In the June of 1985, Carole Packman, wife of Russell Causley and mother of Sam Gillingham disappeared leaving only a note behind and her wedding ring. The note stated that she had had enough, was leaving and was never coming back. As such, she was never seen again. But in the years following, a series of unusual circumstances unravelled, bringing to light new potential evidence in her disappearance.
Carole was often described as a quiet and rather reserved woman, who was always immaculately presented and very component. Her daughter Sam indicated her to be “a proper lady”. Her husband Russell on the other hand, was often labelled as an extravert, arrogant, full of self-importance, and loved having control over his wife and family, but nonetheless was idolised by his daughter Sam
When Russell and Carole first met, Russell actually moved in with Carole and her family. He caused so much trouble in the house that Carole’s parents forced him to move out. As a result, Russell severed all of Carole’s ties with her family and friends on her behalf, and they lost complete touch of her life.
Fifteen months prior to Carole’s disappearance, Russell and the family moved south to Bournemouth living in a wealthy middle class home in the respectable sea town. It is however, in this period after the move that dynamics in the household began to change drastically. A 26-year-old Patricia Causley, colleague of Russell’s in the aviation industry, moved into their home after selling her flat and began a not so secret relationship with Russell under the same roof as his current wife. His daughter Sam later claimed that this was not his first affair, and that she had witnessed him with another woman at a younger age. One night years later when Sam revealed this to her mother Carole, Russell aggressively abused her in anger. She also stated that Russell often forced his aggression upon Carole, frequently kicking her. As a result of this beating, Sam ran away and stayed at a Children’s home for a while. When attempting to make a statement to police, Russell forcefully intervened and she withdrew her statement.
In the Spring of 1985, Sam returned home to live with Russell, Carole and Patricia. It is now that she later recounts that Carole began to lose her temper and begin fights that were very unusual. She became very irritable and almost unbearable to live with. In the June of 1985, Sam was working in London for a short period of time. She reported that Russell and Patricia came up to visit and do some sightseeing. It is upon arriving home with Russell that he and Sam found the note left by Carole, the wedding ring, as well as a number of ripped dresses in the master bedroom and the wardrobe doors open.
=The Years after the Disappearance=
It is not long after Carole’s disappearance that Sam and Russell both visit the local Police station to report her missing. Subsequently, a missing person’s case was opened. However, Carole Packman reportedly a while later visited the police station and stated she was not missing and was indeed well. The missing person case was closed, with no formal identification of the women provided. It is still unsure whether or not the person that reported to the station that day was indeed Carole. In this time a number of colleagues of Russell later reported that he had told a variety of different accounts about her disappearance, including she ran off with a different man, or was working in Italy, or Germany or France.
It is important to note that during a period earlier in their marriage, both Russell and Carole worked in Canada together in the Aviation Industry. A year after Carole’s disappearance, Russell approached a former work colleague in Canada, Tony Stocks, and was seeking a job in the aviation industry. However, this time he had brought his new mistress Patricia with him. They both got jobs in the aviation industry, but rather oddly, Patricia was working under the name of Carole Packman to ensure her access to a work permit. Eventually, Patricia was found out by Canadian Immigration and they forced her to leave the country voluntarily within 30 days.
Perhaps the most telling event in the years post Carole’s disappearance occurred eight years later in 1993. Russell’s solicitor at the time, Anthony Hackett Jones, organised a sailing trip for himself, Russell, Patricia and another female Christine Dwyer, to cross from Southern England to France. After reaching Guernsey in the Channel Islands late on the first day of sailing, Hackett Jones later stated he convinced with difficulty that they wait to sail early the next morning for safety reasons. Waking to a distressed Patricia hours later, Russell had taken the ship out to sea. In rather dangerous conditions, Hackett Jones recounts that he gave Russell the safest possible course and went back to sleep. Once again, he is woken by Patricia, who has given him the disturbing news that Russell has gone overboard and is nowhere to be seen. Extensive search from the coast guard was fruitless and Russell was assumed dead.
