A chilling cover up: How police caught Karen Buckley's killer

Alexander Pacteau was sentenced to 23 years in prison for killing the young Irish woman.

Updated 8 September

ALEXANDER PACTEAU WILL spend a minimum of 23 years in prison for the murder of Irish woman Karen Buckley.

He was sentenced to life for her murder at Glasgow High Court today. Karen’s parents said the sentencing “will not bring our beautiful Karen back”, but that they know their daughter is at peace now.

A chilling cover-up

After Pacteau was found guilty of murder, Scottish released images used by Glasgow police as they investigated the disappearance and death of Karen Buckley in April.

They also released CCTV footage of Pacteau, the 21-year-old who pleaded guilty to the murder of the 24-year-old Cork student.

The images and video clips provide the narrative, read out in court, of what happened to Karen between her disappearance at 1am on 12 April and when her body was discovered four days later on a farm near the city.


The horrific details of the young woman’s death emerged in court, and through the images and footage.

The brutal killing was followed by a chilling chain of events as the Glasgow resident tried to cover up the crime.

Detective Jim Kerr described Pacteau as callous and calculated, noting that there was no connection between him and his victim – and that he could have preyed on any woman that night.

Karen had spent a night out with friends at The Sanctuary nightclub on 11 April and was last seen by them at about 1am. Pacteau was also in the same venue but it is understood the pair did not meet inside.

1 - Accused outside Sanctuary club A CCTV still of Pacteau outside the club. Crown Office Communications Crown Office Communications

CCTV footage showed Karen outside the club, speaking with a man before being seen walking towards Church Street. There are no details about how they crossed paths or how Karen ended up in his car as he drove to Kelvin Way. The car was parked there for 12 minutes and 46 seconds.

5 - Kelvin Way Crown Office Communications Crown Office Communications

Police believe that Pacteau killed his victim within 20 minutes of meeting her, first attempting to strangle her and then hitting her across the head with a spanner up to 13 times.

Last month, the court heard that injuries to her arm show that she tried to defend herself.

3 - Accused Car2 Pacteau's car Crown Office Communications Crown Office Communications

CCTV footage again picked up the man’s car leaving the area and heading towards Dawsholm Park. It was there that a passer-by found Karen’s handbag, mobile phone and passport the next morning.

8 - Dawsholm Park Dawsholm Park, where Karen's bag was found. Crown Office Communications Crown Office Communications

Prosecutors say that after Pacteau killed Karen, he brought her body to the bedroom of his apartment. He then went to sleep until about 8am when he woke up and made some disturbing searches on his phone.

He looked up the properties of the corrosive substance caustic soda.

11 - Accused Bedroom Interior Crown Office Communications Crown Office Communications

Before leaving the flat, he locked the bedroom door. He then travelled to a hardware store and a Poundstretcher to purchase more than six litres of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda), a mask and gloves.

On returning to his apartment, he filled the bath with caustic soda and placed Karen’s body within. Before his flatmates returned, he had wrapped her remains in a duvet and moved them back to his bedroom.

Herald and Times Group / YouTube

Pacteau admitted to throwing the spanner he used in the assault into the canal near his home the following morning. It was later recovered by police divers and had the deceased’s blood on it.

7 - Forth and Clyde Canal at Cleveden Road2 Crown Office Communications Crown Office Communications

After purchasing more cleaning items at two supermarkets, Pacteau then made his way to High Craigton Farm where he burned some clothes.

He then ordered a large blue barrel, collected it, returned to his flat and placed the body inside.

Before moving the barrel, he brought the mattress to the farm and burned it with some other items.

He eventually returned for Karen’s remains and brought them in his car to the farm, where he had rented two storage units.

It was within one of these units that police found the victim’s body.

16 - High Craigton Farm Exterior 2 Crown Office Communications Crown Office Communications

However, before the discovery was made, police spoke with Pacteau after he agreed to make a witness statement. By Monday evening, it had been established that they spoke to each other outside the nightclub.

According to his initial version of events, he claimed that Karen came back to his flat before leaving to walk home at about 4am.

Herald and Times Group / YouTube

Despite their own suspicions, police said at a Tuesday press conference that the young man was not a suspect at the time. However, they did make public appeals to trace the movements of a Ford Focus – a car owned by Pacteau – and began a forensic examination of his flat.

2 - Accused Home Address Crown Office Communications Crown Office Communications

There, tests found traces of Karen’s blood and he was detained by police on Wednesday afternoon.

Investigators were led to High Craigton Farm by a tip-off from a member of the public. They were told that he had previously rented a storage unit at the premises as part of previous job selling fireworks.

In the early hours of Thursday, 16 April, Alexander Pacteau was charged with the murder of Karen Buckley and with attempting to defeat the ends of justice.

Prosecutors made clear in court last month that Pacteau’s initial version of events, including a claim that he had consensual sex with the victim, was lies. She was never in his flat alive, and they did not have sex.

Following the hearing Detective Kerr said he lied throughout the investigation but that the “sheer weight” of the evidence against him led to his plea. He also told reporters that there was no way of predicting his actions prior to the night of the 11 April.

Pacteau will now spend at least the next 23 years in prison for what occurred that night in April.

Originally published: 11 August 2015

Read: Alexander Pacteau pleads guilty to the murder of Irish nurse Karen Buckley

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