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Serial rapist who murdered woman found naked in woodland nearly 19 years ago jailed

Emma Caldwell was found naked in a woodland five weeks after she was reported missing   (PA Media)
Emma Caldwell was found naked in a woodland five weeks after she was reported missing (PA Media)

A violent man who murdered a 27-year-old woman and dumped her body in a remote area of Scottish woodland has been jailed for life, nearly two decades after committing the horrific crime.

Iain Packer was accused of strangling Emma Caldwell and concealing her body in South Lanarkshire in April 2005, as well as raping or sexually assaulting 21 other women.

Packer has now been locked behind bars for a minimum term of 36 years after being convicted of 33 charges which spanned two decades, all of which he denied at the High Court in Glasgow.

Since his guilty verdict, Police Scotland apologised for how the original inquiry was handled, after Miss Caldwell, her family and his other victims were “let down” by the investigation.

Miss Caldwell was last seen between 12.30am-1.30am on 5 April 2005 on London Road, Glasgow, and was reported missing by her family five days later.

Iain Packer denied the charges against him (BBC)
Iain Packer denied the charges against him (BBC)

At the time, Ms Caldwell was living in a hostel in Glasgow after leaving home and becoming addicted to heroin following the sudden death of her sister.

The body of the victim, who was a sex worker at the time, was discovered in the woods on 8 May 2005. She was found by a dog walker with a “garotte” around her neck, prompting one of Scotland’s largest murder investigations.

A frequent user of sex workers, other women had raised concerns about Packer’s behaviour with the police, yet he was not arrested or charged for 17 years despite admitting to the police in the initial investigation that he had previously taken Ms Caldwell to the forest for sexual purposes.

Emma Caldwell’s mother, Margaret Caldwell called the police after her daughter failed to make contact (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)
Emma Caldwell’s mother, Margaret Caldwell called the police after her daughter failed to make contact (Andrew Milligan/PA Wire)

Instead, the police focused their investigation on a group of Turkish men, until a team of cold case detectives re-examined the case in 2015.

Outside the court, the family of Miss Caldwell said Police Scotland failed their daughter and Packer’s rape victims due to a “toxic culture of misogyny and corruption”, adding in a statement: “Instead of receiving justice and compassion, they were humiliated, dismissed and in some instances arrested, whilst the police gifted freedom to an evil predator to rape and rape again.”

During the trial, Packer admitted under cross-examination that he had paid Ms Caldwell for a sex act in 2004 and had continued to have sex with her after she had asked him to stop.

He said he was “ashamed” of his actions towards her and described his behaviour towards another sex worker as “disgusting”.

He denied her murder, however, telling the court: “It wasn’t me who killed her. It wasn’t me. I didn’t do anything to her.”

Evidence was also heard from multiple other women who had been brutally attacked by Packer, with his behaviour described as “violent” and “obsessive”.

Iain Packer has been found guilty of 33 charges of physical and sexual violence against 22 women (Police Scotland/PA Wire)
Iain Packer has been found guilty of 33 charges of physical and sexual violence against 22 women (Police Scotland/PA Wire)

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

Packer, from Glasgow’s East End, 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 the city’s red light area, and had a pattern of violent behaviour which included strangling women, the court heard.

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

Packer was interviewed by the police in 2022 for the murder of Emma Caldwell (Police Scotland/PA Wire)
Packer was interviewed by the police in 2022 for the murder of Emma Caldwell (Police Scotland/PA Wire)

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 journalists in 2015, which led to the case being 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, he later admitted to visiting Limefield Woods on six occasions, including with Miss Caldwell.

Following his conviction, Assistant Chief Constable for Major Crime and Public Protection Bex Smith said: “Emma Caldwell, her family and many other victims, were let down by policing in 2005. For that we are sorry.

Iain Packer’s van had a 97% soil match with soil from the location Miss Caldwell’s body was found (Police Scotland/PA Wire)
Iain Packer’s van had a 97% soil match with soil from the location Miss Caldwell’s body was found (Police Scotland/PA Wire)

“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 added it was “clear” that further investigations should have been carried out, which subsequently caused unnecessary distress to her family and the other women who had been affected.

“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,” she said.

“He took Emma’s life for his own gratification in the most appalling circumstances and cruelly left her body in remote woods hoping to cover his tracks.

“But time is no barrier to justice and I would urge anyone who has been the victim of sexual violence to please come forward and speak to us.”