Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

by Grant McCabe and Wilma Riley

Former private schoolboy, Alexander Pacteau, faces life in jail for the brutal murder of Irish nurse Karen Buckley.

The court heard how Pacteau strangled and clubbed tragic Karen to death with a spanner just minutes after meeting her outside Sanctuary nightclub in Glasgow's west end in April.

Karen accepted a lift from the 21 year-old, who then drove just a short distance before killing the 24-year-old in his Ford Focus.

He then hid her body at his flat in the city's Kelvindale for two nights.

Pacteau soon concocted a sordid plan to dispose of the body using caustic soda.

Karen's devastated parents – unaware how their daughter had suffered at Pacteau's hands – meantime made an emotional appeal for her safe return.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

Pacteau eventually dumped the student's remains inside a barrel at a farm in Drymen, Stirlingshire.

But, he was soon identified as the number one suspect during a huge police probe.

It eventually lead to Pacteau today appearing at the High Court in Glasgow where he admitted to Karen's murder.

The victim's family – including her father John, mother Marian and her three brothers – sat just a few feet from the killer having travelled from their home in county Cork.

No motive was given for the killing other than claims from Pacteau that he and Karen had a “trivial argument”.

Judge Lady Rae branded Pacteau “callous and calculating”.

She added: “This is a shocking and disturbing case. You killed a young woman who was a stranger to you.

“This was a motiveless, senseless and brutal attack on her.

“What you did after - including telling police a tissue of lies - would have no doubt caused the family increased distress.”

Pacteau showed no emotion as he was lead handcuffed to the cells. He will be sentenced next month.

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC – leading the prosecution – today narrated the details that lead to the death of popular Karen.

Karen had gone to the Sanctuary nightclub in Glasgow's Partick to enjoy a Saturday night out with friends on April 11 this year.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

The nurse had recently moved to Scotland for a masters degree in occupational health at Glasgow's Caledonian University.

Pacteau was also at the club that night with friends – but was not known to Karen.

Around 1am, Pacteau – a former pupil at the city's £9,000-a-year Kelvinside Academy – left to go home.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

Karen also exited the club around the same time alone.

The court heard this was the final time the her friends saw her alive.

Pacteau was prowling outside possibly looking for lone females. CCTV then recorded him and Karen chatting in the street.

The killer's car was parked just 100 yards from the club – and prosecutors believe Pacteau offered the nurse a lift to her flat in the city's Garnethill.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

But, he drove them just a short distance to the quiet Kelvin Way close to Glasgow University and the city's Kelvingrove Park.

It was there – in just over 12 minutes – that Pacteau murdered Karen who bravely tried to fight off her attacker.

He choked her by grabbing her around the throat before hitting her with a spanner.

The killer then drove with the corpse back to his flat in the city's Kelvindale. He initially stopped off at nearby Dawsholm Park to dump her bag.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

Pacteau got a sheet to cover the tragic nurse's body before heaving her upstairs to his bedroom.

As the corpse lay in the flat, Pacteau simply went to sleep.

But, hours later, Pacteau went online to makes checks on caustic soda.

He later went to a B&Q store in the city's Drumchapel but not before locking Karen's body in his bedroom.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

His flatmate's mother – who was visiting – remained there unaware of what had happened.

He was seen at the DIY store buying six litres of caustic soda, masks and gloves before going to a local Poundstretcher shop to buy more of the corrosive.

As Pacteau formed his clean-up plan, he texted his flatmate to make sure he was not going to be home.

Pacteau eventually headed back to his flat where he stripped Karen and dumped her in a bath filled with caustic soda.

It was there Pacteau made a lengthy, but failed attempt at trying to dissolve the remains.

He eventually returned the corpse to his bedroom – before his flatmate came home to find Pacteau cleaning the hall and tenement close.

Pacteau then went to bed – again with Karen's body in the same room.

In the early hours of the next morning, Pacteau ditched the spanner used to kill Karen in the Forth and Clyde canal.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

The tool was later recovered by police with traces of the victim's blood.

Pacteau then criss-crossed Glasgow for the next eight hours as his bid to get rid of the body intensified.

