Mother describes heartache as she brands daughter's killer 'inhuman'

I put my phone on silent when my daughter kept begging for cash. Now she’s dead: Claire Inglis’ mother describes going through every parent’s worst nightmare after her daughter was murdered by domestic abuser who left her penniless 

When Fiona Inglis received a call from her eldest daughter Claire to warn her ‘mum, you’re going to be really, really upset’, she had no inkling that in just a few weeks her world would implode.

The 62-year-old could not have been closer to her bright, bubbly ‘wee girlie girl’ who was ‘more than a daughter’ to her, spending every weekend together watching movies and confiding in each other.

But that night in the late summer of 2021, Claire had just been for a driving lesson with her father Ian, 60, when she plucked up the courage to phone Mrs Inglis to tell her about her new relationship with Christopher McGowan.

Mrs Inglis did not know McGowan, but she knew his name and that he was ‘bad news’. The street thug was a far cry from the role model she and her husband had envisaged for Claire’s son, their beloved grandson, after his father had died in a road accident in 2017.

But the close-knit family could never have imagined the brutality McGowan would inflict on the diminutive Claire as he snuffed her life away in a ‘beyond sadistic’ attack in her home.

Claire Inglis, 28, was attacked by her partner Christopher McGowan during an assault at her home in Stirling (Family handout of Claire graduating from university)

Claire began a relationship with Mr McGowan (pictured leaving the High Court in Sterling after being found guilty of Claire’s murder) in the summer of 2021

Claire’s parents Ian and Fiona Inglis (pictured at their home in Stirling) had told their daughter that they could not accept her relationship with Mr McGowan

Now undergoing treatment for cancer, as well as struggling with anguish at her daughter’s murder, Mrs Inglis recalled telling Claire that she and her father could not accept the relationship.

She said: ‘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.’

The couple were also bewildered at Claire’s choice of new partner, as just two weeks earlier she had met McGowan, who she knew through his former partner, in the street and ‘couldn’t wait to get away from him’.

Mrs Inglis added: ‘She’d absolutely hated him so we just don’t understand why in a fortnight it went from hating him to being in a relationship with him. We just couldn’t get our heads round it, I still can’t get my head round it.

‘She was more than my daughter. She was a lot more than my daughter. It’s like my world has just imploded. She was my life.’

Just as baffling to the Inglis’ is how McGowan, with the approval of the courts, was able to inveigle himself into their daughter’s life in the eight weeks before she died without any red flags being raised.

Before Claire met him, she had been full of plans after graduating as a childminder, a career she had always dreamed of as an avid babysitter for friends and family. She had also embraced motherhood and doted on her little boy.

Her parents remember her as happy-go-lucky, kind-hearted and always dancing, and have happy memories of a family holiday to Disneyland Paris, where they plan to scatter her ashes.

Mrs Inglis said: ‘Claire was bubbly, constantly singing and dancing, she had that shy streak, but in here [at home] singing and dancing.

Claire’s knew McGowan through his former partner and had previosuly told her parents that she ‘couldn’t wait to get away from him’ when she saw him in the street

During her relationship with McGowan (pictured in a police handout) Claire began asking her parents for money 

‘She was a right wee entertainer. We’ve got her on videos, she was always singing and dancing. A right girlie girl. That was why I had her coffin pink as well, I thought Claire can’t go away in an oak coffin, it’s got to be pink. So I had it a baby pink colour.

‘She loved Disney, absolutely loved Tinkerbell. Peter Pan was her favourite film. That’s why everything is Tinkerbell round about, and that’s why we’re taking her to Disneyland Paris.

‘We went on a family holiday and she had a wee Snow White dress and she absolutely loved it. She didn’t have a bad bone in her body.

‘When she graduated all my friends said she had found her vocation because she just loved kids. She was always childminding for her pals.

‘She was our daughter and folk will maybe think we’re biased. It was a smile all the time, a total smile.’

The couple are now tormented by grief as well as questions over how McGowan was allowed to move into Claire’s immaculate housing association flat, where she was raising her then seven-year-old son.

So strong was their disapproval of him that they had drawn back from their daughter because of the relationship, even cancelling plans to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary with a family party in the back garden of their terraced home in Stirling.

Mrs Inglis said: ‘We knew of McGowan. Not how bad he was but we knew he was bad news so we drew back and said “okay, if that’s the guy you want to be your son’s role model, that’s it, we’re finished”.’

They had also grown exasperated by phone calls from Claire asking for money when she had always budgeted carefully and they suspected any cash they gave her would be handed to her controlling boyfriend, who had a long history of abusing drugs and alcohol.

Many weeks later, they would be proved right with the discovery that she owed thousands of pounds for men’s clothes bought on credit from catalogues for McGowan.

