Read an extract from A Killer’s Confession: The Untold Story Behind ITV’s ‘A Confession’.
‘Mum, I think you should come to the door. Mum, I think you need to come here.’
My son, Steven, had answered the knock on the front door. Now he was calling me from the kitchen. I knew then, even before I looked down the hallway. Maybe I caught the tone of Steven’s voice, a nuance that would have been lost on anyone else. A mother’s instinct perhaps. I’d been listening to my instincts for days and I was sensitive to any sign, any indication that might confirm my fears. I’d voiced my concerns to my husband, Charlie, and to Steven. They’d tried to reassure me, but it hadn’t worked.
Cold fear gripped me. As soon as I saw the police officer I knew why he was standing there. Becky. I recognised the officer straight away because I’d seen him on the television. Everyone knew his name.
For the last two weeks, a police investigation had played out through the media as police looked into the disappearance and murder of Sian O’Callaghan, a pretty local girl who had gone missing on her way home from a nightclub in Swindon, in the early hours of Saturday, 19 March 2011. The officer in charge of the case, Detective Superintendent Stephen Fulcher, was now on my doorstep.
Like thousands of others in Swindon and around the country, I had been glued to the news. It was a dreadful story that so many people could relate to. The investigation into Sian’s disappearance dominated every news bulletin, radio station and newspaper.
I had felt an enormous sympathy for Sian’s parents, as I imagined what they must be going through. I had seen them and Sian’s boyfriend, Kevin Reape, on the news, appealing for help to find her. I saw the pain and worry etched on their faces. The man now at my door had been sitting next to them.
He had hero status in Swindon. Not only had he captured Sian’s abductor and murderer, but he had discovered Sian’s body so she could be returned to her family. But there had also been an extraordinary twist. When DSupt Fulcher had first ordered the arrest of a local taxi driver, Christopher Halliwell, for Sian’s abduction, no one could have predicted what would happen next.
Halliwell repeatedly replied ‘no comment’ to other officers when they used emergency interview provisions to ask him where Sian was. They hoped she might still be alive somewhere so they had to find her fast. The quickest way to do this was to ask the only man who knew – Halliwell – but he refused to co-operate. So before he was taken to the police station, DSupt Fulcher himself asked to speak to Halliwell. He wanted to look the man he had spent days hunting in the eye to persuade him to reveal where he had taken Sian.
It worked. Halliwell told DSupt Fulcher he would lead him to Sian. He then took officers on a long car journey, directing them into the Oxfordshire countryside. During the journey, Halliwell indicated he had killed Sian and had left her body somewhere down a steep verge along a stretch of road.
While a helicopter was searching the area for Sian’s body, and before he was taken into custody, Halliwell requested to talk further to DSupt Fulcher. He had Halliwell driven to a quiet spot and asked him what he had to say.
‘Do you want another one?’ Halliwell asked.
He told the officer he had murdered a woman some years earlier, in either 2003, 2004 or 2005; he couldn’t be more precise than that. But he could take him to the spot – the exact spot – where he’d buried her. He directed officers through the countryside, driving down winding, single-track lanes until they reached a remote field in Eastleach, Gloucestershire. By the time they’d arrived, the helicopter at the original location had found Sian O’Callaghan’s body.
Halliwell got out of the police car and climbed over a dry- stone wall. Once in the field, and taking a reference point from a dip in the wall, he paced steps to a spot in the ground and indicated that was where he had buried the woman. A day later, the skeletal remains of a body were discovered a little way from where Halliwell indicated in the field. But he had given no name for his victim, so who was she?
When I heard on the news about another body being found in a field, the O’Callaghan family’s story suddenly became very personal to me. Until then, of course, as a mother, I felt enormous empathy for them – a sort of ‘there but for the grace of God, go I’ kind of empathy – along with any other parent who heard the story and who had a young, pretty, vibrant daughter.
