Russell Causley who murdered his wife is safe to be released

Wife killer Russell Causley who was jailed for life has been deemed safe to be released at Britain’s first public parole hearing

  • Russell Causley, who was jailed for life for murder has been deemed safe
  • He killed his wife Carole Packman and was first convicted of murder in 1996
  • Last year, Causley was sent back to prison after he breached terms of his release 

Russell Causley, who was jailed for life for murdering his wife has been deemed safe to be released, the Parole Board has confirmed at Britain’s first public hearing.

Causley made UK legal history last year when he became the first prisoner to face a public parole hearing.

He was handed a life sentence for killing Carole Packman, who disappeared in 1985, a year after he moved his lover into the family home in Bournemouth, Dorset. 

This was quashed by the Court of Appeal in June 2003, and he then faced a second trial for murder and was again found guilty. It is thought he killed her between June and August 1985. 

After serving more than 23 years for the murder, Causley was freed from prison in 2020 but sent back to prison after he breached the terms of his release. 

Causley with Ms Packman and daughter Samantha. The murderer evaded justice for a decade after faking his own death

Samantha Gillingham weeps outside the parole board hearing last month after her father claimed he burned his wife’s body and scattered her ashes

The Parole Board said in a decision summary published on Thursday: ‘After considering the circumstances of his offending and time on licence, the progress made while in custody and the evidence presented at the hearings, the panel was satisfied that Mr Causley was suitable for release.’

Causley initially evaded justice for the best part of a decade following her disappearance by faking his own death as part of an insurance scam.

After finally being caught, he served 23 years for the murder before being freed from prison in 2020, but was returned to jail in November in 2021 after breaching his licence conditions.

The victim’s daughter and grandson, Sam and Neil Gillingham were campaigning for Causley to remain behind bars as he continues to refuse to reveal the whereabouts of his wife’s body. 

Last month, the daughter of the wife killer Samantha Gillingham said she still doesn’t know ‘the truth’ about what happened to her mother after he claimed he burned her body in his garden.

The 79-year-old said he then disposed of Carole Packman’s ashes along roadsides and hedgerows around Bournemouth in 1985.

He made the claims during a rambling account of the killing at a public parole board hearing- the first of its kind in the UK –  today as he asked to be released from his life sentence for her murder.

The couple’s daughter Ms Gillingham – who has said he should never be released – wept outside the hearing on December 12, 2022 as she said ‘I still don’t know what is the truth’.

Ms Gillingham, from Northamptonshire, said she is ready and waiting to meet her father after decades of asking to confront him about her mother’s disappearance. 

The parole hearing last month, which was held at prison, heard the killer was ‘ruthless and calculated’, with Causley himself admitting he was a habitual liar. 

Causley admitted he had ‘changed stories consistently’ when he faced parole judges – and denied murdering Ms Packman, despite being convicted of the killing in two separate jury trials.

During the hearing – taking place in Lewes prison in East Sussex while relatives, members of the public and journalists watch the proceedings on a live video link from the Parole Board’s offices in Canary Wharf, London – Causley repeated claims he was not responsible for the murder. 

He also gave a rambling account of the circumstances, changing his story multiple times throughout and admitted: ‘I lied. I’ve lied consistently. I’ve changed stories consistently.’

Russell Causley, pictured, was handed a life sentence for killing Carole Packman who disappeared in 1985

He insisted he ‘loved’ his wife but also told how he ‘adored’ his mistress Tricia.

The parole panel chairman told the hearing there were reports Causley had confessed to fellow prisoners that he had gassed Ms Packman and put a bag over her head.

But Causley said: ‘None of those conversations took place, ever.’

Another member of the panel asked if failing to tell the truth about the killing is ‘the coward’s way out, not to now finally at the age of 79 admit what you did’.

‘I don’t think I’m a wicked person … I hate it when you say I’m a cold-blooded killer,’ Causley said.

Earlier, the hearing was told how Causley had been described by his sentencing judge as a ‘totally ruthless and calculated’ killer who ‘bullied and dominated’ his wife for years.

Causley also agreed it was a ‘fair assessment’, when it was put to him that a previous parole panel found him to be a ‘proven habitual liar’.

What happened to Carole Packman? 

Carole Packman disappeared from her family home in Bournemouth in 1985. 

Her daughter Sam Gillingham, then 16, came home from school to find a note, supposedly from her mother, along with her wedding ring.  The letter said that she was leaving their family. 

The year before, Causley moved his lover Patricia Causley into the house and later changed his surname to hers.  

It was not until 10 years later, when Causley was jailed for two years for trying to fake his death in a boating accident that he was found guilty of her murder.  He allegedly made a jail cell confession, telling of the ‘perfect’ murder of his ‘b**** wife’. 

Police reopened their investigation into his wife’s disappearance. 

