Extracts from Karen Edwards’s A KILLER’S CONFESSION: The Untold Story Behind ITV’s ‘A Confession’.
As BT TV says ‘A Confession on ITV has had viewers gripped to their TV screens on Monday nights with its telling of a true story of police procedure, a serial killer and a heartbreaking tragedy’
The Beginning of the End
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.‘Mum, I think you should come to the door. Mum, I think you need to come here.’
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 dialled 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 ward- robe. ‘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.
We were abroad on holiday with the family, and it was the night before we were due to fly back to the UK. When I woke up, I could sense straight away that Charlie was edgy.
‘I have something to tell you. Laura rang at two a.m. . .’
The BBC News channel was on and I saw the breaking news running along the bottom of the TV. It said that an unnamed 51-year-old man had been arrested for Becky’s murder! I rushed to get my phone from the safe and noticed that I had several missed calls, including one from the police.
I was all over the place. Was it Halliwell? It had to be, surely? There had been no indication that an arrest was coming. What had happened? I tried to make contact with my Family Liason Officers (FLOs) but they weren’t picking up.
The long flight home was unbearable. As soon as we landed and were inside the terminal, I took out my phone. I was all fingers and thumbs as I typed the number and it started to ring. DCI Sean Memory answered. I asked him one question.
‘Is it who I think it is?’
I held my breath, conscious that I was in a public place. It was all I wanted to know.
‘Yes,’ he said. I cried tears of relief.
‘Thank you,’ I mumbled.
My mind was in overdrive on the journey home. It felt out of the blue. I had no idea what had suddenly prompted Halliwell’s arrest. Of course, it was good news, but I was terribly apprehensive too. We had been here before and it had all gone horribly wrong. Would he wriggle off the hook again?
There was now a lot of renewed media interest and I found myself answering call after call. The police put out a statement:
We can confirm that a fifty-one-year-old man from Swindon was arrested today on suspicion of the murder of Becky Godden, also known as Becky Godden-Edwards. He has been interviewed and enquiries continue. It is in the interests of justice for Becky that you do not speculate on the identity of the arrested man as to do so could seriously jeopardise the judicial process.
After four years of purgatory, I was in the mood to talk, but, because of the delicate nature of the case, we were still unable to discuss it for fear of it falling at the first hurdle. There was such a long way to go and we were told we needed to keep everything completely watertight. We had spent years keeping silent, so a while longer wouldn’t make any difference. Through the Swindon Advertiser, I thanked the people of Swindon for all their support. Their kind words had helped me through some really dark times.
After the news of Halliwell’s arrest, I became extremely anxious. I couldn’t sleep. I just wanted all of this to go away. I was finding the waiting a strain, constantly worried that the police were going to contact me with bad news. The feeling just wouldn’t go away and I was running on nervous energy.
In times like this, we found ourselves out at Becky’s field in Eastleach. It was now a familiar place to us, but I came here with such mixed emotions that sometimes I hated it here. It was such a desolate field and I wanted to change that. I wanted to plant a tree in Becky’s memory, have something strong and permanent, something beautiful that would give blossom. We asked the farmer for his permission and he agreed.
Having made the decision we went out to plant it. It was a cold and windy day. The field was muddy but it made the soil easy to dig. The area had become a little overgrown, and as Charlie cut it back ready to dig, I suddenly had a bolt of anxiety. We were doing exactly what Halliwell had done all those years ago. He had been digging here, digging Becky’s grave. I said nothing, continuing to watch as Charlie finished planting the tree. When it was planted in the ground I tied a pink ribbon around it. As he’d cleared the ground, Charlie had also found the cross left by the police among the undergrowth; the words had now worn away. We repositioned it under the tree.
We now had Becky’s tree in Becky’s field. We stood for a few minutes and I said a prayer for her. I hoped planting the tree would introduce life to the spot where Becky had been laid; that it might somehow make the site easier to visit. Then, much like the first time we were there, I wanted to run, get away. I couldn’t explain it; I wanted to be there and yet, once there, I couldn’t help but re-imagine the awful night Halliwell would have driven Becky here. We continued to visit regularly to make sure the tree thrived. We knew now that if we visited in the spring, we would see it in beautiful scented blossom.
