Killer tied up another woman hours before Catherine Gowing murder
25/02/2013 - 11:59:30
The man who murdered Offaly vet Catherine Gowing will serve a minimum of 37 years in jail, a judge ruled today.
It also emerged that he left another woman tied to a bed after she refused to take part in perverted sexual acts just hours before the murder, Mold Crown Court heard.
Ms Gowing’s body has never been fully recovered, although remains were found at two rural locations near her home in Flintshire, North Wales, and near Chester.
Clive Sharp (aged 47) of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to her murder last month.
Today, Mr Justice Griffith Williams jailed Sharp for life and ordered that he serve a minimum 37 years behind bars before he can be considered for parole.
The vet’s disappearance in Flintshire last October sparked North Wales Police’s largest ever search operation.
Passing sentence, Mr Justice Griffith Williams told Sharp: "This is a horrific, cold hearted murder, carried out to gratify your perverted sexual desires."
Sharp, dressed in grey jogging bottoms and a grey jumper, made no reaction but the victim’s sister, Emma, sat in the public gallery just yards from the dock, did not take her eyes off the defendant throughout the 50-minute hearing.
The court heard Sharp had a string of previous convictions for sexual offences, beginning when he was just 16 and he harboured perverted sexual fantasies involving the gagging, raping and murdering of women – which he acted out on Miss Gowing.
The judge said Sharp broke into Miss Gowing's house in the middle of the night, tied her to the bed and kept her prisoner while she was raped repeatedly and sexually abused.
Then, in a further “callous act”, he cut up her body and disposed of her in various places along the River Dee.
Mr Justice Griffith Williams said: “You are, on any view, a very serious danger to women.”
The defendant has previously been jailed twice for rape and sexual assaults.
He told probation and prison authorities of his long-standing fantasies involving imprisoning, raping and murdering women.
Emma Gowing told the court in a victim impact statement: "My sister was a vibrant, wonderful woman, who lived life fully, with love, compassion, fun, adventure and joy.
“Our lives will never be the same.
“That man has caused my family unimaginable pain, suffering and grief and the recurring nightmare of what he did to her before she died.”
Andrew Thomas QC, prosecuting, told the court: “This was a sexually motivated murder in which the defendant entered Miss Gowing's house in the middle of the night, tied her up and raped her.
“He killed her, then mutilated her body by cutting it into pieces and disposing of the body in and around the River Dee.”
The court heard that what started as a missing persons inquiry turned to murder after body parts were found showing traces of Sharp’s DNA.
Miss Gowing had qualified as a vet and settled in North Wales with a friend, Jane Doyle, and they both lived in a house provided by the vet’s practice where she worked in Mold.
But it was her “great misfortune” that her friend then entered into a relationship with Sharp.
Sharp, who worked in a local factory, kept his history from both women.
In fact his first conviction dated back to 1982 when he sent letters and used the telephone to make indecent and offensive remarks to a number of women.
Just a year later he was jailed for three years after holding a piece of glass to the neck of a 15-year-old girl and raping her.
In 1994 he choked and assaulted a woman, the wife of a friend, who refused his advances and two years later was jailed for eight years for false imprisonment and wounding.
He took a woman back to his bedsit, threatened her with a knife and strangled her.
Mr Thomas told the court of previous reports on Sharp in which he admitted his offending “could escalate” and he told of his imprisonment and rape fantasies which had two endings – the woman lives when he grows tired of her or ends up dead, “either strangled or drowned”.
After serving out his last sentence, Sharp married and there was no further offending the authorities knew of, the court heard.
But his marriage ended in 2011 and Sharp had a number of short liaisons before beginning a relationship with Miss Gowing’s friend.
He appeared “relatively charming and plausible” and lied about his background and began to sleep over at the house the women shared.
Miss Gowing was not happy with the situation but, “out of loyalty” to her friend, did not kick up a fuss.
Mr Thomas added: “Privately she confided in others she was uncomfortable about this arrangement and she herself did not like the defendant.”
On Friday October 12 last year, Miss Gowing was at home alone because her friend had gone back to Ireland to see her family for the weekend.
After finishing work she visited her local Asda supermarket at around 8.45pm, where she was caught on CCTV – the last time she was seen alive.
That night Sharp went to spend time with another woman he was secretly seeing.
“The defendant tied her to the bed,” Mr Thomas said.
“It then became clear he wanted to perform acts she did not want. They argued, she told him ’emphatically’ to stop.
“He walked out, leaving that lady tied to the bed,”
Sharp was seen on CCTV at around midnight, leaving his Volvo in a local hotel car park close to Miss Gowing’s home.
The court heard it is likely he waited and watched the house into the early hours and until Miss Gowing went to sleep.
There was no sign of a forced entry to the property but it was thought “highly unlikely” that Miss Gowing would have let him in.
What exactly happened during the attack is not known, the court heard, but Sharp’s semen was later found on bedding and a piece of fabric was left tied to one leg of the bed.
Next day he went to Asda, bought bleach, bin bags, a petrol can, a screwdriver and a Halloween mask.
He also bought a hacksaw and blades from a local hardware store and that night torched Miss Gowing’s car, leaving it burnt out in a local quarry.
Mr Thomas said the victim’s body was at some point dismembered out in the open and wrapped in the bin bags ready for disposal.
The next day Sharp spent time at his father's home with family, where he appeared “happy and chatty as normal''.
When Miss Gowing did not turn up for work on Monday she was reported missing to police.
By the next day officers had “already formed the opinion” that Sharp had killed her and he was arrested and charged with murder within days.
Miss Gowing’s right hand and foot were found by police divers in a pond near Sealand on October 31, near Sharp’s family home and where he grew up.
Two days later an off-duty police officer spotted an object in a waterway near Chester. It was Miss Gowing’s torso partially wrapped in plastic.
No cause of death could be established and not all the victim’s remains have been recovered.
The court heard Miss Gowing had planned to return home to live in Ireland in December, closer to her parents, Maureen, 75, and John, 83.
They hoped she would take over the family farm and set up a veterinary practice.
Speaking outside court, Emma Gowing paid a poignant tribute to her sister.
“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.”
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Pierce told reporters: “He (Sharp) now faces life imprisonment and I doubt a tear will be shed if he is never released from prison.”
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