Christopher Halliwell jailed for life for murdering Sian O'Callaghan

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  • Christopher Halliwell jailed for life for the murder of Sian O'Callaghan.
  • He will serve a minimum of 25 years.
  • It is revealed that charge of murder of Becky Godden-Edwards was dropped because of police procedural error.
  • Read below for reactions, pictures, video and more

7:19pm

5:01pm

Herald Series: Becky's family at court

Karen Edwards, mum of Becky Godden-Edwards, gave a brief statement outside Bristol Crown Court this afternoon, in which she pleaded for help in getting justice for her daughter.
She said: “As you can imagine, it has been a very dreadful time for all our family and I would like to thank everyone for their continued support.
“I would now like to say, I would like the full support of you all to help me get justice for my daughter Becky.”

4:59pm

Herald Series: Elaine O'Callaghan outside court

Elaine O’Callaghan said on the steps of the court: “Our lives have been changed forever as a result of a truly wonderful life being taken too soon.

“The overwhelming response and support continues to be a comfort to us and great testament to Sian.
“She will continue to inspire and never be forgotten.
“As her mum I want her to be remembered as the incredible person she was.
“A heartfelt thank you to everyone for supporting and helping us get through this awful time.
“I would like to pay tribute to Sian’s brothers and sister for their relentless strength, conduct, composure, dignity and support throughout this distressing time.
“Christopher Halliwell has by his actions taken my vibrant young daughter’s life and caused unimaginable distress.
“Sentencing today of Halliwell will not bring Sian back but will mean he can’t take any more.
“We will all endeavour to get on with our lives as Sian would have wanted.
“Our memories along with her warm and happy nature will always be in our thoughts and hearts - that cannot be taken away from us or anyone who knew her, and we miss her.”

Mick O’Callaghan said: “It has been a very emotional day.
“As Elaine said we have lost a beautiful girl in the most distressing way, however justice has been done today.
“It was an arduous journey but we got there and justice obviously for Sian.
“I would like to thank, Ian our QC, and his tea, the CPS and the police for their wonderful work.
“I also want to put on record the wonderful job that Stephen Fulcher did in finding my daughter so early.
“Our thoughts go to Becky’s family and I hope that their conclusion comes to the right end as it has done for us.”

 

4:43pm

Dad Mick O'Callaghan outside court:  "It's been a very emotional day. As Elaine said, we've lost a beautiful girl in the most distressing way however justice has been done today.

"Our thoughts go to Becky's family I hope their conclusion comes to light as it has for us."

Herald Series: Sian O'Callaghan's dad Mick O'Callaghan pictured with his partner Debbie arriving at court today

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SPEAKING outside Bristol Crown Court this afternoon, Detective Chief Superintendent Kier Pritchard, Head of Protective Services at Wiltshire Police, praised Sian O’Callaghan’s family for their courage and dignity.
He said: “Firstly I’d like to express our deepest sympathy for the family and friends of Sian. I can only imagine how hard the last 18 months has been for them and how difficult it must have been to have heard in court today how violently Sian was attacked before her death. Sian’s family and loved ones have shown great dignity throughout the court process, resulting in Halliwell’s guilty plea today.
“I hope this conviction will in some way help the family to move forward with their lives.
“This was a complex and fast moving investigation and from the outset the priority of the Senior Investigating Officer Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher was always to try and find Sian alive but unfortunately this was not possible.
“This was a violent and brutal murder of a young woman in the prime of her life. It is likely that Sian suffered horrifically from the point that she was abducted.
“Halliwell, in committing this crime, betrayed his position of trust as a taxi driver as he preyed on a lone vulnerable female.
“Today the court heard that there was clear evidence of premeditation. We can only imagine how Sian must have suffered throughout this ordeal and in those last moments.
“Christopher Halliwell went on to conceal Sian’s body and attempted to destroy the evidence of his violent crime. He has shown himself to be a despicable man and has shown no remorse throughout.
“Whilst Halliwell’s admission of guilt today may go some way to help the family grieve, it will not bring Sian back who was needlessly and tragically taken from them.
“Finally, crimes of this nature are extremely rare in Wiltshire and I would particularly like to thank our local communities for their overwhelming support and compassion.
“Today’s hearing was about bringing justice for Sian’s family. They have continued to display great courage and dignity and we hope this will provide them with some comfort at this most difficult time.”

