“You destroyed her young life and devastated a family.”
Just one of several hard-hitting comments from Judge Rita Rae yesterday as she imposed a life sentence on Alexander Pacteau, 21, for what she described as a “brutal, senseless, motiveless attack on a defenceless young woman”.
Addressing Pacteau directly during the sentencing hearing, Judge Rae described him as callous and calculating, and said his actions after the brutal killing, and his tissue of lies in the days afterwards, only added to the Buckleys’ pain.
In a powerful address, she said she found it extremely difficult to find the appropriate word to describe the dreadful crime.
“Karen Buckley was a young woman in the prime of life,” she told him.
“She was a visitor to Glasgow, studying to expand her knowledge in furtherance of her career in nursing.
“She was a much loved member of a close and united family.
“To you, she was a complete stranger who appears, tragically, to have accepted a lift in your car.
“In a matter of minutes, for some unknown and inexplicable reason, you destroyed her young life and devastated a family.”
She told Pacteau that he went to “extraordinary lengths over several days” to cover up his actions by attempting to destroy Karen’s body, by concocting a story for police, and that he even went so far as to write the story down to ensure he would remember the lies.
She said he only revealed where he had hidden Karen’s body when he was detained by police, who by then knew where it was.
“But still you continued to lie about what had happened and, on this occasion, you fabricated a second story, claiming this time that it was Ms Buckley who assaulted you before you killed her,” the judge said.
“Your conduct after the killing succeeded only in adding even more pain and suffering onto the Buckley family.
“By the time of your first encounter with the police, you must have been aware that her family was anxious for news of her because there had been extensive media coverage seeking information as to her whereabouts, but you kept silent.
“I question how any one doing all of what you did over several days can seriously suggest to this court that he did so in a panic.
“As I said at the previous hearing of this case, your killing of this young woman combined with the extraordinary lengths to which you went to cover it up, display the actions of a callous and calculating man.”
Judge Rae said it was clear from lengthy interviews with social workers that Pacteau never demonstrated or expressed any regret for what he had done, and only expressed remorse when he pleaded guilty to Karen’s murder in August.
The judge also addressed the issue of whether she could have regard to Pacteau’s actions after the murder in imposing sentence, given that he had only been charged with murder after a chargeof attempting to defeat the ends of justice was withdrawn.
The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland, who prosecuted the case, and Pacteau’s defence team led by John Scullion QC, both agreed the narrative which was put before the court last August.
Quoting previous cases, the Lord Advocate had submitted at the time that the judge would be entitled to consider Pacteau’s actions after the murder as an aggravating factor to the murder charge.
Despite agreeing the narrative, Mr Scullion argued that the judge should have no regard to anything which occurred after Karen’s murder as she considered the sentence.
Yesterday, the judge said she found this to be an “an extraordinary submission”, given that Pacteau’s defence had agreed the contents of the narrative and agreed that it should be put before her.
She said her hands were tied to some extent in relation to the sentence she could impose given that the Crown had withdrawn the second charge.
However, she said that, after reflecting on the various submissions, she could not ignore Pacteau’s conduct after the killing.
She took into account Pacteau’s relative youth and his early guilty plea which spared Karen’s family the further agony of a trial, and she noted that while he has a previous conviction, he had no record for violence.
The judge then imposed a life sentence.
She said she was required to consider a discount in this case because of his early plea but she said she would limit the discount to just two years given his conduct after the crime, the lengths to which he went to frustrate the strenuous efforts to find Karen, and the tissue of lies he told.
She then made a order setting the punishment part of the sentence — the minimum period Pacteau will have to spend in jail — at 23 years.
“You will therefore be sentenced to life imprisonment and in view of such a brutal, senseless, motiveless attack on a defenceless young woman — taken together with the aggravating circumstances, all as disclosed in the agreed narrative — the punishment part I would have imposed, but for the discount, is 25 years. I shall discount that by two years,” she said.
Once the 23 years have passed, it will be up to the Parole Board to consider whether Pacteau still presents a risk to the public, or whether he can be released on a life licence, with appropriate conditions.
John and Marian Buckley leave Glasgow High Court yesterday after Alexander Pacteau was sentenced to 23 years in jail for the murder of their daughter, Karen Buckley.
Picture: John Linton/PA
The judge told Pacteau he will not be released if he is still thought a serious risk to the public at that time.
David Harvie, the Procurator Fiscal for the West of Scotland, welcomed the sentence.
“This was a complex investigation made harder by the fact Alexander Pacteau tried to cover up his horrendous crime,” he said.
“Firstly he tried to dispose of Karen’s body and then he repeatedly lied to the police about his actions.
“Pacteau took a young woman from her loving family and friends. He has shown no remorse and will rightly will spend many years in prison.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved