Glasgow & West Scotland

Emma Caldwell murder suspect jailed for attacking former girlfriend

Iain Packer arriving at court
Image caption Iain Packer was sentenced at Airdrie Sheriff Court

A suspect in one of Scotland's most high-profile murder investigations has been jailed for two years after physically attacking his ex-partner.

Iain Packer was questioned by police over the death of Emma Caldwell.

He featured in a BBC Disclosure programme last year, during which he denied killing Ms Caldwell in 2005 and insisted he was not a violent man.

But just hours after the programme was broadcast, his ex-girlfriend told police he had physically attacked her.

Two days later Packer was arrested and charged over the assault, which took place in November 2018.

Last month he admitted pushing the woman on to a bed, putting his hands around her throat and choking her to the danger of her life.

Packer also pled guilty at Airdrie Sheriff Court to charges of stalking and breaching a court order under which he was banned from contacting the woman.

Sheriff Morag Shankland jailed Packer for a total of two years and imposed a five-year non-harassment order banning him from contacting his victim.

The sheriff said it had been "a very serious assault" and that custody was the only appropriate sentence.

However, she did not place Packer on the sex offenders register because there was no "significant sexual element" to the "distressing" messages he had sent to the woman.

Who was Emma Caldwell?

Image caption Emma Caldwell's body was found in May 2005

Ms Caldwell, 27, was a sex worker in Glasgow's red light district when she disappeared in April 2005.

Five weeks later, her body was found in isolated woods near Roberton, almost 40 miles from Glasgow. She was naked and had been strangled.

The murder investigation initially focused on four Turkish men, who were charged with Ms Caldwell's murder in August 2007.

However, within a year, the case had collapsed and the men were released.

Police investigation

During the investigation police interviewed hundreds of men who had been identified as regular users of sex workers, including Packer.

He was one of Ms Caldwell's regular clients, and often took her and other sex workers to the same woods where her body was later found.

Packer gave six statements to police between 2005 and 2007, but was not interviewed under caution as a suspect.

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Media captionIain Packer: "I've not been rough with any woman. I've never hurt a woman in my life."

In 2018, Packer was interviewed twice by investigative journalist Sam Poling for a BBC Disclosure documentary on the case.

He denied killing Ms Caldwell and insisted that he had never been violent towards women.

His former partner went to the police after watching the broadcast of the interview last year, and within days Packer had been charged with physically attacking her.

During the court proceedings, it emerged that Packer also had previous convictions for domestic abuse towards former partners in 2007, 2008 and 2011.

Defence lawyer Dale Hughes said Packer was sorry for the distress he had caused his victim, and that he was "ashamed of himself".

The interviews which led to Packer's downfall

By Sam Poling, BBC Scotland investigations correspondent

For the best part of a year I investigated the murder of Emma Caldwell, the police's botched inquiry into who had killed her, and a man whom I grew to believe was a prime suspect - Iain Packer.

Packer was always emphatic in his denials to me.

No, he hadn't killed Emma. No, he hadn't raped any of the women who'd claimed that he had. And no, he wasn't a violent man. Far from it, he told me.

"I've not been rough with any woman. I've never hurt a woman in my life," he said. "I can assure you I'm not a violent person."

We met many times, often over coffee. I wanted him to tell me his story and he seemed keen to oblige.

I would investigate him, I said. That's fine, he replied, I have nothing to hide.

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