4:39pm

Herald Series: DCI Kier Pritchard and Hannah Squire of the CPS outside court

DCI Kier Pritchard and Hannah Squire of the CPS outside court

4:37pm

Herald Series: DCI Kier Pritchard outside court

DCI Kier Pritchard outside court

4:32pm

This is a transcript of the notes taken by Debbie Peach, a civilian police worker, of an interview between Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher and Christopher Halliwell.

The nine-minute grilling took place at Barbury Castle in rural Wiltshire when the experienced detective asked Halliwell, who he had not cautioned or offered a solicitor, to confess to where missing Sian O'Callaghan was.

The transcript was read during a pre-trial court hearing and the accuracy was not disputed.

SF (Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher): Are you going to tell me where Sian is?

CH (Christopher Halliwell): I don't know anything.

SF: Are you going to show me where Sian is? What's going to happen. If you tell us where Sian is - that whatever you will be portrayed - you would have done the right thing.

CH: I want to go to the station.

SF: Are you prepared to tell me where Sian is?

CH: You think I did it.

SF: I know you did it.

CH: Can I go to the station?

SF: You can go to the station. What will happen is that you will be vilified. If you tell me where Sian is you would have done the right thing.

CH: I want to speak to a solicitor.

SF: You are being given an opportunity to tell me where Sian is. In one hour's time you will be in the Press.

CH: I want to speak to a solicitor.

SF: You will speak to a solicitor. I'm giving you an opportunity to tell me where Sian is. By the end of this cycle you will be vilified, tell me where Sian is.

CH: Have you got a car? We'll go."

4:30pm

Mrs Justice Cox's sentencing remarks to Christopher Halliwell

"Christopher Halliwell, the sentence for murder is life imprisonment and that is the sentence I impose upon you now.

You are now aged 48. You have pleaded guilty to the murder of Sian O’Callaghan, a much loved daughter, sister and partner – a happy, lively and caring young woman who enriched the lives of all those who knew her and who had everything to live for. In March 2011 she was just 22 years old.

"What exactly you did to her, and why you did it, may never be known. On your behalf your counsel has today, on your instructions, offered for the first time an explanation as to how she met her death that night. I have considered it carefully and I have considered it against all the evidence which exists in this case. Your account bears the hallmarks of an account carefully designed to try and explain away separate aspects of the evidence relied upon by the prosecution. It is important however to view all that evidence cumulatively. The CCTV, telephone and Automatic Number Plate Recognition evidence of your movements between 19 and 23 March, and forensic evidence as to Sian’s injuries, all provide cumulatively a compelling picture of events.

 

"I reject the account you have offered today. I am satisfied so as to be sure on all the evidence of the following facts. On Saturday 19 March, the night Sian was abducted, and I am sure that she was abducted, you were working in Swindon as a taxi driver. At 02.13 in the morning you turned your taxi handset off. But you did not go home, as you told the taxi company you would. CCTV shows your car driving around the area near the Suju nightclub in Swindon Old Town, circling round and round for some 40 minutes until you saw Sian.

"She had spent the evening with friends, drinking and having fun at the Suju. She left the club shortly before 3 a.m. to walk to her home, about 10 minutes walk away. She was alone, she was intoxicated and she was walking unsteadily. You saw her as you drove past, but you then stopped, turned round and drove back to her.

