Christopher Halliwell: How Becky Godden and Sian O'Callaghan's killer was brought to justice

Christopher Halliwell was jailed in 2011

Taxi driver killer Christopher Halliwell is serving life in prison for murdering two young women in Swindon.

Halliwell's first known victim was Becky Godden, who was last seen alive getting into a taxi outside a nightclub in Swindon in January 2003.

But it was not until Sian O'Callaghan disappeared in March 2011 that Wiltshire Police would catch Halliwell.

Sian vanished on a night out in Swindon, after getting into a taxi after getting separated from her friends.

CCTV led police to Halliwell and he eventually led police to Sian's body, which was buried in a shallow grave in Oxfordshire.

He then confessed to the murder of another young woman eight years ago, telling detectives where to find her body.

However, the gross misconduct of Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher, who was leading the case, meant Halliwell's confession was not admissible in court.

It meant while he admitted Sian's murder in 2011, the charge was dropped in relation to Becky's murder.

It was not until 2016, when new evidence was found, that he was convicted of Becky's murder.

Following his sentencing, police said there was a "distinct possibility" Halliwell is a serial killer due to the eight-year gap between the murders.

The story became the subject of ITV drama A Confession in 2020, showing how the events unfolded.

ITV drama The Confession tells the story of Halliwell's murders

The timeline of the murders of Becky Godden and Sian O'Callaghan

1 January, 2003 - Becky Godden last seen alive

Becky Godden, 20, is last seen alive getting into a taxi outside a club in Swindon after a night out with friends.

19 March, 2011 - Sian O'Callaghan vanishes

Sian O’Callaghan, a 22-year-old office worker, vanished on a night out with friends in Swindon's Suju nightclub.

Her boyfriend Kevin Reape raised the alarm - and soon Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher was leading the inquiry into her disappearance.

21 March, 2011 - Sian's family make desperate appeal

Kevin, and the rest of Sian's family, make an emotional appeal for her return.

A volunteer army of hundreds turn out to help with searches of the nearby Savernake Forest, where Sian's phone had connected with a nearby mast.

23 March, 2011 - Police find Halliwell

CCTV of Sian’s last-known moments led Det Supt Fulcher to taxi driver Chris Halliwell.

Halliwell was put under 24-hour surveillance. Surveillance teams watched Halliwell cleaning the rear passenger seat of his car with chemicals, they saw him throw away car seat covers in a wheelie bin across town and they saw him burning material in the countryside in the middle of the night.

They then lost him.

24 March, 2011 - Halliwell arrested

Officers arrest Halliwell after he buys a quantity of drugs from a supermarket. Det Supt Fulcher becomes worried Halliwell will take his own life and the route to Sian would be lost.

Sitting in headquarters, Fulcher ordered the arrest. Officers stopped Halliwell as he got into his car at a Swindon supermarket. Halliwell was cautioned under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE.) He had a right to remain silent.

And he refused to cooperate. Halliwell told the arresting officers he wanted to go to a police station and get a solicitor.

It was at this point that Fulcher made the decisive gamble.

Rejecting advice from both junior and senior officers, Fulcher ordered that Halliwell be taken to Barbury Castle, an Iron Age hillfort South of Swindon. There the two men met.

Fulcher said he was using so-called ‘emergency Powers’ when there is a threat to life - usually reserved for terrorist cases.

He should have cautioned Halliwell again, but refused to.

Fulcher pleaded with Halliwell. "I know you did it" the detective told Halliwell. He also said the taxi driver would be vilified in the press within the hour and he "should do the right thing".

Halliwell turned to Fulcher and said: "Do you have a car?"

Police teams were directed by Halliwell to a roadside verge, near Uffington in Oxfordshire, where he said he had left Sian’s body, after killing her.

There was no more threat to life. Sian was dead.

But what followed was another astonishing admission by the taxi driver as he admitted killing years before. He even showed detectives the field in Gloucestershire where he had dumped the body of a young Swindon woman.

Again, there was no threat to life. The first victim had been dead for eight years.

According to PACE rules, Fulcher should have read Halliwell his rights three times on that afternoon. He failed to, knowingly.

In the drama 'A Confession' Joe Absolom plays Halliwell Credit: ITV Studios

25 March, 2011 - more remains found

Remains of a second woman were found at the site pointed out by Halliwell.

28 March 2011 - Halliwell appears in court

Halliwell appears in court in Swindon Magistrates charged with the murder of Sian O'Callaghan.

5 April, 2011 - Becky's remains identified

The remains of the second woman are identified as Becky Godden-Edwards.

11 April 2011 - Becky's mum makes statement

Becky's tearful mother Karen gives a press conference confirming the identification.

Karen Edwards breaks down as she reveals her daughter's remains had been found

19 October, 2011 - Halliwell admits Sian's murder

Halliwell pleads guilty to Sian's murder - and is sentenced to life in prison.

However, as Det Supt Fulcher had not cautioned Halliwell as he should have under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), a charge for Becky's murder was effectively dropped.

23 January 2014 - Detective found guilty of gross misconduct

Det Supt Fulcher is found guilty of gross misconduct, but is handed a written warning, allowing him to keep his job.

16 May, 2014 - Case taken on by new officer

New lead officer Detective Superintendent Sean Memory takes over the case and gets result immediately - searching a lake to find possessions belonging to Sian.

10 November, 2014 - Halliwell's home searched

A search is conducted of Halliwell's former home in Swindon. Teams find nothing.

18 February, 2015 - Halliwell spoken to in prison

Det Supt Memory visits Halliwell in prison - but declines the deal Halliwell offers.

15 June, 2015 - Forensic evidence found

A spade found in Halliwell's shed in 2011 was retested for soil samples, matching the field in which Becky's remains were found.

5 September, 2016 - Murder trial begins

Halliwell in court Credit: Elizabeth Cook

The trial into Becky's murder begins.

19 September, 2016 - Halliwell convicted of murder

Halliwell is found guilty of murdering Becky Godden and sentenced to a full life sentence.

In his sentencing remarks Mr Justice John Griffith Williams tells Halliwell he believe Halliwell is a "self-centred and domineering individual who wants his own way".

He added: "You are both calculating and devious."