Christopher Halliwell: Police 'sorry' over failings in Becky Godden murder investigation

Wiltshire Police has apologised to Becky Godden's family

Wiltshire Police missed "significant opportunities" to bring a Swindon taxi driver to justice for the murder of Becky Godden.

The force has now apologised to the 20-year-old's family after the police watchdog found it failed to examine several key pieces of evidence.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has also found the force's current Chief Constable Kier Pritchard has a case to answer for misconduct over the handling of the case.

What happened to Christopher Halliwell's first known victim Becky Godden?

Taxi driver Christopher Halliwell killed Becky in 2003 before burying her body in a field.

In 2011, he confessed to her murder and led Wiltshire Police detective Steve Fulcher to the scene after being arrested for killing 22-year-old office worker Sian O’Callaghan.

Sian O’Callaghan was murdered by taxi driver Christopher Halliwell in 2011 Credit: family handout/PA

But the confession breached police rules and so was not admissible in court. It meant while Halliwell was convicted of killing Sian in 2012, the charge of Becky's murder was effectively dropped.

It was only after years of campaigning from Becky's mum, Karen Edwards, that the case was re-opened and new evidence found. Halliwell was eventually found guilty of her murder in 2016.

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 IOPC released its report on Wiltshire Police's handling of the case on Friday (2 September), saying it was "poorly progressed and supervised".

It also found reasonable lines of inquiry were not pursued and key evidence not examined.

Wiltshire Police and Chief Constable Pritchard has apologised to Becky's family.

Christopher Halliwell is serving a whole life term for the murders of Sian O’Callaghan and Becky Godden Credit: Wiltshire Police/PA

How did Wiltshire Police fail Becky Godden?

The IOPC says several lines of inquiry were not properly handled - including soil found on a spade belonging to Halliwell in 2011 that was not forensically examined until 2014. It matched rare soil found where Ms Godden was found.

A pond in Ramsbury was later identified as Halliwell’s ‘trophy store’. Women’s clothing and other exhibits were retrieved - but it was not investigated until 2014, by which time items had degraded and lost any forensic potential.

The force also took evidence from a GP in April 2011 stating Halliwell had visited their surgery in January 2003 with severe scratches to his face and damage to his hand, claiming he had been assaulted by a passenger in his taxi. Halliwell had not reported this alleged assault to police, but he had reported a similar incident previously, which indicated this was potentially suspicious.

The IOPC also said senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Matt Davey was inexperienced. Becky's death was his first murder inquiry but the watchdog said he had been placed in charge “without appropriate resourcing, supervision or governance” in place.

The IOPC found no case to answer against DI Davey or the then-Deputy Chief Constable Mike Veale.

However it found Chief Constable Kier Pritchard, who was in the more junior rank of Head of Protective Services at the time, had a misconduct case to answer to over three complaints.

The IOPC recommended management action, which Chief Constable Pritchard accepted.

'I am really sorry' - Chief Constable Kier Pritchard

Chief Constable Pritchard has apologised to Becky's family.

In a statement issued by the force, he said: “As Chief Constable of the Force, I fully accept the findings and recommendations outlined in today’s report and I have had the opportunity to personally apologise to members of Becky’s family. ”

He went on: “This has certainly been an opportunity for deep personal reflection for me. I acknowledge that there was confusion at the time concerning the oversight of the investigation into Becky’s murder, as highlighted within the IOPC investigation. This arose, in part, due to the major crime collaboration being in its infancy. For that, I am really sorry.

“The murder investigation was a complex case with very unique circumstances. We always strove to deliver justice for Becky’s family, further to the tragic and shocking loss of their much loved daughter."

What Wiltshire Police have said

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills said the force has formally apologised to Miss Godden-Edwards' parents after the watchdog found the force "missed opportunities" to bring Halliwell to justice.

He added: "Halliwell was convicted of Becky’s murder in 2016 but the IOPC investigation, further to a complaint by Becky’s mother, found shortcomings in both the leadership oversight and the conduct of the investigation. This meant that it took four years to convict Halliwell, when the IOPC have found that much of the evidence was available to the investigation team in 2012.

"We are sincerely and deeply sorry for the impact these avoidable delays in the investigation had on Becky’s family and recognise these have further compounded the terrible pain and loss endured as result of the murder of their much-loved daughter.

"The complaint allegations made were directly attributed to three members of Wiltshire Police – two former employees and Chief Constable Kier Pritchard, when he was more junior in rank.

"We fully accept the findings and recommendations of the IOPC managed investigation, which was undertaken by an external police force.

"Although we have implemented improved investigative processes and leadership training for all officers who have the responsibility for the oversight of homicide investigations, we are fully committed to ensuring the lessons identified in this case are learnt and acted upon. This is to ensure that victims and families can be confident that they will receive the policing service they rightly should expect in all future homicide investigations.

"We established a gold group to oversee the implementation of learning outlined in the IOPC recommendations and have been in continued dialogue with the IOPC regarding this. We provided an update in March this year that all of the recommendations have been suitably addressed. These were all accepted by the IOPC.

"We continue to maintain contact with Becky’s family to ensure they receive the answers they need further to the murder of their daughter at the hands of Halliwell. We wish to reiterate once again how profoundly sorry we are for the impact the failures in this case have had on Becky’s family and all who knew and loved her.

"More widely, since the conviction of Halliwell for the murders of both Sian O’Callaghan and Becky, the Force has continued to pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry and has, where relevant, worked with other forces, to consider whether Halliwell may be responsible for any further offences. To this end, the Force has recently commissioned an external review of the investigation, to identify any further investigative opportunities, as well as identify any additional learning emanating from the investigations into the shocking deaths of Becky and Sian."