"You stopped and no doubt offered her, or persuaded her to have a taxi ride home, because she got into your taxi. Poignantly, her partner had advised her never to walk home alone but to always use a taxi. She probably had that advice in mind when she got into your taxi, thinking that she would be safe; that it was the right thing to do. But she would soon have realised, with horror, that you were not taking her home, because you drove off in the opposite direction – out of Swindon towards Marlborough and the Savernake Forest - a distance it would have taken about half an hour to drive. Having regard to all the evidence and in particular the telephone evidence relating to the location of Sian’s mobile I reject the suggestion that you were initially told to drive to Covingham. I am sure you knew exactly what you were doing when Sian got inside your taxi.

 

"You went home later that morning, but Sian did not. You had assaulted her and murdered her and you had left her body somewhere in the Forest area. I am entirely satisfied that you intended to kill her.

The evidence shows that you drove back to the area where you’d left her at lunchtime on that same day – the 19 March. You logged on for work again that evening but you deliberately turned your handset off again just before 7 p.m., no doubt to avoid your movements being traced. In the three hours that followed, before you logged back on, you were driving around and looking for a remote area somewhere on the Berkshire Downs, where you could conceal her body.

 

"At some point on Monday 21 March you moved Sian’s body from the place you had first hidden her to the place on the Downs where she was eventually found by police on Thursday 24 March.

"On 22 March, while you were under surveillance, you were seen to be cleaning the rear seat of your taxi with cleaning fluid and then to be putting seat and headrest covers in an industrial wheelie bin, no doubt in an effort to remove any evidence that could link Sian’s murder to you. Those items were found to have Sian’s blood upon them.

 

"On 23 March you drove back yet again to the place where Sian now was and later on you made further efforts to get rid of evidence by burning more car seat covers by the roadside nearby. You had displayed a police poster about Sian in your rear taxi window, again no doubt to give the impression that you were not linked to this crime.

"On 24 March Sian’s body was found, partially concealed amongst the undergrowth and positioned down a steep bank where she would not readily be seen. She was lying face down and she was naked from the waist down to her ankles.

"Her leggings and underwear were wrapped around her ankles and fabric from these items of clothing had been cut away in the crotch and buttock areas.

"Her bra had been removed and a torn bra strap was found in the sleeve of her cardigan.

The cause of Sian’s death was considered to be the combined effects of two stab wounds to her head and neck and compression of the neck. You had stabbed her twice with a knife and there is little doubt that they were the fatal wounds. You admit that you kept a knife in your car for self-protection. There is evidence that it was a 6 inch kitchen knife.

"One of those stab wounds was so deep and penetrating that it passed right through her skull and would have required severe force. Deep bruising and abrasions to her face were consistent with punches or kicks. Deep bruising to her neck suggested pressure either from strangulation or, more likely, from blunt force trauma in an attempt to restrain her. There were also bruises and abrasions to her breasts, particularly her left breast and nipple, caused possibly by biting.

"These, then, were the physical injuries you inflicted upon that young woman in what was clearly a savage and brutal attack. The pain, terror, anguish and desperation she would have suffered, as you assaulted and then murdered her, is truly horrifying to contemplate. But her terror would have started long before then. She would have been terrified and panic-stricken right from the moment she realised that you were not going to drive her home. She was terrified, helpless and alone.

For this offence of murder I have to decide on the minimum term you must serve, as punishment, before the Parole Board can even consider your release on licence. I do so having regard to the seriousness of the offence. Your counsel has conceded that, since you had a knife with you in the taxi and you used it to stab Sian, the starting point is 25 years.

"However, the Prosecution submit that this was a murder involving sexual conduct and that the starting point should therefore be 30 years.

"I am satisfied on the evidence, viewed cumulatively, that this was a murder involving sexual conduct. I reject the submission by your counsel that I cannot be sure of that on the evidence in this case. The Prosecution do not suggest that there is, here, any evidence of overt sexual activity. Sexual conduct can, however, take many forms and again I view the evidence cumulatively. After circling the area where you eventually saw Sian, you deliberately abducted this attractive young girl, who was alone late at night, and you drove her some distance away.