Pacteau initially visited a Tesco supermarket in the city's Maryhill where he asked a worker to recommend a product to get blood off a mattress.

He next went to another supermarket to buy white spirit and a lighter, which he then used to set fire to Karen's clothes.

Pacteau dumped the garments at High Craigton Farm in Drymen – an area he knew as he used to store fireworks there.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

The court heard the killer returned to his flat where he ordered a large barrel from a container company in the city's east end.

After picking it up, he stopped off at shops in Anniesland and Bearsden to pick up more caustic soda and lighter fuel.

Before then going back home, Pacteau torched a number of items including the mattress, duvet and a suitcase.

After getting back to his flat, Pacteau put Karen's body into the barrel filled with caustic soda.

Around 2pm that afternoon, a neighbour spotted Pacteau struggling as he tried to heave the container into his car.

The killer eventually drove with the body to the farm – but popped into an Asda store en-route to purchase padlocks and white spirit.

The court heard Pacteau spoke to the unwitting farmer at High Craigton and agreed to rent two storage units for £10 a week.

It was there Pacteau dragged the barrel into one of the areas before throwing a sheet, bike wheel and paper shredder on top to hide the body.

In yet another failed bid to get rid of evidence, he finally went to a local car wash for a £17 valet.

But, the court heard, forensics were later still able to find traces of Karen's blood in the vehicle.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

Soil matching that at the farm in Drymen was also discovered.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

It was around this time Karen was reported missing having last been seen by friends at the club.

As police soon stepped up the hunt, they got a breakthrough when Pacteau was identified as being outside Sanctuary around the time Karen was there.

Detectives initially claimed to the media that Pacteau was not a suspect.

But, when they arrived at his flat that night – having initially failed to get an answer – he told them: “I was just coming to see you.”

Suspicious officers noted the flat reeked of bleach and that parcel tape, a nail brush and a tool box were lying in the bedroom.

Pacteau then lied to police that he had met Karen outside the club before she headed home with him later leaving in the early hours.

In a statement, he added they had consensual sex during which she apparently fell and smacked her head off the bedframe.

Pacteau insisted he did not know she had hurt herself until after Karen left when he spotted blood on a sheet.

Mr Mulholland said: “It is now accepted by the accused that the contents of the statement were untrue as Karen Buckley was never alive in the flat.”

He claimed he panicked when he later realised police were looking for Karen.

The killer then went on to state he bought a container, but burned only a mattress on a country road near Drymen.

But, the court heard when Pacteau was searched at the police station, he had receipts for caustic soda in his pockets along with a key for a padlock.

The next day, Karen's parents made a tearful appeal for the safe return of their daughter.

But, in a sad twist, the nurse's bag was found along with a mobile phone.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

The net then closed in on Pacteau when detectives held him at a Starbucks coffee shop in Glasgow's Nelson Mandela Place 24 hours later.

A former work-mate of Pacteau meantime called police to say the killer used to use a storage unit at the farm in Drymen.

Around 8pm that night, officers then make the grim discovery of Karen's body there.

Mr Mulholland told how Pacteau later made “special knowledge admissions” about the murder.

However, he repeated the claim of them having consensual sex, but said Karen then got “angry” and started hitting him.

He said – with Karen on top of him – he grabbed a spanner and smacked the nurse causing her death.

In a rare move, Mr Mulholland handed Lady Rae a number of treasured photos of Karen released by her family.

These included snap of her Holy Communion as a child, a photo with her brothers and her graduation from the University of Limerick.

Judge brands Alexander Pacteau 'callous and calculating' at plea hearing

Another taken at her grave was amongst the batch.

John Scullion QC, defending, said Pacteau wished to “convey an apology to Karen Buckley's family and friends”.

Mr Scullion added: “He understands such words are unlikely to be a comfort to them.”

The advocate said Pacteau had “limited recollection” of what took place on the night of the killing.

Mr Scullion said: “His recollection was that shortly after setting off they began to argue.

“The accused recollects a trival argument in the car. He took exception to something Karen Buckley said about the males present in Sanctuary nightclub

“A trivial argument – this was the trigger for his subsequent actions. He reacted angrily, stopped the car in Kelvin way and assaulted Karen Buckley resulting in her death.”

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