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Karen Buckley murder: Alexander Pacteau admits brutal killing of Irish student nurse in Glasgow

By Ralph Riegel

Published 11/08/2015

Alexander Pacteau
Alexander Pacteau
Karen Buckley

Alexander Pacteau (21) today pleaded guilty to the brutal murder of Irish student Karen Buckley (24) in Scotland last April.

Pacteau, a former grammar schoolboy, made his guilty plea before Glasgow High Court this morning.

The indictment against him was that “you Alexander Pacteau aka Alexander Barr on 12 April in motor vehicle registration no EY05 VVR at Kelvin Way, Glasgow did assault Karen Buckley, formerly of Glasgow Caledonian University, repeatedly strike her on the head and body with a spanner and compress her neck and you did murder her.”

His guilty plea was confirmed as Karen’s family including her parents, John (62) and Marian (61), and brothers, Brendan (32), Damien (27) and  Kieran (28), attended the Glasgow court hearing.

They were supported by Mourneabbey, Co Cork parish priest, Fr Joe O’Keeffe, and a Garda liaison officer.

It emerged that Pacteau first attempted to strangle the petite Cork nurse in his car before battering her to death with a heavy spanner.

She was struck up to 13 times in the head with the spanner and, such was the violence of the attack, the imprint of the wrench’s head was left in her skull.

It also emerged that Karen bravely fought for her life.

The court was told Miss Buckley suffered some injuries to her arm as she tried to defend herself.

Karen, a University of Limerick (UL) nursing graduate, was murdered just minutes after she left ‘The Sanctuary’ nightclub on Glasgow’s Dumbarton Road at 1am on April 12.

Police forensic investigators at High Craigton Farm on the north-western outskirts of Glasgow in April, where the body of missing student Karen Buckley was discovered. Andrew Milligan/PA Wire
Police forensic investigators at High Craigton Farm on the north-western outskirts of Glasgow in April, where the body of missing student Karen Buckley was discovered. Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

She had been out with friends but decided to leave to prepare for the final semester of her Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy at Glasgow Caledonia University.

Tragically, Karen decided to walk home alone and accepted a lift from Pacteau who she had never met before.

Pacteau had been in ‘The Sanctuary’ club with his friends but had left before Karen.

He had been drinking heavily.

The murder took place in Pacteau’s Ford Focus car and, over the next 36 hours of April 12/13, the young man desperately tried to cover his tracks and hide evidence of the killing.

He later placed Karen’s body in a blue plastic barrel together with 40 litres of caustic soda.

The barrel was then hidden in a storage shed on an isolated Glasgow hill farm.

Pacteau confirmed his guilty pleas today before the Honorable Justice Lady Rae in the North Court of Glasgow’s High Court complex.

He appeared amid tight security and a large media presence.

Pacteau has been in custody in Barlinnie Prison since last April. Karen’s body was found following one of the biggest search operations in Police Scotland history.

The young nurse’s friends immediately became concerned for her welfare on April 12 as her disappearance was totally out of character.

Images of her outside the nightclub were caught on CCTV security camera footage.

Her handbag was later found in Dawsholm Park.

Detectives identified Pacteau as the man engaging Karen in conversation on the CCTV footage. Karen's body was found on High Craigton Farm some 7km from Glasgow on April 15 just as a major vigil was being staged in Mourneabbey for her safe return.

After the discovery of her body, a huge vigil was staged in Glasgow city centre as a gesture of support for her family by the Scottish community.

Mourneabbey parish priest, Fr Joe O'Keeffe, said the tightknit Cork farming community was absolutely heartbroken by the tragedy.

 But he paid a special tribute to the Irish and Scottish communities for the overwhelming support and sympathy they have shown the Buckley family  since April.

The Buckley family has also paid tribute to the professionalism and skill of the Police Scotland officers involved in the investigation.

A former waitress, Ms Buckley was described by colleagues as The Hibernian Hotel in Mallow, just 15km from her home, as ‘a cailin Gaelach’ or ‘always smiling Irish girl.’

At her funeral in Mourneabbey, her former UL nursing classmates formed a special guard of honour, each in full nursing uniform and carrying a  single red rose.

Timeline of Karen Buckley Murder case

Here is a timeline of events surrounding the disappearance of Karen Buckley:

Saturday April 11

11.45pm: Miss Buckley and her friends arrive at The Sanctuary nightclub in Dumbarton Road, Glasgow.

Sunday April 12

1am: She tells friends she is going to the toilet but does not return. She is seen on CCTV outside the club talking to a man and then walking west along Dumbarton Road towards Church Street.

Later that day, the student's flatmates raise the alarm when she fails to return home.

 Monday April 13

Police appeal for information to trace the man spotted in the CCTV images with the student.

Tuesday April 14

Police hold a press conference during which Miss Buckley's parents say they are ''desperate'' for her to come home safely.

Officers say they have traced the man spotted in the CCTV footage and he is helping them with their inquiries.

They also reveal Miss Buckley's handbag has been discovered in Dawsholm Park, near Dorchester Avenue in the Kelvindale area of Glasgow, early in the afternoon.

Wednesday April 15

Search teams and forensic experts scour the area around Dawsholm Park and a flat in Dorchester Avenue.

6.30pm: Police say a 21-year-old-man has been detained in connection with Miss Buckley's disappearance.

Thursday April 16

1.10am: Police say they have recovered human remains on a farm on the outskirts of Glasgow, which they believe may be those of Miss Buckley.

4am: Police Scotland states that a 21-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the death of the student.

4.15pm: Police confirm the remains are those of Miss Buckley.

Friday April 17

Alexander Pacteau, 21, appears on petition at Glasgow Sheriff Court charged with the murder of Miss Buckley.

He makes no plea or declaration and is remanded in custody.

5pm: Miss Buckley's parents join hundreds of people at a vigil for the student in Glasgow city centre.

A piper plays as mourners lay flowers and others sing Scottish and Irish songs before a minute's silence in George Square.

April 24

Pacteau makes a second private appearance in court and the case is fully committed.

April 28

Hundreds of people attend Miss Buckley's funeral in her native Mourneabbey, near Mallow, Co Cork.

August 11

Pacteau pleads guilty to murder when he appears at the High Court in Glasgow.

Irish Independent additional reporting PA

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