‘Our daughter said her boyfriend would change. He did – into a murderer’: Parents of Claire Inglis reveal she told them domestic abuser had promised to reform – just days before he tortured and killed her
- Christopher McGowan, 28, has been jailed for the murder of his girlfriend
- McGowan choked and burned Claire Inglis, 28, at her home in Stirling, Scotland
- She told her parents the abuser promised to reform days before he killed her
A mother who was murdered by her abusive boyfriend told her parents he had promised to reform just days before he killed her.
Claire Inglis, 28, was choked with a baby wipe and burned by her boyfriend, Christopher McGowan, at her home in Stirling, Scotland, in November 2021.
Her grieving parents, Fiona and Ian, said their daughter told them McGowan was ‘good to me’ and he would ‘change’ in the days before she was killed.
McGowan – a convicted domestic abuser – had been bailed from court to stay at the property a few weeks before the attack.
McGowan, who had previous convictions for domestic abuse, claimed she had ‘fallen downstairs’.
Claire Inglis, 28, was burned with a lighter during an assault at her home in Stirling
Christopher McGowan, 28, claimed his girlfriend had ‘fallen downstairs’
His victim suffered more than 76 injuries which left her with bleeding inside her skull and extensive injuries to her neck.
He denied any wrongdoing but, after a week-long trial earlier this year at the High Court in Stirling, jurors took less than two hours to find McGowan guilty of murder.
Judge O’Grady told McGowan that he would go to prison for a minimum of 23 years and said it was clear he wasn’t truly remorseful for taking her life.
Ms Inglis’ parents, Fiona and Ian, had been concerned about their daughter after she said McGowan had shouted at her in the street.
‘She said she was glad to get away from him and he’s a bad one,’ her mother said, speaking to BBC News.
‘Then three weeks later, she phoned out of the blue and said she’s in a relationship.’
‘He’s been on a tag [curfew] he’s a guy about town, he’ll have been like a caged animal.
‘We’ll never know what happened that night, but I keep thinking was she trying to get him out?’
Ms Inglis’ parents, Fiona and Ian, had been concerned about their daughter
Her parents made the decision to cut off contact with their daughter in the hope she would see reason and end the relationship when they were concerned about the relationship
Mr Inglis said his daughter’s life consisted of walking her son bath and forth to school until McGowan appeared, and she was under his control until she died.
Comparing the abuser to a ‘caged animal’, he said McGowan should never have been allowed to stay with his daughter and his grandson in their flat with his criminal record.
When McGowan arrived at her flat, he started pawning her possessions, including her watch – a 21st birthday present – and her son’s PlayStation.
Texts supposedly sent by Ms Inglis included bad spelling and emojis, which she never used, according to her parents.
They are convinced McGowan sent the messages himself after taking their daughter’s phone.
Mr and Mrs Inglis said they made the decision to cut off contact with their daughter in the hope she would see reason and end the relationship.
Mrs Inglis added: ‘She told me, ‘You’re just a drama queen, he’s good to me, he’s going to change.’
‘And he did. Into a murderer.’
On Wednesday, scar-faced McGowan appeared before judge Michael O’Grady KC at the High Court in Edinburgh for sentencing.
Sentence had been deferred for the court to obtain a background report on McGowan.
The court heard how McGowan now accepted full responsibility for murdering Ms Inglis. The court also heard that he wept when speaking about what he had done to her.
Sentencing McGowan on Wednesday, Judge O’Grady said: ‘The background report which I have before me – remarkably – suggests that you accept full responsibility and that during interview you showed remorse and regret.
‘Let me deal with that. It is clear that you accept no responsibility. Indeed in interview you have gone to great lengths to minimise and deny your responsibility for Claire’s death.
‘And as for your remorse and regret, I have watched you carefully throughout these proceedings.
The court heard how McGowan now accepted full responsibility for murdering Ms Inglis. The court also heard that he wept when speaking about what he had done to her
Claire Inglis suffered more than 76 injuries which left her with bleeding inside her skull
Passing sentence, the judge said Ms Inglis was ‘subjected to nothing short of torture’ during the assault in November 2021
‘Even in the face of the most graphic and distressing evidence, you have shown not a flicker of emotion, not a hint of distress, not a shadow of remorse.
