Mark Williams-Thomas returns to ITV for an explosive and ground-breaking new investigative series
“People have said to me, ‘Okay, forget it. Just leave it. It’s 30 years now.’ And you just think to yourself, ‘If it was your mother, would you leave it?’” – Sam Gillingham, Carole Packman’s daughter
Mark Williams-Thomas returns to ITV for an explosive and ground-breaking new investigative series that shows how real life crime can be far more compelling than fiction.
Williams-Thomas, the award-winning former police detective who unmasked Jimmy Savile as the UK’s most notorious paedophile, re-examines a previously ‘closed’ and chilling murder case, which has baffled detectives for more than 30 years.
The murder of Carole Packman, whose body has never been found, continues to affect the lives of many of those involved and as Williams-Thomas discovers, the shocking tale of murder, fraud, deceit and lies has left family members desperate for answers.
In a UK television first, The Investigator: A British Crime Story, will follow the case over four explosive episodes, combining stylized drama with compelling documentary.
In June 1985 the wife and mother mysteriously disappeared and has never been seen since. Her husband Russell Causley is now serving a life sentence for her murder, yet no body has ever been found. Throughout the case he pleaded his innocence and refused to talk. Mark discovers that six months after Carole’s disappearance, a woman turned up at a police station claiming to be her, saying she was safe and well.
Russell had begun an affair with an employee in his new insurance business – Patricia Causley, who at 26 was much younger than him. She moved in with the couple in Westbourne having sold her own flat and given them the proceeds, and says the marriage was already breaking down.
In the second episode, Sam describes the unusual set-up after Patricia moved into their home. She says: “There was like almost this politeness of it being perfectly normal as to what was going on. You know, Patricia used to walk around our home topless, flaunting all. My mother by then was desperately trying to save her marriage. We actually had Patricia completely overtaking what my mother had.”
Mark is intrigued to discover reports that in late 1986, someone called Carole Packman was working in Canada – and Russell was there with her. Ex-pat Tony Stocks knew both Russell and Carole before her disappearance, and he met Russell afterwards. He says: “I did ask him at that time what had happened to Carole. He said ‘Oh, she’s off working in Italy somewhere.’ And I half jokingly said, ‘Oh we thought perhaps you’d done away with her.’ He said ‘Oh, that would have been a good idea.’”
He had brought his girlfriend Patricia with him, who got a job under the name Carole Packman. Tony says: “I understand that Patricia also got a job, where Carole had worked in the past… She worked there as Carole.”
But someone noticed Patricia wasn’t Carole and reported her to the authorities, who ordered her to leave the country. Mark writes to Patricia, asking for her account of what happened.
When Anthony Hackett-Jones, Russell’s solicitor and close friend, who knew both his wife Carole and his mistress Patricia, was asked to organise a sailing trip for Russell, Patricia and a friend called Christine Dwyer, he was happy to help.
He and Russell argued once they got to Guernsey to moor up for the night, says Anthony, about Russell’s desire to continue sailing. Later, Patricia banged on his door and said Russell had decided to set sail, he says. Even later that night, he tells Mark, he heard from Patricia again. He says: “I came to and Patricia was having a bit of a hysterical fit. She’d lost Russell. Where was he and had he gone over the side. She was screaming. So I put something on and came up. Her story was that he’d been up here and she’d been down below, and then she popped her head up to see how he was getting on, and he wasn’t there.”
An extensive search by the coastguard proved fruitless, it seemed that Russell was lost at sea and presumed dead. The news that she had lost a second parent was devastating for Sam. She says: “Phone rang, I’ve got Patricia, really crying. I’ve lost my husband. And I said, ‘He’s not your husband, he’s still married to my mother.’ Patricia’s response? ‘F— off Sam, I’ve got my own grief to deal with.’ End of conversation. That was it.”
But when Sgt Phil Falla from Guernsey police interviewed Patricia, her behaviour aroused his instincts. He says: “Her behaviour was inconsistent. One moment she was crying hysterically. Then when I asked her details for the purposes of the statement, she would become very focused.”
A suspicious Phil contacted insurance companies. He says: “I think within four or five days a claim had gone in on Russell’s life, for a substantial amount of money. From memory, somewhere in the region of 800,000 [pounds], something like that.”
The insurance firm hired investigator John Saunders, who discovered a policy covering a mortgage on a house in London’s West End, but he couldn’t find evidence that Russell had the money to pay for it. Phil found that while the trio headed for France, a passenger under the name of Mr Russell left Guernsey for Weymouth on a ferry. He says: “I was pretty convinced that that was Russell Causley.”
Mark decides to confront Anthony about the inconsistencies in his version of events – he had told Phil Falla at the time that he sailed the yacht out to sea, but told Mark that Russell was at the wheel. When confronted, Anthony says: “I mean I’m amazed. It’s been 20 years thinking completely different series of events. It’s been blanked from my brain, because I have no recollection of it”
Asked whether he knew what was going on, he says: “I’ve lived with believing that I didn’t know for so long that I have just no recollection of it. But that really looks as if I must have, I had to know. I can see that.”
Russell later pleaded guilty to attempting to defraud insurance companies, and was sentenced to two years in prison, while Patricia was given a 12-month suspended sentence after pleading guilty to her part in the conspiracy, and Anthony received three years after denying the crime. No action was taken against Christine Dwyer.
Now he was a criminal, the police started scrutinising every aspect of Russell’s life. They discovered that he was married but his wife Carole had disappeared – eight years before. Phil Falla says: “For me it seemed odd that her mother wouldn’t make contact with her own daughter in that period of time. And I’m starting to look into more where Carole Packman was. I said to Patricia directly, I put the question to her, ‘Tell me where I would find Carole at this moment in time. She looked me straight in the eye and said ‘To be honest with you, Sgt Falla, I don’t think you will ever find Carole.’”
Patricia’s solicitor responds to Mark’s letter, saying: “She has already disclosed everything she knows about Mrs Packman’s disappearance to the police and has nothing more that she can add that would assist you in shedding more light on what happened to Mrs Packman.”
Patricia later responded to further questions saying Carole’s disappearance did not surprise her as she had already told her she wanted to leave. She admitted using Carole’s work permit in Canada – though she denied using her identity. She also says it was not her who went into the police station, and she doesn’t believe she swore at Sam on the phone. She says she was foolish regarding the insurance fraud and regrets her dishonesty.
The investigation into Carole’s disappearance was picked up by Dorset Police’s Det Con Paul Donnell, who started exploring methods with which her body could have been disposed of. He says: “We did some excavations in graves. One of the areas we did look at which we believe had a lot of credibility to it was the New Forest. There were areas out there, storm drains and everything… And after this period of time obviously, the remains are going to be very, very minimal. It’s either that or he’s disposed of her by burning what he could, and then the remains have been removed after that.”