Halliwell: The Detective's Gamble

Christopher Halliwell (left) and former Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher (right)

As Christopher Halliwell is convicted of Becky Godden's murder, Robert Murphy looks at the events that led to the discovery of her body.

It was the biggest gamble of the detective’s professional life.

Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher stood face-to-face with killer Chris Halliwell in the Wiltshire countryside, pleading with the minicab driver to tell him where he had abandoned a missing woman.

In doing so, the detective was throwing away the rulebook. Ignoring advice from a deputy, breaching protocols and regulations. Det Supt Fulcher got the answer he was so desperate for. Halliwell confessed, yes, he had murdered Sian O’Callaghan.

Then he added - chillingly - he had killed before.

The confession was unique. Det Supt Fulcher had denied Halliwell the right to a lawyer, refused the minicab driver’s demands to be taken immediately to a police station, not even cautioned Halliwell as suspects normally are. He wanted to speak with Halliwell man-to-man, detective-to-suspect.

This confession led to Steve Fulcher being found guilty of gross misconduct, he quit his job, found himself unemployable in Britain. Today he is a security consultant in Somalia.

But Mr Fulcher sums it up like this: “What’s more important? The victim’s right to life or the defendant’s right to silence?”

This was the most dramatic moment in surely the most dramatic investigation Wiltshire Police has seen in its long history.

It happened like this.

Sian O’Callaghan vanished in March 2011 after leaving a nightclub.

After two days’ of surveillance Mr Fulcher was sure Halliwell was his man. But he didn’t know if Sian O’Callaghan was alive or dead or where she was.

Sian O’Callaghan

When a suspect is arrested they are normally cautioned under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE)’s regular protocols, he is taken to a police station straight away and provided with immediate legal advice.

But Det Supt Fulcher had a second plan. The night before the arrest he was told of a second type of caution called an ‘Urgent Interview.’

An Urgent Interview is usually reserved for terrorism cases where there is an immediate threat to ‘life and limb.’ But the advice to Det Supt Fulcher was that Sian may still be alive, and if so, there was a threat to her. So they could use this rare procedure.

Halliwell admitted he had killed Sian, then took officers to where he had abandoned her body near the Uffington White Horse.

Then he said “I’m a sick fxxxxr. Is it too late to get help?”

Mr Fulcher replied: “It’s gone beyond that, Chris.”

Halliwell then said: “Another one?”

He directed police to Oxo Bottom Field near the village of Eastleach in Gloucestershire. Later, the remains of Becky were found.

Becky Godden

But because Halliwell had not been cautioned according to PACE, his barristers later argued that evidence could not be put to a jury. He was only prosecuted with Sian’s murder - which he admitted.

Meanwhile, Mr Fulcher’s career was in a downward spiral. He was found guilty of two counts of gross misconduct in January 2014 - but was allowed to keep his job. He resigned from Wiltshire Police in May of that year.

But his successor as lead officer, Det Supt Sean Memory, found new evidence against Halliwell over the Becky charge, and the killer has now been convicted of her murder. Will this lead to the former detective’s redemption?

If Mr Fulcher hadn’t taken the gamble, Becky’s fate would almost certainly be known by her killer alone.