The day of Becky’s birthday arrived; she would have been 33 years old. Although I was feeling very tired, adrenalin kicked in to help me through the day. My lovely friends and family came round for Becky’s birthday celebration. She used to love celebrating her birthday. We put on Becky’s R&B music and danced around the kitchen to her favourites, Usher and Daniel Bedingfield. That evening we sifted through photos, laughing and crying. My daughter-in-law made a birthday cake, complete with candles. I lit them and the grandchildren blew them all out. It had been another day of mixed emotions.
Everything seemed to be catching up with me; I was lacking in energy, but my mind continued to buzz with the thoughts of bringing Halliwell to justice. Dare I hope that this time it would come good?
There was now a vacuum of news from the investigation. I was left to imagine what might be happening. I was scouring the local news as soon as I woke, checking my texts and emails for any contact from the media, who many a time found out information before I did. I had also set my phone and iPad to alert me if Halliwell’s name was mentioned in the press. I didn’t know what more I could do. The waiting felt interminable. There had to be more I could do.
I thought back over the last few months. The petition had gone well and unexpectedly it had also led to people giving information about Halliwell. I remembered how extraordinary it had been talking to Jane, his former girlfriend. I was pleased she felt able to approach us and be so candid. It had been chilling to hear that she thought Halliwell had killed when she had known him, back in the 1980s. But what if we hadn’t been there? What if I hadn’t petitioned and provided the opportunity for people to pass on their information to us? Information such as Jane had provided was crucial to murder enquiries.
There were other women still missing from Swindon: Sandra Brewin, Sally Ann John, Thi Hai Nguyen. How come there was no trace of them? There’d been no trace of Becky because he’d buried her. Had he killed these women too? If it wasn’t Halliwell, were there more killers like him walking among us, just as he did, in Swindon? Were the police on top of all this? They’d let Jane’s crucial evidence slip through the net until she’d approached us as we campaigned.
I thought of the people who Mum had overheard linking Halliwell to Linda Razzell. Linda’s husband, Glyn Razzell, was in prison for her murder, although he’d always denied killing her. Her body had never been found. Jane had mentioned the date 19 March as being significant, perhaps a date that a girlfriend had left him. Sian O’Callaghan had gone missing on 19 March, as had Linda Razzell. Did this date mean something to Halliwell? Had more women gone missing on this date?
I turned to the internet and put the date in, alongside ‘missing women.’ Immediately it returned the high-profile case of Claudia Lawrence, who lived near York. She too had gone missing on 19 March in 2009 and had not been seen since. I often recalled all the information I’d read about Halliwell, that he’d travelled around the country. Could his reach have stretched to York? Very possibly. I decided to research further. It gave me something to do to fill the void while I waited for an update on the investigation.
Around this time, the Advertiser was asking the public to help the mother of Sally Ann John so that she too could have closure. A few months earlier, Sally Ann’s disappearance had been declared a murder investigation by Wiltshire Police. Sally Ann had been working as a prostitute in Swindon at the time of her disappearance in 1995. She hadn’t been seen since and now, nearly twenty years later, police were treating her disappearance as murder.
Of course, there were similarities with Becky, as both had been sex workers and both had gone missing from Swindon. Whenever there were developments in the months that followed, friends would be in touch to check on me. As police made fresh searches at Sally Ann John’s last known address, in Nythe, I received a Facebook message from Lisa Halliwell, Halliwell’s ex-wife. I thought it was very kind of her to think of me. Her message was simple, ‘Thinking of you, sending love.’ My heart went out to Lisa and her children.
However, the police were not linking Sally Ann’s disappearance with Halliwell, despite her father saying she would have been known to him. Some arrests were made but these people were released without charge and the case went quiet again.
I felt a pang of guilt as Sally Ann’s family had been waiting for answers for so long. Thanks to Steve Fulcher, Becky had been found and now we were hopefully on the road to justice. No one knew more than I what it was like to have a daughter, who you love with every fibre of your body, go missing, to not see her for years. Unless you have been in that situation, you cannot imagine the agony of not seeing your child for weeks, months and years. The not knowing, the constant wondering.
Then, unexpectedly, things began to move forward with the enquiry again. Sean Memory, who had recently been promoted to Detective Superintendent, wanted to come and see me. Out of the blue, a meeting was arranged…
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*