Husband, 78, who murdered his wife 34 years ago released from prison

Husband, 78, who murdered his wife 34 years ago and refused to reveal how he disposed of her body is being released from prison as parole board rule he is not risk to public

  • Russell Causley was jailed for life for killing Carole Packman a year after he moved his lover into their home in Bournemouth, Dorset
  • The Parole Board said the 78-year-old’s refusal to reveal the whereabouts of her remains was ‘heartless’, it did not increase his risk to the public
  • Legislation is currently going through Parliament that would deny parole to killers who refused to reveal the whereabouts of their victim’s body 

 A husband who murdered his wife 34 years ago and refused to reveal how he disposed of her body is to be released from prison.

Russell Causley was jailed for life for killing Carole Packman in 1985. The crime occurred a year after he moved his lover into their home in Bournemouth, Dorset.

The Parole Board found that while the 78-year-old’s refusal to reveal the whereabouts of her remains was ‘heartless’, it did not increase his risk to the public.

A summary of its decision, published on Tuesday, said: ‘The panel took into account the fact that whilst Mr Causley had given various imprecise accounts of how he had disposed of his victim’s body, he had never revealed the location of his victim’s remains.

Russell Causley (middle) is pictured with Carole Packman (left) and daughter Sam Gillingham (right)

Ms Gillingham (left), who was 16 when her mother (right) was murdered

‘This had caused continuing anguish to his family. The panel concluded that this showed a lack of remorse and victim empathy and that he was a habitual liar.

‘However, whilst heartless, the panel concluded that this lack of openness and honesty did not significantly affect the risk that he would cause serious harm in the community which was ultimately the test that must be applied.’

Legislation is currently going through Parliament that would deny parole to killers who refused to reveal the whereabouts of their victim’s body.

What happened to Veronica Packman? 

Veronica 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 wasn’t 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 78, he was the first killer in British legal history to be found guilty without his victim’s body ever being found.

The judgment was quashed by the Court of Appeal before a retrial was ordered in 2004, which saw Causley found guilty and jailed for the murder for a second time.

In recent years Causley has offered differing accounts on what he did with his wife’s body before retracting them. He failed to get parole at a hearing in 2014. 

He is due to go before the Parole Board next month ahead of his possible release. 

The Prisoners (Disclosure of Information About Victims) Bill, dubbed Helen’s Law, has been backed by MPs and peers.

It is named after Helen McCourt, whose murderer Ian Simms was released from prison earlier this year despite never revealing where her remains are.

Her mother Marie McCourt, 77, attempted to overturn the Parole Board decision to release pub landlord Simms, but this was rejected by High Court judges.

Causley, whose risk as been assessed as medium, will be expected to live at a specified address, wear an electronic tag and submit to a curfew, as well as comply with supervision by probation staff.

A Parole Board spokesman said: ‘Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community.

‘The panel carefully examined a whole range of evidence, including details of the original crime, and any evidence of behaviour change, as well as understood the harm done and impact the crime has had on the victims.

‘The Parole Board has a huge amount of sympathy for families of victims who have never been found and appreciates the pain and anguish this causes.

‘The panel is, however, bound by law to focus solely on whether an offender’s continued detention is necessary for the protection of the public.’

Causley’s grandson, Neil Gillingham, said last month that his grandfather’s refusal to provide details over his grandmother’s death had ‘plagued’ his life.

He made a statement to the Parole Board opposing Causley’s release, and said he believed his grandfather still posed a threat to his family.

He said: ‘I do not think he can be trusted around women, around my mum or around me, it’s been acknowledged he poses a physical risk to me and an emotional risk to my mum.

‘There is a risk and we do not believe we can mitigate against that.’

Carole Packman disappeared in the summer of 1985, and eight years later Causley faked his own death as part of an insurance scam.

This triggered the police to reinvestigate Mrs Packman’s disappearance, and Causley was convicted of murder in 1996.

However, that conviction was quashed by the Court of Appeal in June 2003, and he faced a second trial for murder.

He was again convicted over the death of Mrs Packman at a retrial at Exeter Crown Court in April 2004.

What accounts has Causley given about what happened to his wife?

Russell Causley has offered differing accounts throughout the years on what he did with his wife’s body before retracting them. 

Sam Gillingham, 51, said every new tale Causley spins is just more torture for her and her family. 

One of the accounts he gave was that he hit her with an axe and then disposed of her body in acid. 

Another time he said he struck her over the head and then strangled her before burning her body in his back garden. 

He later said that he’d buried her and then retracted the statement.

Causley  has now said that he strangled her and burned her body over the course of several days.   

In December last year, Causley’s former cellmate alleged that Causley used to mention Romney Marsh 

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