But another body . . . something inside me, something instinctive, told me it was Becky. She had been a vulnerable, troubled teenager, disappearing for weeks and months at a time. But she always came back eventually. However, I hadn’t actually seen her for many years by now. The last time I’d seen her, she’d promised me that she would come home when she was ready. So I’d waited. In the years that had passed since, as recently as just a few months ago, other people had told me that they’d seen Becky. People had spoken to her, told me of their conversations with her. Although I was hurt that she wasn’t ready to return home to me yet, I convinced myself that I had to be patient. I remembered her promise and waited. It would be like she’d never been away.
But despite all the sightings of her, something deep inside nagged at me. As I watched the news unfold, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the newly discovered body was Becky. I felt it so strongly I spoke of it to my family. An inexplicable feeling of dread had settled on me. ‘What if it is Becky?’ I asked them.
‘It can’t be,’ they said, as, like me, they’d relied on what people had told us over the years. But, still, what if it was? For some reason I knew it was her. I just knew it. All through the week that followed I drove myself mad with fear and worry that it was Becky. It was all I could talk about.
When I knew I was alone in the house, I sat in my bedroom, pen in hand at my dressing table. I finally picked up the phone and dialed the police. Dread was burning inside me. I was so frightened. But I had to do it.
‘Hello, Wiltshire Police, how can I help you?’ the call operator sounded quick and efficient.
‘My name is Karen Edwards. My daughter, Becky, has been missing for a while and I’m concerned it could be my daughter found in the field at Eastleach.’ I was choking back the tears, trying to stay calm, not really believing what I was saying. But the words came tumbling out.
I heard the quick tap of fingers on a keyboard as I relayed Becky’s details. As the operator spoke, she tried to reassure me by saying that 464 other people had also rung in to report their loved one missing since the body had been found. I seized on what she said, writing the figure 464 on my note pad. She told me not to worry too much. At last I put the phone down. Relief at having made the call flooded through me but I felt sick at the same time. I wanted to take comfort from what the call taker had said; there were 464 other people with fears like mine. But there was only one body. As much as I tried to stop myself thinking it, I just knew it was Becky.
Now, here was Stephen Fulcher at the front door. My heart was racing. I could hear the rapid pulse in my ears. It was deafening. I knew why DSupt Fulcher was there and yet I so wanted it not to be true. My mouth went dry in reaction to the fear that racked me. As I walked towards the door I created a delay. I didn’t want to hear what he had to say, so I bought myself a few precious seconds while I tucked some tea towels on to a radiator. I knew what I was doing. I was desperately trying to hang on to normality, the familiar world I knew. The world in which Becky still existed for me. I didn’t want to hear what he had to say. I felt sick.
As I walked down the hallway towards him, my stomach churned. My palms were sweating. I knew. I just knew. I seemed to float towards him in slow motion. There was no more delaying. This was it. We stood facing each other.
‘Mrs Edwards?’ His voice was low and steady.
‘Yes? My god, is it my Becky? Is it my Becky? It is, isn’t it?’ There was the merest hesitation before he answered. His eyes
stayed fixed on mine.
‘Yes,’ he said clearly and calmly. ‘May we come in?’ Stood beside him was another policeman, with two women officers behind them.
‘Please, no, no, not my Becky!’ I cried. The tears were instant, as was a huge wave of fear, sadness, and utter hopelessness. I’d known for days in my heart, in my gut, but here was the awful confirmation. Nothing can ever prepare you for the shock.
Now the police officers were closing the door behind them. I ran to Steven who was in the living room, standing by the fireplace. My worst fears had been confirmed. The body was Becky’s. My lovely baby was dead. My world shattered. To hear this today of all days was devastating. On the day she’d been born, I was told she was dead.
I clung to Steven and just broke down. I wasn’t in control any more. I felt an actual physical change, as if something died inside me. I couldn’t function, I couldn’t hear or speak. The only thing I could do was cry hysterically. The world didn’t feel real any longer. We’d descended into a kind of hell.
A policewoman helped me to sit down. They were talking to me, but all I could take in was it was Becky they had found in the grave.
‘But it’s her birthday, it’s Becky’s birthday.’ It was all I could manage to weep.
