Karen Buckley’s murder: Glasgow stand defiant against ‘callous and calculating’ criminal

Alexander Pacteau said he had no reason for the murder

A police officer stands guard on Dorchester Avenue. It is taped off by police, and the officer huddles underneath his vest for warmth. It’s April in Glasgow, and the week before had been warm. But the weekend had turned grey and cold, as low as three degrees.

On the night of April 11th Alexander Pacteau invited several friends to his two bedroom flat he shared with three others on that round. The taxis he booked took too long, so he drove and parked his car on Kelvin Way, nestled in the leafy Kelvingrove Park.

Well tended flower beds sit behind black fences around the famous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, as the river Kelvin flows through the West End of Glasgow. Pacteau’s black Ford Escort pulled up and the group walked the half mile to Dumbarton Road.

The Sanctuary Night Club, on Dumbarton Road, Glasgow West End, Scotland, where missing student Karen Buckley, 24, was last seen on CCTV. See CENTRE PRESS story CPMISSING.

The Sanctuary Night Club, on Dumbarton Road, Glasgow West End, Scotland, where missing student Karen Buckley, 24, was last seen on CCTV.

Tenement buildings and modern social housing are dominant features in this area of Glasgow. A teenager had been stabbed one afternoon two months before in February, and a motorist was stopped by police with a haul of valium worth £50,000 in July on the same road.

Pacteau and his friends headed to Sanctuary, for their weekly Sanctuary Saturdays. The popular club was celebrating its second birthday, with a “surprise special guest” as well as their usual DJs. Pacteau’s group had booked a booth. Entry was £8, and you could buy a drink for £2.

Around 1am, CCTV showed Pacteau, towering at 6″4, leaving the club and meeting the petite Karen Buckley – an Occupational Therapist student at Glasgow Caledonian three years older than him. No one knows what was said between the pair. Within 20 minutes, the pair had returned to the Avensis and Karen was beaten to death with a spanner. The 24-year-old was hit 13 times before being strangled.

Alexander Pacteau. Material released by the Crown Office in relation to the court appearence of Alexander Pacteau who is accused of the murder of Irish student Karen Buckley after she disappeared from a nightclub in Glasgow.

Alexander Pacteau after his arrest

It was a murder described as brutal by a “callous and calculating” young man. He’s been labelled a jobless loner by a public school boy.

Amber Milne, 21, says the horrible murder hasn’t knocked Glaswegians’ spirit.

The English literature student at Strathclyde uni said: “Karen’s death was an absolute tragedy. But I will not let this incident scare me into submission.”

Prior to Karen Buckley’s murder, Amber had visited Sanctuary nightclub for a friend’s birthday. She said: “I felt completely safe and after I was out there were two bouncers escorting people out and keeping an eye on stragglers at the door.”

Ailidh Kinney 19, studying Law, said: “Her tragic death wasn’t a result of her going out to have a good time, it was a result of a very sick evil man who deserves the prison sentence he got and so much more.”

Alexander Pacteau attended Baljaffray Primary School in the Bearsden area of Glasgow, before moving to the independent Kelvinside Academy. But after his father’s courier company fell into difficulty, he was transferred to state school Bearsden Academy.

Pacteau left school aged 17, initially attending a business course at Anniesland College. He did not complete the course, instead focusing on establishing a furniture business. ABP Trading Ltd, listed with Companies House from 2012, had capital and reserves of less than £2,800 in June 2014.

Collect of  murdered Irish student Karen Buckley.  Alexander Pacteau plead guilty to her murder at Glasgow High Court.

Karen had recently moved from Ireland to study in Glasgow

Pacteau had a conviction for forging £6,000 of bank notes and was previously acquitted on a sexual assault charge. He was charged with attacking a woman aged 24 – the same age as Karen Buckley – on November 27th 2011.

Pacteau said: “I would not have done that knowing the jail sentence you get. Nonetheless, taking the jail out of it, I would never have even attempted to do that.”

