploit it. You also abused women who were not necessarily vulnerable but were in a vulnerable position. Your conduct has caused extreme and enduring suffering for so many women and their families.

There is one sentence on all of the charges other than charges 45 and 46. That is imprisonment for 28 years. The extent to which this contributes to the punishment part of your life sentence is, by law, substantially reduced to only a fraction of that figure. If the charges other than 45 and 46 stood alone, the sentence would include a significant component for public protection which must be left out of account in a punishment part. The court must also allow for the loss of any prospect of early release, which would have existed if the sentence of 28 years stood alone.  That opportunity is absent where a sentence is taken account of within the punishment part of a life sentence.

Turning to charges 45 and 46, you murdered a capable, compassionate and intelligent young woman who had recently expressed an intention to take a first step towards extricating herself from the difficult life she was living. You had already committed a serious sexual crime against her, causing considerable distress.   

Whether she had threatened to report you to the police, or whether you killed her whilst acting out some evil fantasy, you murdered her in circumstances which must have been truly terrifying. Alone with the man who had already indecently assaulted her, in the dark, deprived of her phone and miles from any prospect of help. You applied a ligature around her neck, perhaps to compel her to undress. You manually strangled her, using significant force.

Having murdered her, your only thought was to avoid the consequences of your actions by disposing of her possessions. Had it not been for an unrelated bereavement, which led to a dog walker being in the area for a few weeks, Ms Caldwell’s body may have lain undiscovered for years.

For years you lied time and again before you were undone by your arrogance in thinking that you were in the clear and entitled to compensation from the police who had investigated you.

These are not your first convictions. Since 2007, you have been convicted of domestically aggravated offences on four occasions. In 2020, on sheriff court indictment, you were convicted of assaulting another woman, to injury and the danger of her life, and sentenced to imprisonment for 18 months and to 6 months for stalking, in breach of bail conditions.

On charge 46, you are sentenced to imprisonment for 6 years.

Considering the whole circumstances the punishment part on charge 45, murdering Emma Caldwell, will be one of 36 years, backdated to 28 February 2022.

This does not mean that this is a sentence of 36 years. You are sentenced to life imprisonment and you will serve at least 36 years before you can be considered for release on parole. It will be for the Parole Board to determine whether you will ultimately be released and they will consider the safety of the public in reaching that decision.

All of the sentences will be served concurrently and are backdated to 28 February 2022.

With the exception of charges 9, 28, 29, 33 and 46, I certify that the charges of which you are convicted are sexual offences within the scope of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. You will be subject to notification requirements indefinitely.

Whilst it is academic given the length of your confinement, I also direct the clerk of court, at the appropriate time, to refer details of the relevant convictions to the Scottish Ministers for your name to be included in the list of persons unsuitable to work with children.


28 February 2024