Karen Buckley’s ‘callous and calculating’ murderer sentenced to 23 years’ imprisonment
At the High Court in Glasgow today, Lady Rae, sentenced Alexander Pacteau, 21, to life imprisonment for his “brutal, senseless” and “motiveless” murder of Irish student Karen Buckley with a punishment part of 23 years after the accused pled guilty to the murder.
On sentencing, Lady Rae said: “I find it extremely difficult to find words appropriate to describe the dreadful crime to which you have pleaded guilty.
“Karen Buckley was a young woman in the prime of life. 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.”
The judge added that, Mr Pacteau, unsatisfied with brutally murdering Ms Buckley, went to “extraordinary lengths” to destroy her body in addition to writing down his lies in a story to tell police.
He eventually admitted the location of her body, but only after his detention and lied that Ms Buckley had assaulted him before he killed her.
Lady Rae added: “… 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.”
She said Mr Pacteau only expressed remorse after pleading guilty and that he did not do so during his lengthy interviews with a social worker.
His expression of remorse would have carried more weight had it been made before 11 August.
“And it is difficult, in my view, to envisage someone who is truly sorry for killing another human being, going to the lengths to which you went to cover up your appalling crime, whilst making up false stories about the deceased,” she added.
Mr Pacteau originally faced two charges, one of which was an attempt to defeat the ends of justice. Lady Rae noted that the Crown, “for some reason”, did not seek a conviction on this charge even though the agreed narrative provided various factors “fully” justifying such a charge.
She added: “The Lord Advocate submitted that I would still be entitled to have regard to what you did as an aggravating factor to the murder charge and he referred me to a number of cases which he submitted supported that approach.”
Lady Rae went on to refer to the “extraordinary submission” of counsel for Mr Pacteau, John Scullion QC, who submitted she ought to have no regard whatsoever to anything occurring after Ms Buckley’s death because it was outwith the scope of the indictment.
She described it as such because the defence “had agreed the contents of the narrative and had agreed that all of that information should be put before me.”
As a result of the Crown withdrawing the second charge, Lady Rae said she regretted that “to some extent” her hands were tied.
“As a result, I am not able to enhance the sentence in the manner prescribed in the case of Chalmers v HMA, decided by a Bench of five judges in 2014.
“On the other hand, I have never known a situation in which a judge has been invited to ignore significant material in an agreed narrative, deliberately put before the Court, with the consent of parties,” she added.
After reflecting on the submissions, Lady Rae said she could not ignore the murderer’s conduct after the killing, saying: “It has always been the position that what an accused does after a crime to conceal what he did may be an aggravating factor.”
She referred to guidance provided by the Court of Appeal in 2009 on sentencing in murder cases where the court had regard to the accused’s conduct after the murder as an aggravating factor – namely the burying of the victim’s remains which remained hidden for several years.
And while the Crown in that case had accepted a not guilty plea to the charge of attempting to defeat the ends of justice, the Court of Appeal nevertheless regarded it in determining an appropriate sentence.
On this point, Lady Rae said: “What you did to cover up your crime in the present case is not only such an aggravating factor, it is a matter to which I can have regard.”
She added Mr Pacteau’s relative youth, his expression of remorse and early guilty plea would also factor in determining the level of discount applicable to the sentence.
“I note too that, although you have a previous conviction, you have no record for violence,” Lady Rae added.
The discount was calculated at two years – making the punishment part 23 years.