Murder of Sian O'Callaghan

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Sian O'Callaghan
Sian Emma O'Callaghan.jpg
Sian Emma O'Callaghan[1]

3 June 1988[2]
Swindon, Wiltshire, England
Disappeared19 March 2011 (aged 22)
Swindon, Wiltshire, England
Body discovered(2011-03-24)24 March 2011
Uffington, Oxfordshire, England
OccupationOffice administrator[3]
Known forMurder victim
Parent(s)Mick and Elaine[3]

Sian Emma O'Callaghan (3 June 1988 – c. 19 March 2011) was a 22-year-old British woman who disappeared from Swindon, Wiltshire, having last been seen at a nightclub in the town in the early hours of 19 March 2011. Her body was found on 24 March 2011 near Uffington in Oxfordshire. On 19 October 2012, at Bristol Crown Court, Christopher Halliwell, 48, of Nythe, Swindon pleaded guilty to O'Callaghan's murder.[4]


A photograph of a densely wooded deciduous forest
Savernake Forest was searched extensively by police and members of the public

At 02:52 on 19 March 2011, O'Callaghan was captured on CCTV leaving Swindon's Suju nightclub to walk 800 metres (0.50 mi) to the flat in Swindon's old town[5] that she shared with her boyfriend, Kevin Reape.[6] Reape sent O'Callaghan an SMS at 03:24; analysis later showed that her mobile phone was in the Savernake Forest area, 12 miles (19 km) away, at the time the message was received.[7] At 09:45, Reape contacted the police and reported O'Callaghan as missing.[6]

On 20 March, the police issued their first public appeal for information, and announced that they had begun searching Savernake Forest.[6] They stated that the time that elapsed between O'Callaghan's appearance on the club's CCTV and her mobile phone signal (02:52 and 03:24 respectively) meant that the journey from Swindon to the forest could only have been made in a vehicle.[8] On 22 March, approximately 400 members of the public joined the police in their search of the forest.[8] The same day, an anonymous donor offered a £20,000 reward for information that would lead to finding O'Callaghan.[6]

On 23 March, police announced that analysis of O'Callaghan's mobile phone signals led to the identification of a number of "hot spots" to be investigated. Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher of Wiltshire Police said that the investigation was moving at a "rapid pace", and that "significant lines of inquiry" were being developed.[6] Members of the public were asked to stand down from searches.[6]

On 24 March, police made an urgent appeal for witnesses of a green Toyota Avensis with taxi markings, which had been seen between Swindon and Savernake Forest shortly after O'Callaghan's disappearance.[9]

Arrest and discovery of body[edit]

An Ordnance Survey map showing parts of Wiltshire including Swindon and Marlborough
O'Callaghan went missing from Swindon and her body was found near Uffington (top-right). Savernake Forest is located at the bottom of the map.

On the afternoon of 24 March, police arrested a 47-year-old taxicab driver from Swindon[3] on suspicion of kidnapping.[6][10] The arrest was made at an Asda supermarket in north Swindon, where a green Toyota Avensis taxi was also seized.[3][6][10] Later the same day, O'Callaghan's body was found in a shallow grave near Uffington, Oxfordshire.[7][11]

On 26 March the suspect was charged with O'Callaghan's murder.[12]


During a news conference on 26 March, Fulcher stated that tests revealed that O'Callaghan had not been sexually assaulted.[7]

On 1 April, the inquest at Oxford coroner's court was told that it was likely O'Callaghan died from head injuries, though a forensic pathologist from the Home Office had yet to confirm a precise cause of death.[13]


O'Callaghan's funeral was held at Kingsdown Crematorium on 18 April 2011.[5]

Trial and subsequent events[edit]

On 31 May 2012, taxi driver Christopher Halliwell appeared in court at a plea and case management hearing, and pleaded not guilty to the charge of murdering Sian O'Callaghan.[14] On 19 October 2012, he appeared at Bristol Crown Court and pleaded guilty to her murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum tariff of 25 years.[15] The Court of Appeal upheld the sentence on 14 December 2012.[16]

Revelation of Becky Godden-Edwards murder[edit]

Following the guilty plea, it emerged that a second murder charge against Halliwell had been dropped as a result of an error in the police handling of the case.[17] The body of Becky Godden-Edwards, a woman who had been reported missing in 2007, was found after Halliwell's arrest.[18] Halliwell had led police to the body. Justice Laura Cox ruled that Halliwell's confessions to killing each of the women were inadmissible as evidence, as Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher had breached the guidelines of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 by failing to caution Halliwell and denying him access to a solicitor during the period that the confessions were obtained.[19][20]

On 23 April 2013, an inquest at Oxford Coroner's Court into the death of Becky Godden-Edwards recorded a narrative verdict stating that the cause of her death, believed to have been in 2003, was "unascertained but probably caused unlawfully by a third party."[21]

