Daughter still seeks truth on mother’s murder after first public parole hearing

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The daughter of a murderer who has never revealed where he hid her mother’s body said she still does not know the truth after he spoke publicly about the killing for the first time.

Samantha Gillingham said she is ready and waiting to meet her father Russell Causley after decades of asking to confront him about her mother Carole Packman’s disappearance.

It comes as the 79-year-old gave a rambling and inconsistent account of the circumstances which led to his wife’s death under questioning during the first public parole hearing in UK history.

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

Carol Packman murder
Carole Packman disappeared in 1985 and her body has never been found (Family handout/PA)

After serving more than 23 years for the murder, Causley was freed from prison in 2020 but sent back to jail in November last year after breaching his licence conditions.

He never gave evidence in court and has never disclosed the location of Ms Packman’s body.

But facing parole judges on Monday – in the first hearing of its kind not to be held behind closed doors after changes in the law – Causley admitted he had lied and “changed stories consistently”, although still denied being responsible for the killing.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Ms Gillingham said: “I’m still confused. I still don’t know what is the truth. I still don’t know what to believe.”

“For the first time we actually heard the man speak,” she told the PA news agency.

Ms Gillingham, from Northamptonshire, was 16 when her mother went missing and has campaigned for years to keep her father behind bars and for his case to be heard in public.

Despite the “lies” told in the hearing, Ms Gillingham said observing the proceedings was “invaluable” and although previous requests over the years had been ignored, her father had now indicated he would be prepared to meet.

Asked if this was something she still wants and if she is ready to talk, Ms Gillingham said: “Yes.”

A panel of three parole judges will consider Causley’s evidence, testimony from probation officials and more than 650 pages of information including a victim impact statement when they decide whether he can be freed once more from jail.

Carole Packman death
Russell Causley, with his wife Carole and their daughter Samantha (Family handout/PA)

Retired judge Nick Coleman, chairman of the parole panel, 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, Peter Jones, 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 proceedings heard how Causley’s sentencing judge described him as a “totally ruthless and calculated” killer who “bullied and dominated” his wife for years.

When it was put to him that a previous parole panel found him to be a “proven habitual liar”, Causley agreed this was a “fair assessment”.

Mr Coleman told Causley: “Your version of events has varied frequently over time.

Russell Causley
Russell Causley was found to be a ‘habitual liar’ by a previous parole panel (Family handout/PA)

Causley – who could only be heard and not seen after a request for him not to appear on camera was granted – said after being freed from jail he spent time reading, doing crosswords, walking and shopping, but that he had also made a series of suicide attempts over the last two years.

He was recalled to prison in November 2021 after he disappeared from his bail hostel overnight and missed a call from his probation officer, claiming he had been attacked and robbed while on a day trip to Portsmouth.

When questioned about the incident, he said the details were “all a bit blurry”.

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

It was suggested by Mr Jones during the hearing that Causley might have planned to do the same thing when he went to the Hampshire city in order to escape custody – which he denied.

Probation and prison officials – who were not identified by name – said Causley’s behaviour had been “exemplary” since he has been back in jail, he was considered suitable for re-release and a low risk of harm to the public.

A second private hearing will take place on Friday so sensitive details, which cannot be made public, can be discussed. A decision on the case is expected to be made at a later date.

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