"Her injuries included injuries consistent with bites or another form of aggressive assault. Her body was found half naked, with her leggings and underwear around her ankles.

"These factors, together with the cutting away of fabric from those items of clothing in the crotch area and the removal of her bra, point clearly to sexual conduct. Had Sian survived, this evidence would have amounted to evidence of a sexual assault.

 

"The starting point in fixing the minimum term is therefore 30 years imprisonment.

"I make it plain that I shall ignore completely your previous convictions, which were many years ago now and were for offences of dishonesty. You have no convictions for sexual or violent offences.

 

"There are a number of aggravating features in this case. You abused your position as a taxi driver, in a car clearly marked as a taxi, and as someone Sian thought she could trust; her abduction was clearly premeditated; as a young woman walking alone late at night and under the influence of drink she was a vulnerable victim; there was here a prolonged period of time in which she would have suffered extreme fear and terror as well as severe pain from the injuries you inflicted upon her; and you made extensive efforts to conceal her body.

"There is little advanced by way of mitigation. I accept, however, that your plea of guilty has avoided Sian’s family having to endure a trial, which is an important factor.

Taking all the relevant factors into account and having careful regard to the overall seriousness of this offence the starting point will remain as 30 years.

"I shall allow a discount of five years for your plea of guilty, taking into account the legal advice you received, entirely properly, and the time that elapsed in this case as a result. There will also be deducted the period of 571 days, which you have already spent in custody. That period will be deducted from the minimum term of 25 years, which is the term I consider properly reflects the seriousness of this case. If you are eventually released on licence you will remain on licence for the rest of your life."

4:27pm

Why Halliwell was not charged with Becky murder

Deliberate breaches of the law by the lead detective resulted in the second charge of murder against murderer Chris Halliwell being dropped.


The 48-year-old, of Ashbury Avenue, Nythe, was initially charged with the murder of Sian O’Callaghan and later with the murder of Becky Godden-Edwards in April last year.
But at an earlier hearing High Court judge Mrs Justice Cox ruled that crucial confessions obtained in interviews that took place between the time of Halliwell’s arrest and his arrival at Gablecross police station more than four hours later was inadmissible in a trial because Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher had breached the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984.


It means details of how Halliwell led police to the bodies of both women could not be heard by a jury should Becky’s case come to trial.


The decision came after intense legal arguments between prosecutor Ian Lawrie QC and Halliwell’s defence barrister Richard Latham QC which saw Mr Fulcher, who had been senior investigating officer for the operation, take the stand at Bristol Crown Court.


The court heard on the day of Halliwell’s arrest, March 24, Mr Fulcher had tried to conduct an ‘urgent interview’, under the PACE Codes clause C.11.1 – often enacted in terrorism investigations where there is an immediate risk to life.
The DSI directed officers to take him to Barbury Castle rather than the police station in a last-ditch bid to find Sian alive.
After a nine-minute conversation Halliwell offered to take detectives to Uffington, where the 22-year-old’s body was recovered.


The killer then prompted Mr Fulcher that he knew the site of another body and then directed officers to within a few feet of Becky’s remains – which had been disposed of almost eight years earlier.


During cross-examination Mr Fulcher admitted he failed to caution Halliwell at all during the two-and-a-half hours he was with him – something PACE requires – and that he made the order to go to Barbury Castle despite having been warned by fellow officers he may be breaking the rules.


In one illuminating exchange Mr Fulcher, who was seconded to the National Police Improvement Agency shortly after the investigation, said: “I’m fully aware of PACE. The choice was the strictures of PACE and never find Sian.”


Mr Latham QC, who prosecuted the Soham murders case in 2003, then pressed: “The end justifies the means?”
To which Mr Fulcher replied: “Well in these circumstances it does.”


