The conviction and imprisonment of those who have taken the life of another is a vital part of what we understand justice to be. Punishment for a killer who should lose their freedom, and in many areas of the world their own life, for their selfish and callous actions in committing murder.
What is equally important in this justice process is for the victim of murder to be found, their body respectfully treated and the ability of family members who loved them dearly to give them a proper burial. When that process is denied to them they are left in a prolonged state of torturous limbo and it is a situation often caused by the very person who carried out the crime.
In most cases of murder, the body of the victim has been found and can form the backbone of the evidence against the individual responsible. However, there have been many murder convictions without a body, so called ‘no-body’ cases, where the evidence can be largely circumstantial but little doubt remains over what happened. In many of these cases, these are murderers who have admitted their guilt yet they refuse to reveal what they did with their victim’s body.
The Murder of Carole Packman
Convicted killer Russell Causley is now 72-years-old and has spent the last 11 years behind bars for the murder of his wife, Carole Packman, in Bournemouth, England in 1985. Causley is a man who cold-bloodedly killed his wife of 19 years and through manipulation and lies convinced all around him that he had been deserted by his wife, a story that was believed until 1996 when deeper investigations finally discovered the dark and chilling truth.
One of the most harrowing aspects of this case is the impact it had on the daughter of Russell Causley and Carole Packman, who was just 16-years-old in 1985 when her mother disappeared. Samantha Packman was led to believe by her father that her mother was a selfish woman who had abandoned her without a thought, never getting back in contact.
The family home was a tense and uncomfortable place to be for Samantha. Her parents’ marriage was in trouble and her father had moved in his mistress, Patricia Causley, flaunting his relationship with her under the nose of her mother who felt powerless to stop him. Within months of Carole Packman’s disappearance, Russell Packman changed his name by deed poll to Causley.
On 14 June 1985, after being out for the day with her father, Samantha found a note left on the kitchen table from her mother stating she had left the family and wished no further contact with them. It was a note which would later be revealed to be false and written by her father’s hand to cover up the fact he had murdered his wife.
After two months, Russell Causley reported his wife missing but when a woman who matched her description entered another police station reporting to be Carole Packman and assuring officers she was fine, her missing person’s case was closed. This visit is now believed to have been made by mistress Patricia Causley, although she denies having any knowledge that any harm had come to Carole Packman.
In 1996, Russell Causley tried to fake his own death in a plot involving his solicitor and mistress. A stunt for the insurance money which failed miserably and he was jailed for two years for fraud. This attention on his life led to the reinvestigation of his wife’s disappearance and the start of the truth emerging on just the kind of man he was. The case went to the Crown Court in Winchester under a charge of murder and despite no body being found, Russell Causley was convicted in 1996. In 2003, the conviction was overturned at appeal and a second trial ordered. This second trial took place in 2004 and once again he was found guilty of murder and given a life sentence in prison.
In August 2015, Russell Causley finally admitted he did kill Carole Packman in a letter to police and arranged to meet his daughter to tell her what happened and where her mother’s body was. He cancelled this meeting just days beforehand and has to date refused to provide any further information.
Now married with a son of her own, Samantha Gillingham has told of the pain and heartache his silence has caused:
“His silence has been deafening, the complete disregard for his wife of 19 years, two murder trials, many appeals at the High Court and he says nothing. I cannot convey enough the impact that this has had on my life, the loss of both of my parents from the age of 16, I still now ask my father for him to start the process of rehabilitation, the cruelty that he exerts, knowing the information that I am so desperate to hear.”
In 2016, ex-policemen and renowned investigator Mark Williams-Thomas reinvestigated the case at the request of Samantha which was broadcast as a four-part documentary on ITV entitled “The Investigator: A British Crime Story”.
During this investigation, it was revealed Causley had at one time suggested he had burned the body of Carole Packman and scattered her ashes, later changing this account to say he had buried her body before retracting his confessions completely. Today, Russell Causley is once again being considered for parole despite his refusal to reveal the details of where the body of Carole Packman is and in the process preventing his daughter the opportunity to lay her mother to rest after fighting for 30 years to find out the truth. His grandson Neil Gillingham has spoken out in the past about his continued games and refusal to provide information:
“He hasn’t engaged, he continues to take the same arrogant, obnoxious stance and although he admits his guilt I feel this is a ploy to gain early release without giving closure. He continues to rip our family apart with his malicious poison. My grandfather is a dangerous man.”
No Body, No Parole
In the UK, a bill is currently being considered to change the law with regards to convicted murderers who apply for parole to introduce a “no body, no parole” policy. Helen’s Law has been petitioned by Marie McCourt whose daughter, Helen McCourt, was murdered aged just 22-years-old on 9 February 1988 by Ian Simms. Simms became only the third murderer in the UK to be convicted of murder with no body and to this day refuses to reveal where the body of Helen McCourt is. Marie McCourt’s petition has gained over 400,000 signatures of support and the Unlawful Killing – Recovery of Remains bill has received two readings in British Parliament to date achieving a great deal of support.
The bill sits on top of many shocking cases of murderers refusing to provide information on the location of their victims, including the infamous case of Moors Murderers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, who killed five children across 1963 and 1965 in Manchester, England. The body of 12-year-old Keith Bennett has never been found despite numerous searches on the Moors and pleas directly to both killers to give his family peace and allow them to lay his body to rest.
His mother Winnie Johnson spent the rest of her life after her son’s death fighting to find the body of her son. She sadly died in August 2012 at 78-years-old never finding him and with the death now of both Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, the body of Keith Bennett may always remain out there on the Moors, never to be located.
Similar legislation has been proposed in Australia and is, just as Helen’s Law, being considered as a change in the law to ensure those convicted of murder will not get out of prison on parole if they have not revealed where the body of their victim is.
In the case of Russell Causley, he has proven himself to be a manipulative and selfish individual who has chosen to withhold the last piece of information about the mother of his daughter and the wife he killed. If he does achieve his freedom at this next parole hearing, the chances of ever finding the body of Carole Packman will reduce even further. “It is about time victims had more of a voice and influence on what happens to offenders like this,” his grandson Neil Gillingham has said, “However, I fear we still have a long journey ahead.”