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Police watchdogs have ignored me, says woman raped by Emma Caldwell’s killer

A woman who was raped by Iain Packer has spoken of her experience with the police complaints process (Police Scotland/PA)
A woman who was raped by Iain Packer has spoken of her experience with the police complaints process (Police Scotland/PA)

A woman raped by the same man who murdered Emma Caldwell almost 20 years ago has accused watchdogs of ignoring her plea to reopen a complaint against the police in the wake of his conviction.

Magdalene Robertson said she had approached the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc) several times after 51-year-old Iain Packer was jailed for life in February 2024.

As well as being convicted of murdering Ms Caldwell in 2005, Packer was also found guilty of 11 charges of rape against nine women – with Police Scotland apologising to his victims saying they had been “let down” by police handling of the case in 2005.

However, Ms Robertson told MSPs despite contacting Pirc a number of times, it had “ignored” her calls for her complaint to be looked at again.

Iain Packer was convicted in February of murdering Emma Caldwell (Family handout/PA)

She also claimed the organisation, which is responsible for investigating allegations of criminality by on-duty officers and misconduct allegations against senior officers, had failed to follow up information that she had given it.

With MSPs on Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee considering new legislation from the Scottish Government which seeks to improve the police complaints and misconduct process, Ms Robertson – known as Maggie – spoke out about her experience.

She was indecently assaulted by Packer when she was 14 and raped by him when she was 15, speaking to the police about him in 2006.

But she likened the process of complaining about the police to a being on “hamster wheel”, adding: “You know you are butting your head, and you can’t get anywhere forward.”

She claimed: “It was an exercise to deplete me of my energy so I had nowhere else to go.

“That’s the intention of Pirc for me, I don’t see it as anything else.”

The Scottish Government has brought forward new legislation in a bid to improve the police complaints process (Andrew Milligan/PA)

She told the committee she had wanted Pirc staff to “follow up against police officers”, saying: “There was one piece of information I gave them many times, but they absolutely refused to check up on it.”

Ms Robertson stated: “I think it is criminal they did not follow up on that, I still don’t know what happened.”

She also told how she had approached the watchdog organisation again immediately after Packer’s conviction earlier this year.

Ms Robertson recalled: “I went back to Pirc and said, ‘given police have apologised, and given they have admitted liability, would you please consider opening up my case for complaint again’.

“It was ignored. I went back on March 6, it was ignored. Back on March 8, it was ignored.”

Adding that Pirc “still ignored” her almost seven weeks on from the close of the court case, she said she now had “nowhere to go”.

Ms Robertson said: “There is no governing body for Pirc, it is mates and people who know each other, who can grease each other’s hands and help their mates out. That is what we have here. But I have still got nowhere to go with this complaint.”

SNP MSP John Swinney told Ms Robertson she had made a “really powerful case about the need for, what I might call, a significant hurricane of fresh air into this system”.

His comments came after Ms Robertson told the committee that as Pirc was staffed by former police, it had the “same culture and mindset” as the force.

She insisted: “We cannot go ahead with making improvements and investigating police with the same mindset that created these issues. You can’t do it, it is impossible.”

Meanwhile, Stephanie Bonner told MSPs she had been on a “hellish merry-go-round of distractions, deceit, deceptions and manipulation” as she sought to bring forward a complaint about the way Police Scotland dealt with the death of her teenage son, Rhys.

The 19-year-old went missing on July 24 2019 and his body was found in marshland between Easterhouse and Gartloch village on the outskirts of Glasgow on August 8 that year.

Ms Bonner made a formal complaint in March the following year.

She said: “It has taken four years to exhaust the police and Pirc complaints process, it has taken four long and painful years just to prove my son’s death was not properly investigated by Police Scotland.”

Pirc found Police Scotland failed to fully investigate Ms Bonner’s complaints regarding the investigation into her son’s death.

Ms Bonner, who campaigns for more support for families and improvements to the way Police Scotland deal with unexplained deaths, told the committee: “I will never know what happened to my son.”

The Police (Ethics, Conduct and Scrutiny) (Scotland) Bill has been brought forward at Holyrood after Lady Angiolini, a former Lord Advocate, carried out an independent review of complaints handling and police misconduct processes.

The Bill, if passed, would require the police to have a code of ethics, and would also increase the functions of Pirc.

A spokesperson for the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner said: “A key part of Pirc’s remit is to review the way policing bodies in Scotland handle complaints made about them by members of the public.

“We received a request for a complaint handling review in respect of two complaints made by Ms Roberston regarding Police Scotland.

“In June 2021, we issued a report to Ms Robertson which found that Police Scotland did not handle either of her complaints to a reasonable standard. As a result, we made recommendations to Police Scotland which were subsequently implemented by Police Scotland.”

Chief Superintendent Lynn Ratcliff, divisional commander for Greater Glasgow, said: “We understand the devastating impact that the death of Rhys Bonner has had on his family and friends.

“Our focus is always on providing families who have suffered such a terrible loss with the individual support they need.

“The Bonner family were provided with a dedicated officer as their specific point of contact when he was reported missing to provide this support and update them on the investigation.

“Following complaints from the family about Police Scotland’s handling of the case, an offer was made to meet with Stephanie Bonner by our Professional Standards Department and that offer remains open.

“We received a complaint handling review from the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner on Wednesday November 30 2022 which looked at how we dealt with the family’s complaints and the four recommendations identified have been implemented.”