In September 2013, the Independent Police Complaints Commission published the result of an investigation, which found that Fulcher had a case to answer for gross misconduct for breaches of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and for ignoring force orders.[22][23] In January 2014, he was found guilty of gross misconduct and given a final written warning by a disciplinary tribunal.[24] In May 2014, Fulcher resigned from Wiltshire Police. Karen Edwards, the mother of Becky Godden-Edwards, commented: "Had he have followed the guidelines, then Becky would never have been found, she would have never have come into the equation."[25]

On 31 March 2016, Christopher Halliwell was charged with the murder of Becky Godden-Edwards before magistrates in Chippenham, Wiltshire.[26] On 19 September 2016, a jury at Bristol Crown Court found him guilty of the murder after two hours of deliberation.[27][28] On 23 September, Justice John Griffith Williams sentenced Halliwell to life imprisonment with a whole life order for the murder, meaning he will not be eligible for parole and will never be released from prison.[29][30]

Television drama based on the case[edit]

On 2 September 2019, ITV broadcast the first episode of A Confession, a six-part drama series based on the case, with Martin Freeman playing Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher and Joe Absolom playing Christopher Halliwell.[31][32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ UK Births 1837–2006
  2. ^ "Memorial to Sian O'Callaghan, 1988 – 2011". Child Bereavement UK. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d Gammell, Caroline (25 March 2011). "Sian O'Callaghan 'knew murder suspect taxi driver through his children'". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 25 March 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
  4. ^ "Cab driver admits murder of Sian O'Callaghan". Channel 4 News. 19 October 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  5. ^ a b Tearful crowds say farewell to murdered Sian O'Callaghan
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Timeline: Sian O'Callaghan murder". BBC News. 27 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  7. ^ a b c "Sian police find human remains in Gloucestershire". BBC News. 27 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  8. ^ a b "Hundreds search forest for missing Sian O'Callaghan". BBC News. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  9. ^ "Sian O'Callaghan search officers make taxi appeal". BBC News. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Sian O'Callaghan search: Kidnap arrest made in Swindon". BBC News. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  11. ^ "Sian O'Callaghan: Police get more time to question man". BBC News. 26 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  12. ^ "Man charged with Sian O'Callaghan murder". BBC News. 27 March 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  13. ^ "Sian O'Callaghan 'died of head injuries', inquest hears". BBC News. 1 April 2011. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
  14. ^ Steven Morris and agencies (31 May 2012). "Taxi driver denies murdering Sian O'Callaghan". The Guardian.
  15. ^ "Christopher Halliwell admits Sian O'Callaghan murder". BBC News. 19 October 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  16. ^ "Appeal court rejects attempt to increase Chris Halliwell's murder sentence". The Guardian. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  17. ^ "Halliwell: Why Second Murder Charge Was Dropped". Sky News. 19 October 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  18. ^ "Becky Godden-Edwards' mother visits body discovery site". BBC News. 6 April 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  19. ^ "Inside story: How a resourceful detective got Chris Halliwell to confess – but fell foul of the law". The Independent. 19 October 2012. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
  20. ^ "Christopher Halliwell led police to two bodies – then tried to evade trial". The Guardian. 19 October 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2012.
  21. ^ "Becky Godden farmland grave: Narrative verdict recorded". BBC News. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  22. ^ "Police watchdog recommends gross misconduct charge for detective who bent rules to catch killer Christopher Halliwell". The Independent. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  23. ^ "IPCC investigation into Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher finds a case for gross misconduct". Independent Police Complaints Commission. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  24. ^ "Becky Godden misconduct detective Steve Fulcher keeps job". BBC News. 23 January 2014. Retrieved 1 May 2014.
  25. ^ "Becky Godden misconduct detective Steve Fulcher resigns". BBC News. 15 May 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2014.
  26. ^ "Man charged with murder of Becky Godden Edwards". Daily Telegraph. 30 March 2016. Retrieved 2 April 2016.
  27. ^ Morris, Steven (19 September 2016). "Chris Halliwell found guilty of Becky Godden murder". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  28. ^ "How Becky Godden's murderer was caught, lost, and caught again". BBC News. 19 September 2016. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  29. ^ "Becky Godden murder: Christopher Halliwell given whole-life sentence". BBC News. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  30. ^ "Taxi driver Chris Halliwell given full life term for Becky Godden murder". The Guardian. 23 September 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2016.
  31. ^ Bley Griffiths, Eleanor (29 August 2019). "How did the real DI Steve Fulcher and the victims' families help shape ITV drama A Confession?". Radio Times. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
  32. ^ "A Confession episode 1 review". Dead Good. 4 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.

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