"Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do?"
-Bret Easton Ellis
It was the 11th of April 2015. A Saturday night. Karen Buckley was looking forward to a night out at the Sanctuary nightclub in Glasgow. Karen was from Cork in Ireland but moved to Glasgow, Scotland in the United Kingdom to study. She was a qualified nurse and went to Glasgow to study occupational therapy. Karen was a confident and caring woman and the twenty four year old was the youngest of four children. She had three older brothers. That night, she was meeting some friends for a night out. Even though Karen had only been in Glasgow for a few months, she had already made some new friends.
Karen and her three brothers
Karen lived with three roommates and that night they decided to go to the Sanctuary nightclub. It wasn't a regular spot for them but they loved to find new places as they were new to Glasgow and loved exploring the area. By the time they got to the club it was around 11.45pm. The night was going well but at 1am, Karen told her friends she was going to the bathroom. She didn't go and instead left the nightclub but nobody knew why. She didn't even take her jacket with her. That was the last time they saw Karen. She didn't return to the club and she never made it home.
When Karen still wasn't home the next day, the Sunday, they reported her missing. Karen's family knew it was out of character for her to not stay in contact and they flew to Scotland from Ireland to look for her.
CCTV footage from the nightclub revealed that Karen left the club at 1am and was spotted talking to a man outside. But what happened after that, was unclear. Police appealed for information about the man seen with Karen in the CCTV footage. The man in the CCTV footage was twenty one year old Alexander Pacteau.
CCTV Footage of Alexander outside nightclub
Alexander, like Karen, was one of four children and he grew up in Bearsden on the north side of Glasgow. He was in the Sanctuary nightclub that night also.He was there with seven of his friends. Their night started in his apartment in Dorchester Avenue in Glasgow where they had a few drinks. They had a booth booked at the nightclub and ordered two taxis to take them from Alexander's apartment to the nightclub. One of the taxis did not arrive so Alexander drove and parked his car 100 yards from the club. It was around 11pm by the time they got there.
Just before 1am, Alexander left the nightclub. He walked up and down the street and went back inside. He left again and walked up and down the street again. It was during his second walk that he met Karen outside the nightclub.
CCTV footage showed Alexander and Karen talking outside the nightclub and walking towards where his car was parked and that was the last time she was seen. Alexander spoke with police. He told them that he met Karen outside the nightclub and she went back to his apartment with him. They had consensual sex and Karen left at 4am to walk home. Police didn't believe his version of events. Karen's handbag was found at Dawsholm Park which was the opposite direction to where Karen lived so his account that Karen left to walk home didn't make sense. Police searched his apartment. They found traces of Karen's blood.
Police appealed for information about the movements of Alexander's car.
A man who worked with Alexander, told police that Alexander used to store fireworks at High Craigton Farm as there were a number of storage units there. Police searched the area and found a barrel in one of the sheds. The barrel was filled with caustic soda and had Karen's body submerged in it. Alexander was charged with murder.
High Craigton Farm
When Karen's body was found, Alexander changed his story. He said that while they were having consensual sex, Karen hit her head and began slapping Alexander. He picked up a spanner and hit her multiple times with it. But CCTV and evidence found in the case revealed a different version of events.
When investigating the case, police established that Alexander and Karen did not know each other. They met for the first time outside the nightclub at 1am.It seemed to be a completely random meeting. Police believed that Alexander offered Karen a lift home as her apartment was a 5-10 minute drive away and his car was right outside the club.
Karen's apartment was in Garnetthill and CCTV showed Alexander driving towards her apartment but then changed his route. Alexander drove to Kelvin Way. It was just a few minutes drive from the club and at this stage it was around 1.06am. The car was there less than 13 minutes and drove back down the road at 1.18am. Police believe during those few minutes on Kelvin Way Alexander killed Karen. He grabbed her by the neck and hit her repeatedly on the head with a spanner. He hit her at least 13 times. There were defensive wounds on Karen's arms and hands indicating that she fought for her life.
Alexander returned to his apartment at 2am. He got a sheet from his apartment and used to it to wrap Karen's body in it. He carried her body into his apartment. He then went to bed and when he woke at 8am, he searched for details of caustic soda on his phone. He drove to a nearby store and bought six litres of caustic soda, a mask and gloves. On his way home, he bought more caustic soda in a different store and a padlock.
At his apartment, Alexander filled his bathtub with caustic soda. He then put Karen's body in the bathtub. His roommate was due home at 8pm that night so he did not have a lot of time. He was hoping to dissolve Karen's body.
At 5pm, he drained the bathtub. He kept Karen's body in his room until the next day. He then put her body in a plastic barrel that he bought that day. That same day, the Monday, he drove to High Craigton Farm. He burned his mattress. That afternoon, a neighbour saw him putting the barrel into his car around 2pm.
It was the Prosecution's case that no consensual sex took place. Karen and Alexander never had sex and she was never even alive in his apartment. He killed her in his car after they left the nightclub. Police found a trace of her blood on the passenger side of his car even though he had it professionally cleaned on the Monday. They found his fingerprints inside the barrel.
Police also found the spanner used to murder Karen and the mattress that Alexander tried to burn. It was partially burnt and police found traces of Karen's blood on it.
Alexander pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, to serve a minimum term of 23 years. The Judge, Judge Lady Rae, in the case said:
“In a matter of minutes, for some unknown, inexplicable reason, you destroyed her life.”
This whole case was disturbing but the really peculiar aspect was Alexander's decision to murder Karen within twenty minutes of meeting her. He didn't know her, had never met her before and their paths had never crossed. Yet in those few minutes, he destroyed Karen's life and the lives of her family and there was no motive other than Alexander's evil desires and mind. He was pacing up and down outside the nightclub that night because he wanted to hurt someone. Karen may have agreed to a lift home because she was used to the friendliness of the area and the students. She would have had no idea that a twenty one year old man, on a night out like Karen was, had such sinister intentions. Not only did Alexander murder Karen, he then tried to dissolve her body in an attempt to evade justice. Thankfully, he did not succeed and Karen's body was found with the help and assistance of the public.
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"But I'm a woman, and as the great poet so cleverly wrote, hell hath no fury as a woman scorned. Consider me your personal hell."
"Trust your hunches. They're usually based on facts filed away just below the conscious level."
-Dr Joyce Brothers
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