Later Mr Fulcher said: “My view was there is an equation to balance between right to silence and right to life. My view was Sian’s right to life took prior claim.”
In another important moment Mr Latham QC asked: “When you said ‘take him to Barbury Castle’ what did the assistant SIO say?”
Mr Fulcher answered: “We had a rapid exchange of views and his view was it was not a good idea.


“Because we are likely to be sailing very close to the wind in terms of breaching PACE.”


Mr Latham QC then said: “You were not sailing close to the wind, you made a decision to sail into the wind.


“The judgement was that Sian’s life was more important than PACE.”
To which Mr Fulcher simply said: “Yes.”
Mr Fulcher told the court he was faced with a potential life and death scenario and he tried to appeal to Halliwell’s conscience while remaining within the parameters of PACE.
He said: “My view was that section 78 of PACE would apply and court would hear and decide whether my actions were reasonable or not.”


After hearing all the evidence, Mrs Justice Cox ruled Halliwell’s confession at Barbury had been obtained by oppression – in direct breach of section 76 of the Act governing interviews.
She also found that the subsequent interview at Uffington should not be admissible in a trial before a jury under section 78 of PACE, governing unfair evidence.


She said: “In the exercise of my discretion under section 78 admission of the evidence relating to the confession concerning Miss Godden-Edwards and the location of her body, and the circumstances in which they arose, would have such an adverse effect on the fairness of these proceedings that they ought not to be admitted.”

4:25pm

Reporting restrictions on the Becky Godden-Edwards case have now been lifted, which means it can be reported that evidence against Halliwell was ruled inadmissable.

He has not been found guilty of that crime because the charge against him was dropped because of an error in procedure by police when he led them to Becky's grave.

4:25pm

Reporting restrictions on the Becky Godden-Edwards case have now been lifted, which means it can be reported that evidence against Halliwell was ruled inadmissable.

He has not been found guilty of that crime because the charge against him was dropped because of an error in procedure by police when he led them to Becky's grave.

4:12pm

DCI Steve Fulcher, the man who led the investigation into Sian's mudrer has been suspend from duty pending an IPCC inquiry over "inappropriate contact with the media"

4:05pm

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3:40pm

Taxi driver Christopher Halliwell, 48, was jailed for life today after he pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court to murdering nightclubber Sian O'Callaghan, who disappeared after a night out in Swindon in March last year.

3:35pm

Herald Series: The press pack waiting outside Bristol Crown Court

Some of the press pack waiting outside Bristol Crown Court

3:31pm

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Herald Series: Elaine O'Callaghan arriving at court today

Elaine O'Callaghan arriving at Bristol Crown Court today

1:51pm

Dad Mick said in his impact statement: "My eldest daughter was the most lovely and fantastic daughter. This statement cannot explain the awful harrowing loss of Sian."

 

Eldest brother Liam, who sat in court with his partner, said: "The pain and loss will always be with me. Sian was a brilliant sister with an amazing personality and she had a passion for life."

1:45pm

UPDATED NEWS STORY

The family of Sian O’Callaghan had to endure harrowing details of her death this afternoon as taxi driver Christopher Halliwell admitted her murder.

 

Father-of-three Halliwell, 48, of Ashbury Avenue, Swindon, pleaded guilty to the charge during a hearing at Bristol Crown Court.

Sian, 22, disappeared after leaving Swindon's Suju nightclub in the early hours of March 19 last year after a night out with friends.

 

Hundreds of volunteers turned out at Savernake Forest to help in the search for her but police found her body in Uffington, Oxfordshire, on March 24.

She left the nightclub at 2.53am for the short walk to the home she shared with boyfriend Kevin Reape.

 

Shortly after she walked past the Goddard Arms on the High Street in the Old Town area, she fell into Halliwell's clutches by getting into his taxi.

On the night the office worker disappeared, Halliwell had signed off from work but, instead of going home, he cruised the streets of Swindon in his green Toyota Avensis taxi looking for a victim.

 

The court heard that he took Miss O'Callaghan to Savernake Forest where he murdered her.

