Russell Causley: murderer who hid wife’s body for years could talk to grieving daughter in restorative justice
The last time Sam Gillingham spoke to her killer dad was in 1993, when he told her out of the blue: “The police have just left and they still haven’t managed to arrest me for the murder of your mother.”
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A grieving daughter could speak to her killer dad for the first time since he was convicted for murdering her mother more than 20 years ago.
Russell Causley became the first person in British legal history to have his parole hearing heard in public. He was handed a life sentence for killing his wife Carole Packman, who disappeared in June 1985 – a year after he moved his lover into their home in Bournemouth, Dorset.
His daughter Sam Gillingham watched on via video link, as the 79-year-old gave evidence on Monday, 12 December, in front of a three-person panel - chaired by retired judge Nick Coleman - at HMP Lewes.
He was first convicted of murder in 1996, after allegedly telling a prison inmate about the “perfect” murder of his “b**** wife”, but this was quashed by the Court of Appeal in June 2003. He then faced a second trial for murder and was again found guilty. Causley was freed from prison in 2020, after serving more than 23 years for the murder, but was sent back to jail in November last year after breaching his licence conditions.
Sam was just 16 when her mother went missing, and has campaigned for years to keep her father behind bars. He has never revealed the location of Carole’s body to Sam or anyone else.
At the parole hearing, Causley agreed that he was a “proven, habitual” liar and claimed he burned his wife’s body in the garden, while Sam was just metres away in the house. He openly admitted he has “lied consistently and changed stories consistently” about what happened to his wife.
The panel heard he previously admitted to strangling his wife and allegedly told fellow inmates he’d gassed her in a plastic bag. However he told the parole board that he’d made these up and tried to pin the blame on his lover - something the police have never found any evidence for.
Causley also said he had a great relationship with his daughter and denied committing domestic violence, despite his sentencing judge saying he “bullied and dominated” his wife for years.
This was the first time daughter Sam had heard her father’s voice since the early 1990s, after he’d been bailed for faking his own death in a sailing accident as part of an insurance fraud. It was while he was in prison for this offence that he allegedly confessed to Carole’s murder, and was eventually charged.
After the hearing, Sam told NationalWorld: “He phoned me up, and the police had just been to see him about my mother.
“I answered the house phone, and he started the conversation with: ‘Well Sam, the police have just left and they still haven’t managed to arrest me for the murder of your mother.’ It completely and utterly stopped me dead. I was like: ‘I didn’t realise they were going to arrest you.’
“The phone call didn’t go very well and I just ended up putting the phone down on him because he was so nasty. I’ve never heard his voice since then.”
But Sam may have the chance to speak to her killer father in the future. The panel’s psychologist - who has not been named - asked Causley about whether he would like to take part in restorative justice. This is where victims of a crime get to ask the perpetrator questions about the incident.
Sam, 53, had previously asked about a restorative justice meeting, however the parole hearing heard that Causley had decided not to participate as he was unsure who wanted to speak to him. However Causley told the panel that he would consider meeting his daughter in the future to “right some wrongs”, although his community offender manager said she didn’t think it was suitable.
Sam told NationalWorld that she “100%” still wanted to meet and speak to her father, to give him a piece of her mind. She told NationalWorld: “I was really pleased that it was mentioned and I have hope that my father will want to do it. He did say that he does think highly of me, he doesn’t hate me.”
“I want to say to him: ‘What the f*** is wrong with you? What is it that you’re getting out of this? Why can’t you do the right thing? How long are you going to do this for?,” she previous explained.
She wanted to ask Causley why he used to smother food in her face as a child and lock her in her room “for lying”, when he now refuses to tell her the truth about Carole. “That’s what I’d like to talk to him about,” Sam told NationalWorld.
And speaking about the UK’s first public parole hearing, she commented: “This isn’t going to be for everybody, and this isn’t going to be a necessity in every single case. But there are some very complex cases like mine, that I do think need transparency.”
The hearing is set to last for two days. There will be a private section of the hearing on Friday, 16 December, where information such as potential release addresses will be discussed. The panel will then have to make a decision within 14 calendar days.
Causley was initially sentenced to a minimum of 16 years’ imprisonment, however had ended up serving more than 23 years by the time of his release in 2020. He was released from custody in his sixth parole hearing, when he was deemed not to pose a risk to the public.
Giving evidence to the hearing, Causley said he spent time after his release reading, doing crosswords, walking and shopping and he got on well with staff at his bail hostel but “could have had a better rapport” with his probation officer.
He received an official reprimand for spending the night away from the hostel in August 2021 when he visited a friend in Watford but could not get a taxi home. The panel then heard about a series of suicide attempts that Causley said he made.
On Christmas Day 2020 he wrote a suicide note, and then in September 2021 he took a taxi to some cliffs before deciding that they were not high enough to jump from.
He was recalled to prison in November 2021 after failing to answer a phone call from his probation officer and was logged as missing after it was found he had disappeared from his bail hostel overnight without his phone or wallet.
Causley told the hearing he had gone to Portsmouth, where he went to college, and walked around the city before going to dinner. He said he spent £50 on a meal, and drank a bottle of wine.
After the meal he claimed he was attacked and robbed by three men after he walked along the promenade in the evening. 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.
After the attack, Causley said he then lay on the beach until morning, adding: “I truly gave up, I was bereft.” The next day he went into a nearby shop and asked a member of staff to get him a taxi back to the hostel.
He said the details were “all a bit blurry”, adding: “All I can remember is laying on the beach shivering.
Although he reported the attack to the police and said he had bruises, officers did not record any visible injuries when he was taken back into custody and there are no suspects identified or lines of enquiry to pursue over the incident, the proceedings heard. He said he had a laptop wrapped in a towel, which he intended to post to a friend, which was not taken.
His prison offender manager said she saw bruises on him when he was returned to custody for breaching his licence. She also said his behaviour has been “exemplary” since he has been back in jail.
She said the account of the murder he had given to the panel was the same version of events which Causley had told her. She added that she thought his likelihood of reoffending was low.
While Causley’s community offender manager said she approaches his account with “a healthy cynicism”, and added that it is “not as credible as his story has changed over the years”.
The hearing continues.