The family of murdered Irish student Karen Buckley branded her killer a “truly evil coward” after he was jailed for life today (Tues).
Alexander Pacteau, 21, a former private schoolboy, bludgeoned the 24-year-old to death with a spanner before trying to dispose of her body using chemicals.
During his sentencing at Glasgow High Court yesterday, Pacteau was described as a “callous and calculating man” by Judge Lady Rae.
He was given a minimum sentence of 23 years in prison.
Pacteau met Karen Buckley, from Cork, outside Sanctuary nightclub on Dumbarton Road, Glasgow, on April 12.
Just minutes after they met, Karen was dead.
The occupational therapy student got into Pacteau’s car before they drove towards her flat, stopping in Kelvin Way.
Pacteau parked the car before battering her 13 times on the body with a spanner and strangling her.
As police and Karen’s family and friends launched a search to find the student, Pacteau began to try to cover up his crime.
Over the next three days he attempted to dissolve her body in caustic soda in a bath.
He then dumped her body in a barrel at a farm near Drymen, Stirlingshire.
During sentencing, Lady Rae described Pacteau’s actions as a “brutal, senseless, motiveless attack on a defenceless young woman”.
She said she could not ignore the “extraordinary lengths” the former company director went to in order to cover up what he had done, or the “tissue of lies” he told police.
Lady Rae added: “I find it extremely difficult to find words appropriate to describe the breadth of crimes of which you were found guilty.
“Karen was a young woman in the prime of the life. She was a much loved member of a close and united family.
“In a matter of minutes, for some unknown and inexplicable reason, you destroyed her young life and devastated her family.
“To you she was a stranger who appears tragically to have accepted a lift in your car.
“Not satisfied with killing her so brutally you went to extraordinary lengths over several days to cover up your actions.”
The Judge said Pacteau had “concocted a story” to tell police about what had happened, and only told them where her body was when he was taken into custody.
He then continued to lie, claiming that Karen had assaulted him before he killed her.
Lady Rae also said she felt his actions could not suggest he had acted in “a panic” following the murder.
Pacteau’s solicitor, John Scullion QC, told the court last month that he was remorseful for his actions and wanted to say sorry to Karen’s parents.
But Lady Rae said that during interviews with social workers to compile a report on the killer, Pacteau had “remained passive” and “at no point used the words regret, remorse or sorry”.
She added: “From the Criminal Justice Social Work Report it’s apparent that through the course of lengthy interviews at no point did you demonstrate any regret for what you had done.”
Pacteau will remain in prison for a minimum of 23 years, at which time he will be able to go before the parole board for potential release.
Karen’s parents, John and Marian Buckley, were in court as Pacteau was sentenced.
Pacteau was passive, only occasionally bowing his head as Lady Rae passed sentence.
He expressed no emotions as he was led away from the dock.
A statement released on behalf of Karen’s family branded Pacteau as a “truly evil coward”.
It said: “Today’s life sentence will not bring our beautiful Karen back. Our little angel has been taken from us forever in the cruellest of ways.
“We mourn for her every day. It will however ensure that women are safe from harm from the truly evil coward who took our beautiful Karen’s precious life.
“I hope that he is never released and spends every day in prison haunted by what he did.
“Marian and I would again like to thank the people of Scotland and Ireland, the Irish Garda and the Scottish Police and Prosecution service for all their help and support in bringing Karen’s killer to justice.
“We appreciate most especially those who keep us in their thoughts and prayers.
“We all want to move on and try to piece our lives back together. We have three wonderful sons and we need to be there for each other as a family.
“We would be grateful if we can now be left alone to grieve and our family’s privacy be respected.
“Karen is at peace now and we know that she is in heaven looking down on us and helping us.”
Karen was dead within 20 minutes of meeting Pacteau and police say they will never know what words were exchanged between the pair before she got into his car.
The young student had recently moved to Glasgow to study a masters in occupational therapy at Glasgow Caledonian University.
She had gone out with friends the night she met Pacteau.
He had friends round to his house for drinks, before they headed to Sanctuary nightclub, where they had a booth booked.
Pacteau decided to drive as a taxi was late, and it was when Karen decided to head home by herself at 1am that she bumped into the 21-year-old.
After killing her, he hid her body in his bedroom before trying to dissolve her in his bath for several hours, unsuccessfully.
He tried to clean the blood from his bedroom, before removing her from the bath and wrapping her in a duvet.
Pacteau threw the spanner he used to kill her into the Clyde and Forth Canal, before buying more supplies.
CCTV at various shops in the area around Pacteau’s flat spotted his car as he bought caustic soda, gloves, masks, padlocks and a barrel from a packaging company.
He put Karen’s body into the barrel, pouring a mixture of caustic soda and drain unblocker inside until it was three quarters full.
Pacteau hired a storage unit at High Craigton Farm and locked the barrel inside.
Police then found the body and brought Pacteau in for questioning.
Pacteau has said he can offer “no rational explanation to why he behaved like he did”.
He has said he was “heavily intoxicated” and had a “limited recollection” of what happened.
Following Pacteau’s sentencing, Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, of Police Scotland’s Major Crime and Public Protection, added: “Today’s sentencing marks the conclusion of an investigation by Police Scotland which began immediately after Karen was reported missing and which led to the discovery of her body at High Craigton Farm, near Milngavie.
“I would like at this time to again offer the condolences of Police Scotland to Karen’s family and friends.
“The full resources of Police Scotland were directed towards understanding what happened to Karen and tracing the person responsible for her murder.
“Experienced murder investigators, working closely with local policing teams, specialist search officers and forensic experts, built up an overwhelming evidential case which led ultimately to Pacteau admitting his actions.
“Such incidents are rare in our communities; where they do take place we will carry out professional, thorough and rigorous investigations to bring those responsible to justice.”