Mum's anger as officer 'told to babysit' Becky Godden murder investigation

  • Karen Edwards speaks to ITV News about failings in her daughter's murder investigation

The mother of a young woman murdered by taxi driver Christopher Halliwell is calling for the Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police to resign after "serious failings" in her case.

Becky Godden, 20, was killed by Halliwell in Swindon in 2003.

Eight years later, when he was arrested over the murder of Sian O'Callaghan, the cab driver confessed to killing Becky - but policing errors meant the confession was not admissible in court.

While Halliwell was jailed for life for murdering Sian, the charge of Becky's murder was effectively dropped.

It was not until 2016, after relentless campaigning from Becky's mother Karen Edwards, that he was finally brought to justice.

An investigation by police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) released on Friday (2 September) found Wiltshire Police missed “significant opportunities” to bring Halliwell to justice for Becky's murder.

This included failures to promptly examine key pieces of evidence.

The force's Chief Constable Kier Pritchard, who was in a more junior role at the time, was found to have a case to answer for misconduct after three complaints against him. He has now apologised to Becky's family and accepted 'management action'.

'My daughter didn't have a voice - I had to be her voice'

Becky Godden was killed by Halliwell in 2003. Credit: PA

But Becky's mum, Karen Edwards, is now calling on him to resign.

She said the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) was told to "babysit" the case. "In other words, just sit on it, keep her sweet, they'll go away," she told ITV News.

The IOPC report says the officer in charge believed he was asked to babysit the case, but it did not find evidence of anyone saying it to him - or suggest it was Chief Constable Pritchard.

She also said she was told police did not have enough evidence to convict Halliwell for Becky's murder but he would be "going away for a long time" for killing Sian.

"He asked, ‘Will you be satisfied with that?'

"How can somebody be satisfied that somebody is murdered? Their child. And I was meant to have been okay with that," she said.

"I feel since 2011, I haven't had a life because this has been hanging over me and I just couldn't give up because I don't give up.

"My daughter didn't have a voice anymore, so I had to be her voice."

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

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

However the IOPC's report did say key pieces of evidence were not examined soon enough, 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 also 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.

Karen said: "Nobody had oversight of Becky's investigation. Nobody took control of it. The chief constable, he gave it to an SIO to babysit, look after it, pacify me with an odd phone call. And that's what they were doing for three years. Three years.

"[They] sat on this evidence while I was out campaigning, knocking on doors. We got to Number 10 Downing Street, we presented the petition there it was heard in parliament.

"I do believe now I've seen this report that actually put the pressure on Wiltshire Police."

Becky seen as 'trouble' by police

Becky was a sex worker and Karen claims this impacted how her case was dealt with.

"It makes me feel angry," she said. "Did they decide that Becky wasn't worthy of being investigated because of the road she took?"

She said she believed police saw her daughter as "trouble", adding: "Everybody's worthy of investigation.

"If a crime is committed the police should solve a crime, especially a murder investigation."

Karen said she felt her life was put on hold due to delays in bringing her daughter's killer to justice

In response, Wiltshire Police told ITV News it investigates without fear or favour and this was never, and would never, feature as a reason for a delay in any investigation.

But Karen said Chief Constable Pritchard should lose his job over the handling of Becky's case.

"I think he should resign and do the honourable thing," she said.

"Wiltshire Police should be ashamed of themselves. He [the Chief Constable] should be ashamed of himself. He's there to represent Wiltshire Police. He shouldn’t be doing the job. He needs to go."

A statement from Wiltshire Police said the Chief Constable remains "fully committed" to his role and has the full backing of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

They added: "It is important to reference that the time period the IOPC investigation examined was over ten years ago when he was in a more junior role and the Chief Constable has stated that it is of personal regret to him that there were missed opportunities identified during the investigation and he takes full responsibility for any individual shortcomings at that time."

Wiltshire Police says it fully accepts the findings and recommendations from the IOPC, adding: "Once again, we would like to offer our sincere apologies to Becky’s family. We appreciate that these missed opportunities could have potentially brought justice for Becky sooner and this has compounded what has undoubtedly been an incredibly difficult time for her family.

What have Wiltshire Police about its failings in Becky's case?

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills said the force has formally apologised to Miss Godden-Edwards' parents after the investigation.

He added: "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."

He said the force fully accepts the IOPC's findings and said it is "fully committed to ensuring the lessons identified in this case are learnt and acted upon".

He added: "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."

'I am really sorry' - Chief Constable Kier Pritchard

Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police Kier Pritchard Credit: Wiltshire Police

In a statement, Chief Constable Kier Pritchard told ITV News he "fully accepts" the findings and recommendations in the report and said he has personally apologised to members of Becky’s family.

He said his role in the investigation included overall responsibility for all serious and major crime investigations across the force - including briefings from the SIO.

He added: “Further to a five-year investigation by the IOPC, in three of the complaints made against me, it was agreed between the IOPC and the PCC for Wiltshire, that I should receive management action. Whilst there was no misconduct meeting or hearing held, I voluntarily accepted management action which encourages reflection and learning by the recipient.

“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.

“In 2014, when I was an Assistant Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, I was formally appointed as the Gold Commander concerning the ongoing investigation into the murder of Becky. In this role, I ensured there was clear focus and leadership across the major investigation at all levels.

“Having identified shortcomings in the investigation to that point, I self-referred the case to the IOPC, declared our response as a force critical incident and established a new gold group. I appointed a new SIO and a PIP4 investigator (a specially-trained officer who provides independent advice, support and review for high profile, complex and major crime investigations).

“I also commissioned an independent major crime review conducted by East Midlands Special Operations Unit.  Our collective approach, alongside the CPS, led to the successful conviction of Halliwell for the murder of Becky in 2016.

 “But all that said, I fully appreciate the grief and despair that the delay in the investigation has had on Becky's family as they have rightly sought to have justice delivered. Whilst justice was achieved, it is with deep regret that justice was delayed for Becky’s family.

 “It is of personal regret to me that there were missed opportunities identified during the investigation and I take full responsibility for any individual shortcomings. As Chief Constable of the force, I fully accept the findings and recommendations outlined in today’s published findings from the IOPC. 

“I am very sorry for the impact that failures in this case have had on Becky’s family.”