‘Indeed, in the course of interview, you provided the author of the report with a lengthy and detailed account of events that night, which account the evidence has shown is a self-serving tissue of lies and a grotesque distortion of the awful truth of what you did.
‘It is that dishonesty which is the true measure of your remorse. As for the tears you shed at interview, I have no doubt they were shed for none but yourself.
‘To those who have not listened to the evidence in this trial, it is difficult to truly convey the utter brutality of the death you inflicted on Claire Inglis.
‘By the time her broken and lifeless body was found, she had no fewer than 76 separate sites of injury. There is no need for me to dwell on the detail; there are those present today who have already heard too much to bear.
‘The fact is, this young woman was not only murdered; she was subjected to nothing short of torture.
‘I shudder to imagine what her last minutes were like. To describe what you did as sadistic falls woefully short of the mark. It was beyond sadistic.
‘The consequences for Claire are self-evident. Her life ended in pain and terror at the age of 28.
‘But there are others who remain who have also been robbed of the future they could have reasonably have expected.
‘Because if she was a young woman of 28, she was also a young daughter and friend of 28 and – perhaps cruellest of all – a young mother of 28.
‘Those who gave her life, and to whom she in turn gave life, will now have the anguish of living without her and the dreadful pain of knowing how she died.
‘I have in particular mind the Victim Impact Statement of her young son who now spends each day lonely, bereft and bewildered, unable to make sense of why he must grow up without his mother.’
The court heard how mother of one Ms Inglis had announced on Facebook in autumn 2021 that she was ‘in a relationship’ with McGowan, a painter and decorator.
After a week-long trial earlier this year at the High Court in Stirling, jurors took less than two hours to find McGowan guilty of murder
He had been released from prison, where he had been remanded on charges including dangerous driving following a high-speed police pursuit, a few weeks before the fatal attack.
Friends said Ms Inglis had been visiting him in jail.
A sheriff had given him bail after learning from a social work report that McGowan had a new girlfriend and that their relationship was ‘positive’.
The report also stated that he was ‘motivated to stay out of trouble and come off alcohol and Valium’. This led the Sheriff bailing him to Ms Inglis’ address.
Five days before the killing, he received a community payback order, including a curfew requiring him to stay in her flat at night.
Jurors heard McGowan breached that curfew the night before her death, and was still out, intoxicated, in the company of Ms Inglis, in Stirling city centre at 9pm when he should have been indoors.
He was also subject to four other bail orders at the time and in had been jailed for 21 months in April 2020 for threatening to ‘do in’ a cop with a six-inch blade.
Four of the five bail orders that McGowan was on were granted within little more than two months of Ms Inglis’ murder.
The court heard how McGowan had 40 previous convictions, including three for assault, and a conviction with a domestic aggravation dating from 2014.
The jury heard that on the day Ms Inglis died, neighbours were woken at 5am by McGowan banging on their doors.
One neighbour told the jury that McGowan had said: ‘Waken up, I think I’ve killed her’.
Two neighbours attempted CPR before paramedics arrived to find Ms Inglis lying ‘black and blue’ on her bedroom floor, not breathing, with no heartbeat, and what appeared to be a baby wipe so deep in her throat they could not get an airway tube into her without removing it.
A pathologist found she had ‘at least’ 76 separate injuries, including bleeding inside her skull, extensive injuries to her neck, two black eyes, and ‘petechial haemorrhaging’, a tell-tale sign of strangulation.
A bone in her neck was fractured. A post mortem revealed death was due to ‘a combination of head and neck injuries’ and subdural haemorrhage.
Speaking after the case, Ms Inglis’ parents slammed the decision to release McGowan to live at their daughter’s home.
Her father Ian said: ‘He should never ever have been put in her flat with my grandson and Claire – not with the criminal record he had.’
On Wednesday, defence advocate Paul Nelson KC said his client had had a ‘less than ideal’ upbringing as a child. Mr Nelson said McGowan had been physically abused by his mother and had been the subject of ‘social work involvement’ as a youngster.
Mr Nelson added: ‘Mr McGowan turned to using drink and drugs as a coping mechanism. It led to his offending. ‘
Passing sentence, Judge O’Grady warned McGowan that there was no guarantee that he’d be released at the end of his 23 year term.
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