Within days of the disappearance, a life insurance claim on Russell had been placed, with a payout north of £800,000 to cover the mortgage of a property in the West End. However, police begin to find suspicious evidence including a ticket under the name of Mr Russell paid for in Cash to board the ferry from Guernsey to Weymouth, at 8:30 the same night, as well as inconsistencies in Hackett Jones story. After beginning surveillance on Patricia, eventually the police find Russell alive in Brighton. As a result, Russell spent two years in prison, Hackett Jones spent three, and Patricia was let off with a twelve-month good behaviour bond.
Russell’s new status as a criminal opened up further scrutiny on his life, leading the police into further investigation on the disappearance of Carole Packman, and a suspicion she may have been murdered.
Suspicions heightened when police conducted an interview with Russell and Patricia in 1994. Russell stated that Carole had run off to work in Germany and that he had paid her an amount of money as a sort of divorce settlement. When asked if he had heard from her since, he stated that she had been in contact via a letter in 1991. But he destroyed the letter as he “didn’t think anything of it”. When Patricia was asked of where she thought Carole was, Russell answered on her behalf.
A former boyfriend of Patricia Causley also became involved in the evidence process. He stated that Patricia began to confide in him and told him she pretended to be Carole on a number of occasions, including using her passport and wearing a wig to travel to Italy and Germany. In 1990, it is believed that Patricia even contacted a solicitor pretending to be Carole living overseas, and signed over Carole’s portion of the family home as to be able to sell it, in person. The letter she wrote to the solicitor was addressed in West Germany, and oddly enough, Russell when writing a letter to his solicitors on the subject matter, also addressed it from West Germany. A hand writing expert was shown Carole’s “signature” and some of her old writing and deemed there to be massive discrepancies between to the two, and was confident enough she would stand up in court to testify it was a forgery.
Two prisoners that new Russell in his time spend for the insurance fraud also testified to the fact that Russell had told them in confidence about getting rid of his wife’s body.
=Conviction and Subsequent Events=
In the August of 1995, Russell Causley was arrested on suspicion for the murder of Carole Packman. Upon searching his house police found lots of dominant pornographic material. Doctor records even refers to him as a sexual deviant for treating his wife Carole as a baby doll. In 1996 Russell was convicted of the murder despite no body ever being found. He appealed and was granted a retrial but was found guilty again, and served life in prison.
In the summer of 2014, almost 20 years after his conviction Patricia breaks off her relationship with Russell and he begins to write letters. In one of the letters there is a confession. He begins to state; Carole and him were having an argument, he hit her unconscious and choked her airways with a tie. When ridding of the body he covered her in a blanket and placed her on a fire in his backyard. He kept the fire burning for three days until there was only ash. He filled three buckets full of the ash and proceeded to toss them in various locations. He then organised a trip for him and Patricia to visit Sam in London and upon leaving stages a scene with a note, her wedding ring and ripped clothes. This corroborates with Sam’s earlier account of the events. However, police deemed the new evidence inconsequential as he is a proven liar and the method of ridding the body wasn’t plausible. Later scientific research proved it was, and a dig was done in the backyard to find any remains to no avail.
In a further letter Russell begins to change his tune. He states that the disposal of the body by fire was a lie. The resting place of her is somewhere far more peaceful, and he isn’t willing to admit where it is as he doesn’t wish it to be touched. He also states that Patricia was involved in moving the body and potentially planning murder.
But in one final twist, in a final letter written by Russell, he withdraws in totality his confession of the murder, stating it was all driven by losing the love of his life Patricia.
As such the case remains one of the biggest mysteries in British History. Although it is almost guaranteed that Russell is the killer, he is still one of the few men in British History to be charged of murder with no body being found. It is unlikely the body will ever be found which continues to leave question marks over his guilt.
Perhaps one of the most mysterious parts of the story is Patricia. What is Patricia’s involvement in this case? It is almost a certainty that she has committed Insurance fraud as well as fraud of impersonating Carole Packman. Was it Patricia that walked into the Police Station all those years ago pretending to be Carole and therefore closing the missing person’s case? Was it definitely Patricia who signed over the deed to the house so it could be sold? If so is it possible she could have done that with such confidence if she didn’t know Carole was dead and could turn up at any moment? And if she knew Carole was dead, what was her involvement in her death?
Russell and Patricia are both proven fraudster’s and therefore liars. There personalities are manipulative, self-obsessive and one’s of greed. It therefore seems plausible for them to both be involved in this horrific crime and continued mystery.