Causley was convicted of murder in 1996, but it was quashed in 2003.  

In 2004, he was found guilty at a retrial after his sister said she had heard him admit the killing.    

Now aged 79, he was the first killer in British legal history to be found guilty without his victim’s body ever being found.

Only Causley’s voice could be heard during the hearing after a request for him not to appear on camera was granted. Probation officials giving witness evidence were also kept off screen and were not identified by name.

The panel of three parole judges are also considering more than 650 pages of information, including a victim impact statement.

The parole panel chairman told Causley: ‘Your version of events has varied frequently over time.

‘Your wife’s body has never been found. The precise circumstances of the murder are not clear.’

After being freed from jail, he said he spent his time reading, doing crosswords, walking and shopping.

Causley had initially evaded police by faking his own death as part of an insurance fraud eight years after Mrs Packham disappeared, his parole hearing was told.

He was freed from prison in 2020 after his sixth parole review and spending more than 23 years behind bars for the murder.

However Causley was sent back to jail in November last year for breaching his licence conditions, the public hearing was told.

He failed to answer a phone call from his probation officer and disappearing from his bail hostel overnight without his phone or wallet.

The hearing, which is taking place in a prison, began this morning with relatives, members of the public and journalists allowed to watch the proceedings on a live videolink from the Parole Board’s offices in Canary Wharf, London.

No decision on his release will be made today as it is a hearing for the Parole Board to gather evidence to establish whether Causley would be a risk if released. 

Causley’s behaviour was said by a member of prison staff to have been ‘exemplary’ since he has been back in jail.

Asked about the period during which he was released from prison in late 2020, he said that he got on well with staff at the hostel where he was living and viewed them ‘more as friends’, but ‘could have had a better rapport’ with his probation officer.

He spent his time reading, doing crosswords, walking and shopping, Causley told the panel.

He Causley claimed in the parole hearing that he was attacked by three men in Portsmouth while it was ‘totally dark’ as he walked along the promenade close to the beach at around 5pm on November 26.

He said he could not remember many details but the men were shouting and wanted money or a phone. Asked why he thought this happened, he told the panel: ‘I just think it was wrong time, wrong place,’ adding that it may have been because he was an elderly man walking with a stick.

Carole Packman disappeared in 1985, a year after Causley moved his lover into their home in Bournemouth

After the attack, which he reported to the police, he said he just ‘gave up’ and lay on the beach until morning rather than trying to get back to his accommodation or seek help.

He said: ‘All I can remember is laying on the beach shivering.’

Causley told the parole panel he had ‘bruises’ and was injured after the attack, but the proceedings heard police had not recorded any visible injuries when he was taken back into custody – at which point he claimed he was never examined by officers.

Causley then gave a rambling account of the circumstances around his wife’s murder, insisting ‘I didn’t hate my wife, I loved my wife’.

He said he ‘adored’ his mistress Trisha, who he moved into his marital home one year before his wife’s death.

‘I’ve given the excuse or reason for all this was my infatuation, my devotion with Trisha. There was no question I adored her,’ he said.

Causley put the house into his and his mistress’s names after his wife’s murder, but told the panel that there had been ‘no major plan’ to do so.

Causley told the panel that disposing of the body was worse than committing murder.

The victim’s daughter and grandson, Sam and Neil Gillingham have been campaigning for Causley to remain behind bars as he continues to refuse to reveal the whereabouts of his wife’s body

Speaking after the hearing Ms Gillingham said: ‘I’ve been asking for years to speak to my father.

‘It was me who asked for restorative justice but I didn’t hear anything more from March this year. I’m desperate to speak to my father.

‘For the first time we actually heard the man speak.’

She said her father has now indicated that he would be prepared to meet her, which is something she still wants.

Ms Gillingham said she was surprised that the panel members put challenging questions to her father about his changing claims.

She said: ‘I actually liked the fact that he was given such a grilling at this parole hearing.

‘You don’t think that’s going to happen at this stage, you think that’s sort of dealt with at the trial and actually I was quite surprised that that did happen today.’

Ms Gillingham, from Northamptonshire, said the accounts given by Causley were ‘difficult’ to hear, adding: ‘It’s my parents, it’s my family. It’s hard work, it could be so much easier if only people had the balls to tell the truth.

‘At least I can say I can hold my head up high and I’ve told the truth throughout.’

Ms Gillingham said holding the hearing in public had been ‘invaluable’ despite Causley not telling the truth. 

She said at the time: ‘I’m still confused. I still don’t know what is the truth. I still don’t know what to believe.’ 

She added: ‘It was really invaluable for me. There’s been nothing worse than going through the parole process without being actually able to know what’s being said behind closed doors. 

‘It’s been very difficult with no information. For the first time today, I’ve actually had an understanding of what does go on.’

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