Died Between 11th and 17th October 2012.
Catherine Gowing was raped and murdered at her home in New Brighton, Flintshire, Wales, between 11th October and 17th October, 2012. Her body was mutilated and dismembered.
Clive Sharp (46) of Gwynedd, admitted killing her and was sentenced to life at Mold Crown Court in Flintshire. He will have to serve 37 years before he can be considered for parole.
Ms Gowing was a vet who worked in Mold, Flintshire. She was Irish, originally from County Offaly in the Republic of Ireland. More than 300 people attended a funeral for her in Kinnitty, County Offaly, in January 2013.
Her sister, Emma Maguire, told mourners she was “the closest person to perfection that I had the privilege to know and love”. She said Ms Gowing had been a “wonderful daughter” to their parents, and described her as “a gift from God” adding “She was beautiful in beauty’s truest form, a soul filled with goodness,”. She said her sister “loved animals and being able to practice as a vet was for her a dream come through”.
The parish priest, Michael O’Meara, said the community in County Offaly were struggling to come to terms with the circumstances of Ms Gowing’s death. He told her family and friends “I know there’s no words of mine that can really be of any comfort on this day for you”.
Ms Gowing’s employer, Esmor Evans, of Evans Veterinary Practice in Mold, described Ms Gowing as a “very dear and gentle person”. He said Ms Gowing joined the practice in May 2011, after being recommended by a friend who had also travelled from Ireland.
After the killer was sentenced, Emma Maguire made the following tribute “What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others and the world remains and is immortal. She was a beautiful light, she shone very brightly. She enriched the lives of all she encountered, all God’s creatures. Her light is gone from our mortal world. She now shines elsewhere.”
The judge Mr Justice Griffith-Williams sentencing Sharp, said: “You are on any view a very serious danger to women. What happened in that period of nearly four hours is known only to you,” he added.This is a horrific, cold hearted murder, carried out to gratify your perverted sexual desires”
The court heard Sharp was fulfilling “a longstanding fantasy of imprisoning, raping and murdering a woman”. It was something he had revealed while on a treatment programme for sex offenders in the 1990s. He had previously been jailed twice for rape and sexual assaults.
Ms Gowing shared a house in Cae Isa, New Brighton near Mold with a friend, a fellow vet, who was in a relationship with the killer. The court heard Ms Gowing did not like the defendant, but out of loyalty to her friend she had not told her, although she had confided in others. The court heard that her friend had flown back to see her family in Ireland and that Sharp knew this. He then drove from Gwynedd to Flintshire, let himself into the house in the middle of the night and attacked Ms Gowing.
On Friday, 19th October North Wales Police confirmed Ms Gowing’s car had been found burned-out, close to a disused quarry near her home. Divers and police searched a pool in the quarry. At that time, Detective Inspector Iestyn Davies appealed for anyone who was in and around the area of the disused quarry in Pinfold Lane in Alltami to come forward.
Andrew Thomas QC, prosecuting, said: “This was a sexually-motivated murder in which the defendant entered the house in the middle of the night, tied Miss Gowing up and raped her. He killed her then mutilated her body by cutting it into pieces and disposing of it in and near to the River Dee. He also disposed of evidence, for example by setting fire to Miss Gowing’s car in a quarry. ”
Following an intensive search, Ms Gowings remains were found in different locations. However, not all parts of her body were recovered. Sharp’s DNA was found on some remains found at a quarry and near the River Dee.
Sharp eventually confessed to her murder. However, he did not provide information to the police to assist the search for the rest of Ms Gowing’s body.
Sharp pleaded guilty on 14th January 2013. The judge said there could only be one sentence – that of life imprisonment. However he said: “There are a number of concerns about this case which lead me to the view that I should have time to reflect upon it.” The judge said he appreciated the delay would add to the upset of Ms Gowing’s family, but he said careful assessment was needed. He asked for a complete factual picture of the defendant’s previous convictions and previous reports “where he expresses his fantasies”. He said “ I have to work out what the minimum term you will serve is before the Parole Board consider you for release – if you are ever to be released”
In February when Sharp returned to court for sentencing Mr Justice Griffith-Williams told him that he would have imposed a minimum term of 42 years but for the fact that he had pleaded guilty. The judge gave no explanation as to why the sentence was not a whole life sentence.
Detective Superintendent Mark Pierce said: “I doubt a tear will be shed if he is never released” DS Pierce stressed this was a minimum term, and said Sharp would only be released when he was no longer considered a danger to women which “may never be so”.
Teams of 40 specially trained police officers and underwater divers spent nearly three weeks searching for Ms Gowing, before the first human remains were uncovered at a shallow pond in Sealand. The location was close to where Sharp had once lived with his mother. Two days later, more remains were found at the River Dee in Higher Ferry, Chester.
Despite the largest search in North Wales Police history, the force says it has been unable to recover all of her remains, with Sharp failing to provide any information ahead of his conviction.
Note: This report was drawn from reports in the BBC.