VIDEO: Karen Buckley: A young woman went out, never to return home

Joe Leogue takes a look-back at the week since Karen’s disappearance

VIDEO: Karen Buckley: A young woman went out, never to return home

This day last week a young Cork woman was looking forward to a night out, blissfully unaware that she would never come home.

Karen Buckley arrived at Glasgow’s Sanctuary nightclub with a group of friends at approximately 11.45pm last Saturday night. She was captured on CCTV leaving the club with Alexander Pacteau, the 21-year-old director of a courier firm.

She had left the Dumbarton Road venue without her jacket, and had only told her friends that she was going to the bathroom.

Dan O’Sullivan, whose daughter Triona O’Sullivan was one of Karen’s friends at the club, said that the group of friends were concerned within 15 minutes of her disappearance.

They repeatedly tried to contact the qualified nurse, but her mobile phone rang out until its battery died on Sunday morning.

Knowing that it was completely out of character for Karen to disappear in this manner, her friends called the police to report her missing on Sunday afternoon.

On Monday Karen’s parents Marian and John flew to Scotland from their farm in Mourneabbey near Mallow, as police issued an appeal for the man seen with her on CCTV outside the club to come forward.

That evening residents of the quiet North Glasgow suburb of Kelvindale saw police cordon off Pacteau’s apartment on Dorchester Avenue, and by Tuesday morning a grey car parked outside the three storey terraced building was towed away.

At Tuesday lunchtime the Buckleys held a press conference where they appealed for their daughter’s safe return. Detective Inspector Jim Kerr, leading the investigation, revealed that they had traced Pacteau from the CCTV footage.

At this point, his identity was not disclosed to the public, but Det Insp Kerr did inform the press that the 21-year-old told police that he drove Karen back to his apartment where she spent around three hours before she declined a lift and walked home on her own at 4am.

Det Insp Kerr appealed for information on a silver grey car seen driving in the rural surrounds of Milngavie and Drymen, in the countryside 15km north of Glasgow city centre.

Det Insp Kerr said that the man helping police with their inquiries was a witness in a missing person case and not a suspect. This status would change a day later.

Just half an hour before the press conference, Karen’s handbag was found in a bin at the entrance to Dawsholm Park, a five-minute walk from Pacteau’s apartment.

Irish Examiner journalist Joe Leogue walks the route from Dawsholm Park, where Karen Buckley's handbag was found, to Alexander Pacteau's apartment, where she reportedly left at 4am on Sunday morning.

While this may have suggested that Karen had walked from the apartment towards the park, the entrance was the opposite direction to her apartment on Hill Street, nearly 7km away in the city centre.

By Tuesday night both Pacteau’s apartment and the nearby park were sealed off, and dozens of officers worked through the night to comb the areas.

Wednesday would see significant developments in the search for Karen.

Scottish media revealed the identity of the man seen on CCTV.

Speaking from her Drymen home, Pacteau’s mother Noreen reiterated the police’s line – he was a witness not a suspect. She claimed that other witnesses had seen Karen, but this was never confirmed by police.

The search of the 80-acre park continued as a line of officers carefully swept through the gardens and grounds around Dorchester Avenue, removing items in bags and boxes.

Then a breakthrough.

Police descended en masse on High Craigton Farm in Milngavie on Wednesday afternoon, sealing off the area and a small section of a nearby golf club. Sky News reported that police had asked residents in the area if they had seen any bonfires in recent days.

Shortly, before six o’clock they confirmed that they had detained a 21-year-old man for questioning and were now following a “definite line of enquiry”.

Back in Mourneabbey a Mass of Hope was held in the evening where prayers were said for Karen’s return.

The Mass of Hope

Those hopes were dashed by the discovery of remains on High Craigton Farm.

Police confirmed the discovery at 1am Thursday morning, and three hours later announced that the 21-year-old being questioned had now been arrested in relation to the death of Karen Buckley.

Searches continued at the farm and throughout Kelvindale on Thursday. Divers found a long knife in Forth and Clyde canal by a bridge between Pacteau’s apartment and the park.

At 4.15pm Det Insp Kerr confirmed that the body found was that of Karen Buckley, and read a statement on behalf of her heartbroken family.

As the bright spring sun set, the police presence eased in Kelvindale. No trace of the massive search remained at Dawsholm Park.

Yesterday, Alexander Pacteau was charged with the murder of Karen Buckley at Glasgow Sherrif Court and with “attempting to defeat the ends of justice”.

Karen’s parents visited the Glasgow Caledonian University campus where Karen was studying a masters in occupational therapy.

They were shown the floral tributes and cards left for their daughter. Later a large crowd gathered in George Square in the centre of Glasgow to hold a vigil in Karen’s memory.

While many aspects of what happened to Karen remain to be explained, the outpouring of grief in two countries is a testament to her popularity and the shocking nature of the crime. It could have been anyone’s sister or daughter.

That’s the biggest tragedy.


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