Alexander Pacteau was found not guilty after the five day trial, in which a juror complained that some of the victim’s testimony has not been audible.


In interviews after his arrest for Karen’s murder, Pacteau said he had “no rational explanation to why he behaved like he did.”

The bedroom of Alexander Pacteau

The bedroom of Alexander Pacteau

Dr Mairead Tagg told the Mirror of her fears regarding Pacteau’s potential for future criminal offences. She said: “Pacteau is a serial killer in the making, there’s no doubt about it. The best prediction of future behaviour is past behaviour.

“In my view, as a psychologist, he will continue to pose a significant threat to women.”

Yesterday, Pacteau was sentenced to life in prison. The judge, Lady Rae, gave him a minimum of 23 years, and regretted she could not give him more. As Pacteau stood emotionless in the dock, and continued to show no remorse as he was led away to jail.

Unusually shown live on TV, Lady Rae said: “In a matter of minutes, for some unknown and inexplicable reason, you destroyed her young life and devastated her family.

“Not satisfied with killing her so brutally you went to extraordinary lengths over several days to cover up your actions.”

The parents of murdered Irish student Karen Buckley, 24, John Buckley, 62 and Marian Buckley, 61, talk to the media at  Glasgow High Court

The parents of murdered Irish student Karen Buckley, 24, John Buckley, 62 and Marian Buckley, 61, talk to the media at Glasgow High Court

A statement from the family read: “I hope that he is never released and spends every day in prison haunted by what he did.”

In the days after Karen’s disappearance, a city wide search ensued. Sanctuary closed it’s doors on the 16th April, the same day a massive vigil was held in the city centre for the missing 24-year-old.

The club is in an isolated area, without a taxi rank. But Strathclyde student Amber was keen to stress that the nightclub that she does not blame Sanctuary for what happened.

She said: “This could have been any city and any club. I wouldn’t place any blame on the establishment.”

Law student Sarah agrees. “It has definitely made us more cautious on nights out. Now taxi drivers are keen to drop you at your door because of all that has happened.

“It’s good to know there’s people out there to look out for us.”

The bustling George square saw people light candles and lay flowers for the student nurse. Students from Glasgow’s three Universities attended the emotional service which also saw Karen’s parents and brother make an emotional appearance.

Around a hundred friends and neighbours from the community where Karen Buckley lived

Around a hundred friends and neighbours from the community where Karen Buckley lived

Oliver, a second year at Glasgow University attended the service.

He said: “It was unbelievable. Many laid flowers and candles, the whole of George Square fell silent as bagpipes played. Her parents briefly attended, it was heartbreaking.”

Four days after she had disappeared from the nightclub, police found remains of Karen on a farm six miles from the city centre.

After killing Karen, who had left her hometown of Cork to study in Glasgow, Pacteau returned to his flat, and tried to hide her body in his room. He threw the spanner he had used in the Clyde and Forth canal, the site of the murder of QE2 employee Duncan Yuill in 1968.

Forth and Clyde canal at Cleveden Road, where Pacteau threw the spanner

Forth and Clyde canal at Cleveden Road, where Pacteau threw the spanner

Pacteau then made several attempts to cover up his crime over three days. He tried to clean the blood from his bedroom, burning mattresses and clothes, and attempted to dissolve her body in acid before hiring a storage space on High Craigton Farm, near Milngavie – six miles from Glasgow city centre. CCTV footage showed him buying a large barrel and materials beforehand, and he padlocked Karen’s body inside the unit.

Four days after her murder, police were tipped off to the whereabouts of Karen’s body. Pacteau was arrested, charged and just over 22 weeks later was sentenced to life in prison.

The harrowing ordeal has brought the community closer. Glasgow has a strong identity, according to Abi Watt. Born in the city and studying her second year at Strathclyde, Abi knows several friends who have worked at Sanctuary.

The law student said: “It happened in the West End – a relatively posh part of the city. I used to walk home from nights there.

“No one is living in fear though. There are monsters all around us, but one guy will not affect my life. It would be disrespectful to Karen and her memory.”