Killer husband whose wife’s body was never found will face public parole hearing

A man who murdered his wife in 1985, will become the first prisoner to face a public Parole Board hearing.

Russell Causley killed Carole Packman in 1985 but has never told his devastated family what he did with her.

Victims, members of the public and the media can now ask for a parole hearing to be heard in public, following law changes made back in June.

An application made for the next hearing to consider the release of Russell Causley, now in his late 70s, to take place in public has been granted, the Parole Board said on Tuesday.

Causley was handed a life sentence for killing Carole Packman, who disappeared in 1985, a year after he moved his lover into their home in Bournemouth, Dorset.

He was freed from prison in 2020, after serving more than 23 years for the murder, but was returned to jail in November last year after breaching his licence conditions.

Causley, who never revealed where he hid Ms Packman’s body, is next due to face the Parole Board for review in October.

His grandson, Neil Gillingham, applied for the hearing to take place in public in a bid to shine a light on what he sees as the failure of legal changes designed to make it harder to release killers who refuse to reveal the whereabouts of their victims’ bodies.

Back in June, the then deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Raab MP, said: “This is the first step in our reforms to the parole process.

“We are making proceedings more transparent, so victims and the public can see justice being done.

“I am also making sure there is one, crystal clear, recommendation from the Justice Secretary when it comes to the risk of release of the most serious offenders.

“We are overhauling the system, to make sure public protection is the overriding the priority.”

The murder of Carole Packman became the subject of a true crime investigation programme on ITV back in 2016.

The Investigator: A British Crime Story was a four-part series led by former police detective Mark Williams-Thomas.

Daughter Samantha Gillingham, who was just 16 when her mum went missing was hoping to get answers.

Samantha and her father Russell returned from a day out to their Bournemouth home to find a short note left on the kitchen table alongside her mother’s wedding ring, which read: “I’ve had enough and I’m leaving. And I’m not coming back.”

The middle-class couple lived on the outskirts of Bournemouth with their daughter and while they appeared a normal family, behind closed doors their marriage was unconventional.

Publicly Russell later claimed that his wife ran off “with a man in a red Porsche”, but it was actually the serial philanderer who had multiple extra-marital affairs and had moved his latest mistress, a work colleague called Patricia, into the family home a year before Carole’s disappearance after claiming she had nowhere to live.

It’s unknown how the set-up affected Carole, but tellingly the last time she was seen was at a visit to a divorce lawyer shortly before she vanished for good.

After Carole went missing, Russell changed his name by deed poll from Packman to his lover’s last name – Causley.

First treated as a disappearance, with the understanding she had left to start a new life it wasn’t until a decade later that police returned to the case after Russell was arrested and convicted of insurance fraud after attempting to fake his own death.

The nature of the crime aroused suspicion about Carole’s whereabouts and despite there being no body, he was convicted of her murder in 1996.

In 2003 his conviction was quashed, only for him to be found guilty during a retrial a year later and remains in jail serving a life sentence.

Publicly, he maintained she had run off with another man and had been working abroad in Germany, France, Switzerland and Malta but while in prison he allegedly confessed to three inmates that he had killed his wife.

He claimed to have told one of them that he gassed her before dissolving her body in acid, this followed a letter in August 2014 where he wrote a full police confession to the murder in which he said he burned his wife’s body.

The convicted murderer has refused to speak to his daughter Sam, now 47, about the whereabouts of her mother’s body.

After 30 years of silence he did agree to meet with family so he could finally reveal what happened – but cancelled four days before.