He had also pawned their grandson’s PlayStation and a watch she had been given for her 21st birthday – the same year she would give birth to her cherished little boy.

Claire’s parents remember her as happy-go-lucky, kind-hearted and always dancing, and have happy memories of a family holiday to Disneyland Paris, where they plan to scatter her ashes

Claire had been full of plans after graduating as a childminder, a career she had always dreamed of as an avid babysitter for friends and family

The final straw came on November 28, 2021, when Claire phoned repeatedly asking for £25.

Mrs Inglis had had enough and activated the ‘do not disturb’ mode on her phone so the couple could enjoy spending time with their grandson, who was having a sleepover at their home.

Her own mother, Sheila Campbell, had also died the previous weekend and they were exhausted from planning her funeral. Claire had been due to read a poem during the service.

She said: ‘She had been on at me all day to get £25. I was like “no, what’s it for?”

‘I would never have seen her stuck. She said it was for her son’s boxing lessons and I said “no, it’s not, you’re lying, you’re not getting the money from me”.

‘I put my phone to engaged and that tortured me for two years because I thought what if she’d been trying to phone me and I put the phone off because it was just getting relentless with her.’

It was a decision that was to haunt her, as at 5am the next day she and her husband were told of an emergency at Claire’s home.

Leaving their grandson in the care of a neighbour, they rushed to the flat and as the full horror of what had happened began to emerge, Mrs Inglis was so distraught that she fainted.

It was just four weeks before Christmas, Claire’s favourite time of year, and they were left waiting until the new year for her body to be released after a post mortem so they could organise her funeral. It was the second funeral in just a few weeks for the family after her beloved grandmother was laid to rest.

Claire’s parents suspected any cash they gave her would be handed to her controlling boyfriend, who had a long history of abusing drugs and alcohol

The day before Claire was found dead she had called her mother asking for £25. 

Mrs Inglis said: ‘Claire was joined at the hip with her gran. Someone said mum went for a reason because she would never have been able to take on board that she had lost Claire.

‘Losing her was a total nightmare. You’re burying my mum and thinking you’ve got another funeral coming up.

‘It was horrendous. I’ve not got my mum to go to. But there was a reason for it because mum would never have accepted it.’

Their only comfort is that their grandson was with them on the night of the murder as they believe McGowan would also have snuffed out his life.

Mrs Inglis said: ‘The only thing we are grateful for as well, and we know for a fact from the injuries he has given Claire, that had our grandson been there that night then he was gone as well.’

Mr Inglis added: ‘He would have tried to protect Claire and instead of just a pink coffin there would have been a wee white coffin next to it.

‘And this situation would be the exact same. The big difference would be that I’d have lost two of them.’

They were also buoyed by the support of the community, as people queued in the street to hand over cards and gifts and pay tribute to their daughter.

But they still had to find the strength to attend McGowan’s trial at the High Court in Stirling, where they were infuriated by his initial claims – later retracted – that he had acted in self-defence.

They also endured McGowan, who was wearing a designer watch their daughter had bought for him, laughing at them from the dock and had to view the CCTV from Stirling city centre showing the young couple before he went home and murdered her.

Claire was found with 76 injuries on her body following the attack by McGowan

Mrs Inglis stayed away on the day the extent of her 5ft 2ins daughter’s injuries were given to the jury, only finding out the full details when a friend sent her a link to the news coverage.

She said: ‘It was the first of me finding out that she had 76 injuries. 76. You count to 76 and you get bored.

‘I’m thinking what’s he done to her? What has he done to her? I literally stopped breathing. It was that much of a shock that my grandson said to me “are you okay nanna?” and I said “yes, I’m fine” but I really couldn’t catch my breath.

‘He needs to die. He’s inhuman.’

The couple were ‘elated’ with the verdict and with the 23-year sentence imposed on McGowan, and believe he will never walk free as he is incapable of being reformed.

They also dote on their grandson, and are still bursting with pride about what their daughter achieved in her lifetime.

Mrs Inglis said: ‘There are so many people who have come to me and said they knew Claire and she was so lovely.

‘That’s the thing I can take away that I’m proud of. Not one person has said anything bad about her. Even throughout her lifetime she never had any enemies, we never had bother with her.

‘This is the thing, we were a shy family. I don’t think half the neighbours even knew we existed. Our close-knit neighbours are fantastic and so supportive, and they’re like wee neighbourhood watch.

‘All of a sudden to be put in this floodlight was unbelievable. It still is. We haven’t got a day when we’re not on the phone to somebody or where somebody is wanting to be in touch with us. It’s just not the same.

‘And we’ve got her son so life is never boring. He’s a character. Obviously I’m his nanna but I love the bones of him, always have because we’ve been there from the day dot but he’s such a good wee bairn. He’s got a heart of gold. Like his mum.’

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