Police discovered that, in the 24 hours after Miss O'Callaghan was abducted, Halliwell made four visits to the area where her body had been hidden.

 

Prosecutor Ian Lawrie QC told the court: "He had carried out a reconnaissance for a possible deposition site for Sian O'Callaghan."

By the early hours of March 21, Halliwell had moved Miss O'Callaghan's body from Savernake Forest to the spot where it was later found.

 

He then attempted to cover his tracks by cleaning his car and burning his seat covers.

Within three days Halliwell was the prime suspect for Miss O'Callaghan's kidnap and he was placed under 24-hour surveillance.

 

He was arrested at 11.06am on March 24 at an Asda Walmart car park in Swindon and experienced detectives carried out an "urgent interview"
with Halliwell.

Mr Lawrie told the court: "He said he didn't know the whereabouts of Sian and requested to speak to a solicitor."

Sian’s body was found laying face down and naked from her waist to her ankles.

A swab taken from an injury to her left breast subsequently revealed a mixed DNA profile with components from Halliwell - therefore showing him to be a possible contributor, the court was told.

A forensic odontologist inspected the injury and concluded that biting might have caused the bruising. But Halliwell refused to supply a dental impression.

Home Office pathologist Dr Amanda Jeffrey carried out a post mortem examination and found that Miss O'Callaghan had died from the combined effects of two stab wounds to the head and neck, as well as compression to the neck.

 

There was further evidence of blunt trauma to the back of the head and areas of external deep bruising to her face.

The trauma to Miss O'Callaghan's head could have been caused either by her falling, being pushed to the ground or by her head being forcibly struck by a broad object.

 

This resulted in a fracture to the skull and the bruising on her body was consistent with being punched or kicked.

There was also evidence of bruising to the neck, which could have been caused by either compression, blunt force trauma or a combination of both.

 

Forensic examinations found Miss O'Callaghan's blood in the rear of Halliwell's car and police also had CCTV and automatic number place recognition (ANPR) evidence to put him in the Old Town area when she vanished.

Mr Lawrie also read impact statements from Sian's mother, father, brother and boyfriend.


Sian's mother Elaine said in her submission: "There is before Sian and after Sian. When I remember back I always think that was before Sian and after Sian.

"There never truly is closure just accepting life has changed forever in every way and learning to live with that. I'm just a mum who wants her daughter back."


Sian's boyfriend Kevin Reape said in his statement: "This all ended on Thursday when my heart was ripped out. My life has been destroyed."

1:19pm

THE boyfriend of murdered Sian O'Callaghan has described the loss of his girlfriend at Bristol Crown Court today.


Kevin Reape, Sian's boyfriend of two-and-a-half years, said in an impact statement that her murder made him feel like his 'heart had been ripped out'.


Kevin was one of several people to make victim impact statements at court today after mini-cab driver Christopher Halliwell pleaded guilty to Sian's murder.

Earlier the court heard harrowing details of how Halliwell picked Sian up from outside a nightclub and took her to Savernake Forest, where he sexually assaulted and then twice stabbed her in the back of the head before strangling her.

The court has broken for lunch. Later this afternoon Halliwell will be sentenced.

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11:53am

The legal teams have now arrived.

11:53am

Sian O'Callaghan's family have arrived in the courtroom. They are sitting at the front of the public seating area in the court.

11:36am

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11:08am

Taxi driver Christopher Halliwell is set to appear in court today for a further hearing in the Sian O’Callaghan murder case.
Halliwell, who stands accused of killing the 22-year-old more than a year ago, is set to make an appearance for the hearing, which Bristol Crown Court confirmed had been listed for the morning session.


The mini-cab driver, 48, of Ashbury Avenue, Nythe, last appeared in court in May when he formally pleaded not guilty to murder.


It comes more than 18 months after office worker Sian was last seen alive leaving Suju nightclub, in High Street, Old Town, on March 19 last year.

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