Emma Caldwell’s killer convicted nearly two decades after first police interview

Iain Packer, 51, was interviewed by police during the initial police investigation in 2005 but not convicted until 2024.

Iain Packer has been convicted of the 2005 murder of Emma Caldwell .
Iain Packer court case Iain Packer has been convicted of the 2005 murder of Emma Caldwell . (Family Handout/PA)

Nearly two decades after the body of Emma Caldwell was found in an isolated woodland, a man who was interviewed in the initial investigation has been convicted of her murder and of being a serial rapist.

The unsolved murder was one of Scotland’s longest cold cases, and was branded a “scandal” by an ex-newspaper editor who exposed Iain Packer as the “forgotten suspect”, after which police and prosecutors reopened the inquiry.

The jury took four days to find Packer guilty of murdering the 27-year-old, who went missing in Glasgow on April 4 2005 and whose body was found in Limefield Woods, near Roberton, South Lanarkshire, the following month.

Iain Packer murdered Emma Caldwell in 2005
Iain Packer Iain Packer murdered Emma Caldwell in 2005 (Police Scotland/PA)

He was also convicted of indecently assaulting Miss Caldwell and raping nine women among dozens of sex offences spanning 26 years, following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

Packer, from the east end of Glasgow, was convicted of raping an underage girl in 1990, which the court heard during the trial was dismissed by the child’s family.

He was first reported to police in March 1999 after a sex worker stole a tax disc from his vehicle to have proof of his identity after he raped her.

He preyed on “young, vulnerable and drug-addicted” sex workers in Glasgow’s red light area, and had a pattern of violent behaviour which included strangling women, the court heard.

Emma Caldwell as a young child
Emma Caldwell Emma Caldwell as a young child

Packer presented himself as a “jack the lad” who worked for a family business and enjoyed “treating women rough” and wore women’s underwear, according to one victim who was assaulted between 1993 and 2004, near the Tennent’s Brewery in the east end of Glasgow – the area where many attacks took place.

Miss Caldwell vanished on April 4 2005, days after telling her mother Margaret about her hopes to kick a heroin addiction, which began following a family bereavement in her early 20s.

She came from a close-knit family and saw both parents twice a week and spoke to them daily.

She was reported missing after she failed to respond to attempts to change a planned meeting with her mother.

A dog walker found Miss Caldwell’s body in woodland, with a “garotte” around her neck, on May 8, 2005.

Her father William, who died in 2011, made his family promise they would get justice for her.

Packer, who worked as a sign installer across Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland, was first interviewed by police on June 22, 2005 – and lied, telling officers he had never picked Miss Caldwell up and “could not help the investigation”, before telling further lies in interviews in 2006 and 2007.

Iain Packer being interviewed by detectives in February 2022
Iain Packer interviewed Iain Packer being interviewed by detectives in February 2022 (Police Scotland/PA)

The court heard Packer was a prolific user of sex workers who had described it as an “addiction”, and lied repeatedly to police and to a BBC journalist who interviewed him on national television in 2018.

During the trial, Packer admitted forcing a sex act on Miss Caldwell in August 2004 despite her telling him to stop, which he admitted was “criminal” and apologised for.

A friend of Miss Caldwell told the court Packer “would not leave her alone”, while another sex worker gave a statement saying she was “petrified” of him.

Packer was investigated by the press in 2015 which caused the case to be reopened, and he admitted “instigating” an interview with BBC journalist Sam Poling in 2018 to “clear his name”, before claiming he had never visited the woodland.

However during his evidence at the trial, he admitted visiting Limefield Woods on six occasions including with Miss Caldwell – although prosecutor Richard Goddard KC said it was many more times.

A soil sample taken from the site where Miss Caldwell’s body was found was a “97% match” with soil found in his blue work van after analysis in 2021, and Packer was charged in February 2022.

The jury was taken on a site visit to the isolated spot where Miss Caldwell’s body was found naked between two streams, in an area of woodland 40 miles from Glasgow.

Packer alleged he had never seen the specific location before, and blamed her murder on four Turkish men, later reducing it to two.

Emma Caldwell’s mother, Margaret, gave evidence during the trial
Margaret Caldwell Emma Caldwell’s mother, Margaret, gave evidence during the trial (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The four men were arrested in 2007, after a two-year surveillance operation on a cafe in Glasgow following interviews with other sex workers, but the case collapsed after issues with translation.

Packer lodged special defences of incrimination and consent, claiming many of the sex assaults were consensual, and that he had never met some of the women.

A complainant who was raped by Packer during a £30 transaction in 1998, which she agreed to due to financial pressures, eventually spoke to police in 2021, which she described as “the worst thing I’ve had to do in my life”.

Packer admitted in his evidence that he lied throughout seven police interviews and three BBC interviews, however he told the court: “It wasn’t me who killed her. It wasn’t me. I didn’t do anything to her.”

Jim Wilson, the former editor of the Sunday Mail, which exposed Packer as the “forgotten suspect” in 2015 on the anniversary of Miss Caldwell’s murder, after which the case was reopened, said the case was a “scandal” and a “failure” of the justice system.

Mr Wilson said: “Scotland’s justice system failed Emma Caldwell, her family and all the women terrorised by Packer in the years he was allowed to remain free.

“His conviction has answered one question but Police Scotland and the Crown Office must answer many more.”