Murderer Russell Causley Is 1st Prisoner to Face UK Parole Hearing in Public

Murderer Russell Causley Is 1st Prisoner to Face UK Parole Hearing in Public
Undated family handout photo of Russell Causley with his wife Carole, who he was convicted of murdering in 1985, and daughter Samantha at their home in Bournemouth, Dorset, England. (Family/PA)
Chris Summers

A convicted murderer who has spent 24 years in prison but has never revealed where he disposed of his victim, has faced Britain’s first ever public parole board hearing.

Russell Causley, 79, was given a life sentence for the murder of his wife, Carole Packman, who vanished from their home in Bournemouth, Dorset, in 1985.

He was released from Littlehey prison in Cambridgeshire in 2020 but was recalled in November 2021 after breaching the conditions of his parole by failing to take a phone call from his community offender manager.

On Monday he faced a hearing—the first of its kind ever to be held in public—in which he is trying to convince members of the Parole Board he is safe to be released.

His own daughter Samantha Gillingham, from Northamptonshire, has campaigned, along with her son Neil, to keep Causley in prison and succeeded in getting the hearing held in public.

The Parole Board ruled in September that Causley’s case would be the first to take place in public.

Journalists and members of Packman’s family attended the Parole Board’s head office in London’s Canary Wharf on Monday, where a video link showed the hearing at an unidentified prison.

Causley Is ‘Physically Frail’

Causley, who has been described as “physically frail,” did not appear on camera and none of the Parole Board members have been identified by name.

The hearing was told by an offender manager that Causley’s behaviour had been “exemplary” since he was recalled to prison last month.

The Parole Board postponed the original hearing in October and said there was “compelling evidence” of attempts to undermine the process which put the prisoner’s safety at risk.

As Causley continues to maintain his innocence, he has not shown any remorse or responded to requests by his daughter and grandson for him to reveal Packman’s grave.

The panel chair told Causley: “You still maintain your innocence although your version of events has varied over time. Your wife’s body has never been found, and the precise circumstances [of the murder] are not clear.”

Causley’s grandson, Neil Gillingham, wrote on Twitter on Sunday: “I will not be attending tomorrow’s parole hearing, nor will I be engaging with the media. My killer grandfather has done enough psychological damage. Russell Causley will be freed within the next 28 days. It is what it is - it’s not justice but [expletive].”

Parole hearings in Britain have traditionally been held in private in prisons, with only limited access to some relatives of the victims.

But the government promised to introduce more transparency in the wake of the controversy over the release of John Worboys, a serial rapist who targeted victims while driving a black cab taxi in London.

Worboys’s release was blocked in 2018 by a legal challenge in the High Court in 2018 by two of his victims.

Killer Claimed Wife Left With Man in Red Porsche

Causley was originally known as Russell Packman but he began an affair with Patricia Causley and moved her into the family home a year before his wife vanished. He claimed his wife had left with a man in a red Porsche and had moved abroad. In 1989 he took his lover’s surname.

Gillingham was 16 when her mother went missing and has long campaigned against her father’s release and for parole hearings to be in public.

In July 2022, the Ministry of Justice gave the press and other interested parties the right to request that parole is reviewed in public.

Although Packman vanished in 1985, Causley—who then faked his own death in a bid to claim on his life insurance—was not convicted of murder until 1996.

His conviction was then quashed by the Court of Appeal in 2003, but he was convicted of murder again at a retrial.

When he was sentenced, Mrs. Justice Hallett said his crime was “beyond the understanding of most normal people.”

She said, “Not only did you kill your wife and somehow dispose of her body, you left your daughter in a permanent state of ignorance as to her mother’s fate.”

Hallett added: “Your mistress appears to be of the same kind, and I am not surprised she has not dared show her face in this court. You are, in my judgment, a wicked pair.”

‘Major Step Forward for Victims’

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said of Monday’s hearing, “Pulling back the curtain on the parole process by allowing hearings to be heard in public is a major step forward for victims who want to see justice being done first-hand.”

“It marks the first step in our reforms to overhaul the system—putting victims and public protection front and centre of the process,” he added.

The second prisoner due to have a public parole hearing will be Charles Bronson—who changed his name from Michael Peterson in 1988—who has often been referred to as “Britain’s most notorious prisoner.”

Bronson, 70, is not a convicted murder or serial rapist but has spent 50 years in prison—with the exception of 69 days in 1988—largely because of offences of violence committed behind bars, including a prison siege.

He was played by Tom Hardy in the eponymous biopic that was released in 2008.

Five years later a petition of 10,000 names was handed in to 10 Downing Street and former Prime Minister David Cameron was urged by Bronson, in a handwritten letter, to let him “live what’s left of my life and not be buried in the prison system.”

PA Media contributed to this report.