Humza Yousaf ‘open’ to inquiry into police failings in case of serial rapist and killer

Iain Packer given 36-year sentence for murder of Emma Caldwell in 2005

Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, has said he is “very open” to a public inquiry into why it took almost 20 years to bring Iain Packer to justice, after the serial rapist and killer was jailed for 36 years for the 2005 murder of Emma Caldwell and a horrific catalogue of sexual violence against 22 other women.

The Scottish National Party leader said the details of sustained police failings that emerged during Packer’s trial – including a dismissive attitude to reports of violence against sex workers and a refusal to follow up on warnings about Packer’s behaviour – were “incredibly concerning”, as he was pressed on the case at first minister’s questions on Thursday, the day after Packer was sentenced.

Police Scotland has apologised for how the original inquiry was handled by Strathclyde police, which was amalgamated into the national force in 2013, and said Ms Caldwell, her family and “many other victims” were “let down by policing in 2005”.

The Caldwell family said an inquiry was necessary to investigate the “toxic culture of misogyny and corruption [that] meant the police failed so many women and girls who came forward to speak up against Packer”.


There was rare unanimity across the Holyrood chambers as MSPs paused their usual heckling of opposition questions to reflect a shared sense of urgency.

The Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, described the case as “one of Scotland’s worst policing scandals” and called on Mr Yousaf to announce immediately a judge-led public inquiry. The Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, highlighted the fact that after Ms Caldwell’s murder in 2005, Packer committed at least 19 other rapes, sexual offences or assaults.

Yousaf agreed with Mr Sarwar that there was a “strong argument” that any inquiry should be led by someone from outside Scotland in order to be “truly independent”.

The first minister told MSPs he would meet Ms Caldwell’s mother, Margaret, whose “tireless” campaign for justice he praised, in the coming days. He said the ongoing legal process, including a potential appeal, had to be considered, but an inquiry remained “very firmly on the table”.

Mr Sarwar highlighted the wider culture in Scottish institutions where he said “they fight to protect their reputations rather than protect victims”, noting recent reports exposing racism and misogyny in Police Scotland.

Mr Ross raised the “utterly shocking” police surveillance of journalists and whistleblowers after the Sunday Mail named Packer as Ms Caldwell’s probable killer in 2015.

Caldwell (27), was living in a hostel in Glasgow when she disappeared in April 2005. Her mother told the trial that her daughter had started taking heroin to numb her grief after the death of her sister and was funding her drug habit through sex work. Ms Caldwell’s naked body was found five weeks after she went missing, in Limefield Woods near Biggar, South Lanarkshire.

Information about the police investigation that came to light during the trial raised significant questions about why it took so long to bring Packer to justice. He gave six statements to police between 2005 and 2007 but was not interviewed under caution as a suspect.

By 2015, concerns about the unsolved case were such that the lord advocate ordered Police Scotland to reinvestigate not only who killed Caldwell but flaws in the original inquiry.

The original police investigation focused on four Turkish men, who were charged with Ms Caldwell’s murder in August 2007, but that case collapsed and the men were released.

Speaking after Packer was also convicted of the sexual assaults of 21 women spanning a 26-year period, Aamer Anwar, the solicitor representing Ms Caldwell’s mother, said: “We now know Packer carried out rapes, sexual offences and assaults some 19 times after Emma’s murder in 2005. Margaret believes that officers sabotaged an investigation into Packer for a decade and have blood on their hands. For far too long they have remained in the shadows but [they] must now answer for their betrayal.”

Mr Anwar said the Caldwell family were calling on the Scottish government to order an independent, judge-led public inquiry into what went wrong. “The scale of the crimes and the failures are so catastrophic that nothing less than a judicial public inquiry will suffice. Neither the police nor Crown Office can be allowed or trusted to investigate themselves and their former bosses,” he said.

Since the verdict, many women have come forward to say they warned police about Packer’s violent behaviour when they began investigating Ms Caldwell’s death in 2005 and that other victims were attacked needlessly because the force failed to act at the time.

BBC Scotland spoke to one woman, Nicky (not her real name), aged 41, who told the trial about her indecent assault by Packer. She claimed Packer’s name was flagged to police by other sex workers in the years after Ms Caldwell’s death but “they didn’t listen”.

She said: “We were never believed. It was as if we didn’t matter, because we put ourselves in these situations and it was our own fault.”

David Kennedy, the chief executive of the Scottish Police Federation, said he was “not convinced there would be benefit” from a public inquiry into the case.

“Society has moved on and so has the police service. I genuinely believe policing is much better, with policies to deal with vulnerable witnesses and domestic abuse,” he said. “The Caldwell case was a particularly bad instance where the decision was made about who the suspects were early on rather than looking at all the evidence.” – Guardian