‘Could we please see Becky’s room?’ DSupt Fulcher asked gently, after a while. I looked at him through a haze of tears; I could see that he was tired, but there was a determination about him that I’d seen in him on the television.
‘Of course,’ I answered, tearfully.
I led the way upstairs and opened the door. I’d always kept the room ready for her, waiting for her to come back, as she had many times over the years. It still had all her things there; it was just as she’d left it, despite the fact she hadn’t been here for so long. It was Becky’s room. Now, I was standing in her room with a police officer. He was out of place in there. It was wholly surreal.
As he looked around, taking it in, I opened the wardrobe. ‘These are some of her presents from the birthdays and Christmases we’ve missed since she left. There’s more in the loft . . .’ It was all I could manage to say before the words choked in my throat. Again, the tears brimmed and blurred my sight. He looked at me. Piled in neat columns were parcels wrapped in Christmas paper. This was where I kept some of Becky’s presents since we’d last seen her, in 2002. They were ready for her to unwrap as soon as she came back. Just because she wasn’t here,
I hadn’t forgotten her; she loved Christmas and birthdays. There were two more presents for her today. As I looked at them now, I knew she would never open them.
I was in such a bad way that the local doctor was called. I was put to bed. Whatever tranquilliser she gave me worked well because I didn’t wake until the following morning. As soon as I opened my eyes the reality of the day before hit me like a hammer blow. The nightmare that had begun yesterday was there again today, and would be every day now.
Out of my drug-induced sleep, my mind went to a new, dark place, somewhere I’d never been before, a kind of torture chamber, where all manner of horrors greeted me. Becky was dead, so what had happened to her? How had she come to be buried in a field? How had she been murdered? What had that vile animal done to her? His name went round and round in my head, a name I’d heard on the news. Who was he? What had happened? My mind spun with these thoughts. I would have to know.
With these dark thoughts in my mind, I knew somehow I had to face the day. The policewoman returned to see me. She wanted to ask me lots of questions about Becky and in the fog of grief and a relentless stream of tears, I did my best to answer them.
The days followed in a frenzy, as the discovery of Sian and Becky dominated the news. The media went mad, with journalists climbing over the gate and camping en masse outside the house. The local press were running a public appeal for information –
‘Did you know Becky?’ – and were already highlighting other women who had gone missing from Swindon. There was such a hunger for information, we eventually had to put a note on the gate requesting privacy.
I continued to help police to build up a picture of Becky and we went back to her room. They needed to go through her things, read her diaries, letters, and try to understand her. They asked me for her story so they could determine what had taken her into the path of her killer, Christopher Halliwell. They wanted to know anything that could contribute to the investigation. There was nothing too small or insignificant I could tell them.
This gave me a reason to function while I dealt with the pain of knowing I would never see Becky again; the pain of knowing she had been murdered. I was helping them with their enquiries, helping them with their investigation. I could do that. I needed to do that. Anything that would help bring her killer to justice. And so, still unable to believe what was happening to us, I started from the beginning.
A mother's fight to bring her daughter's killer, Christopher Halliwell, to justice 'I have lived every parent's worst nightmare. On what would have been my daughter's 29th birthday, Detective Superintendent Stephen Fulcher knocked on the door and told me my beautiful Becky was dead. Found buried in a shallow grave in a remote field, Becky had been brutally murdered.' When Becky Godden-Edwards was killed, her mother Karen awoke to a world where the truth was never guaranteed; where taxi driver Christopher Halliwell got away with murder and the police officer who found her daughter was punished instead. This is Karen's story. Despite unimaginable tragedy, her love for her daughter has been unbreakable: from her despair through Becky's troubled teenage years, to the agonising eight years when Becky was missing, and then the dramatic story of how a killer's confession led to a terrible discovery. The one constant has been Karen's determination to fight for Becky, tirelessly campaigning for the truth about what happened to be heard and for Halliwell to face the consequences of his evil actions. *The murders of Becky Godden-Edwards and Sian O'Callaghan will soon be the focus of major new ITV series A Confession starring Martin Freeman as Stephen Fulcher and Imelda Staunton as Karen Edwards*