Karen Buckley: ‘an outgoing girl who travelled the world and enjoyed life’

Student was murdered after chance meeting three months after arriving in Glasgow

The disappearance of Karen Buckley while out socialising with friends in Glasgow on April 11th last triggered a massive police investigation and a huge media focus which continued throughout the week as the story moved towards its tragic denouement.

From Glynn in Mourneabbey outside Mallow in north Cork, Ms Buckley (24) moved to Glasgow last January to study for a master's degree in occupational therapy at Glasgow Caledonian University. She had earlier qualified with a BSc in nursing from the University of Limerick in January 2014.

While completing the four-year course in Limerick, she worked at both University Hospital Limerick and St John's Hospital in Ennis. After graduating she travelled in the US and Thailand before getting a job at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow, Essex.

She spent a year in Harlow before going to university in Glasgow where she got accommodation on Hill Street in Garnetthill, near the college, with some of her occupational therapy classmates from Ireland. Her post-graduate course was due to take two years.


She went out socialising with her three Irish friends and flatmates on the night of Saturday, April 11th, with the group arriving at the Sanctuary nightclub on Dumbarton Road in Glasgow’s West End at about 11.25pm.

According to the police, her friends said she had been drinking but was not drunk when she said she was going to the toilet at about 1am. She failed to return, causing them a good deal of concern.

The friends went home to their flat at Hill Street and when she had not come home by lunchtime the following day, Sunday April 12th, they contacted police, saying how worried they were because it was completely out of character for her.

Police visited the Sanctuary nightclub where management and staff were very helpful, showing them CCTV footage on which they identified her leaving the club at about 1am and crossing the road where she was seen talking to a stocky young man.

Nightclub staff did not recognise the man but were able to tell police he had been part of a group who had booked a booth and they knew another member of the group. When police contacted the other man, he identified the man on the CCTV footage talking to Ms Buckley as Alexander Pacteau.

Police called to Pacteau’s flat on Dorchester Avenue in Kelvindale, 3.7km from the Sanctuary, on the afternoon of Monday, April 13th, but he wasn’t at home. When they called again at 6pm, he told them he was just on the point of calling to see them.

By then, the police had issued an appeal for information on Ms Buckley’s whereabouts and they were officially treating her disappearance as a missing person investigation. However, there is evidence to suggest that by then police believed she might have been the victim of foul play.

Pacteau later came into Helen Street police station on Monday night to make a witness statement in which he told police he had met the missing woman outside the nightclub and she had come back to his flat on Dorchester Avenue where they had consensual sex before she left to walk home at 4am.

Ms Buckley's parents, John and Marian Buckley, had flown to Scotland on the Monday morning and they were joined in Glasgow by her older brothers, Kieran and Damian who had travelled from Australia while her eldest brother, Brendan, remained at home looking after the family farm in Co Cork.

The family members who had travelled to Glasgow were present at a press conference at police headquarters in Govan on Tuesday, April 14th. They issued an emotional appeal for any information on their daughter who was missing at that stage for more than 60 hours and had not responded to any calls or texts to her mobile phone.

“She is our only daughter and we love her dearly. We just want Karen home safely. We are desperate and if anyone has any information, please come forwards,” the missing woman’s mother told the large press contingent present.

Ms Buckley’s body was discovered on the evening of Wednesday, April 15th, and police arrested Pacteau the following day.

At another police press conference Det Supt Jim Kerr read out a statement on behalf of her father, John Buckley, in which he said the family were all "absolutely heartbroken".

“Karen was our only daughter, cherished by our family and loved by her friends. She was an outgoing girl who travelled the world where she met lots of people and thoroughly enjoyed her life. We will miss her terribly,” he said in the statement.

The ’s murder prompted a huge outpouring of grief, not just back in her native Mourneabbey and in Co Cork where books of condolence were opened, but also in Glasgow where a vigil was organised in the city centre to enable people to express their sympathies to her family.

Hundreds of people, including her parents, attended the vigil in George Square organised by a former member of the Scottish parliament, Rosie Kane, who said she hoped it would show the Buckleys that Glasgow cared about their daughter and what happened her.

Derry-born Glaswegian Pauline Bradley composed a song for Karen. “There is sorrow over the waters for one of Ireland’s daughters and from Glasgow to Cork, we all share your pain,” she sang, the simple lyric resonating with the crowd.

Among those in attendance was Sadie Docherty, the Lord Provost of Glasgow and a mother of two, who said the large turnout reflected people’s sympathy for the Buckley family and the impact her murder had had on a city which was home to thousands of students from all over the UK and Ireland.

Later that night, even after midnight, young couples, groups of women in their 40s and men on their own came up to read the messages of sympathy left with bouquets of flowers at the vigil s scene.

Some 12 days later, people were still struggling to put their feelings into words, Fr Joe O’Keeffe told mourners at her funeral Mass in the small country church of St Michael the Archangel in Annaleentha in Mourneabbey.

“In our view of life, death and childhood are poles apart, and 24 years simply does not seem the right time to die - it does not seem to add up. Death is sad at any age, but our feelings concerning death are not always of the same degree.

“To us, Karen was a young woman, a friend. To her family she was a cousin, a niece, a sister-in-law, a sister, a daughter, a child. It is most difficult then for them, but in particular for Karen’s parents, John and Marian, to associate the cradle to the coffin.

“One represents the beginning of life and the other represents the end. And it is doubly sad when the two are so closely linked. We are deeply, deeply saddened when the life of someone so young is cut short, and in Karen’s case, so tragically and horrifically so, by the curtain of death.”

Outside the church, her classmates from University of Limerick, each holding a red rose, formed a guard of honour as John Buckley and his three sons shouldered Karen’s coffin to the hearse that brought her to Burnfort cemetery. She was buried with her grandparents.