North East Wales

Catherine Gowing: Clive Sharp pleads guilty to murder

Media captionCatherine Gowing vanished on 12 October, 2012

A man has been warned he may never be released from prison after admitting the murder of missing Irish vet Catherine Gowing in north Wales.

Clive Sharp, 46, from Bethesda, Gwynedd, pleaded guilty at a hearing at Mold Crown Court on Monday.

Ms Gowing, 37, from New Brighton, near Mold, Flintshire, vanished on 12 October, 2012.

Judge Mr Justice Griffith-Williams adjourned sentencing to determine a minimum term for Sharp's life sentence.

Image caption Clive Sharp faces a mandatory life sentence

Sharp, originally from Sealand, Flintshire, will be sentenced on 25 February.

The judge said he would not need new pre-sentence or psychiatric reports and said there could only be one sentence - that of life imprisonment.

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".

The judge told Sharp: "There is only one sentence I can pass on you for this offence, as you will know.

"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."

Ms Gowing's murder is said to have taken place between 11 October and 17 October, 2012.

Sharp, dressed in a grey top and trousers, said nothing during the eight-minute hearing apart from confirming his name and pleading guilty.

Members of Ms Gowing's family attended court, including her sister Emma, who sat sat feet from the killer, watching him intently for most of the hearing.

Parts of Ms Gowing's body have since been found, but the remainder are believed to have been dumped in the River Dee.

Image caption Mourners who packed the Irish church heard Catherine Gowing described as a "gift from God"

Ms Gowing's boss, Esmor Evans, of Evans Veterinary Practice in Mold, said she was 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.

He added: "It's been difficult because it's been in the forefront of our minds all the time.

"Of course, we lost two vets - Catherine, and her friend left as well because she couldn't cope with what was going on."

He said he hoped Sharp's guilty plea would help bring "closure to it all".

He described how some staff at the practice had been due to meet Ms Gowing on a Sunday night, but she did not turn up.

When she failed to arrive at work the following day, they searched areas she used to visit.

Mr Evans added: "It's something you read about in the papers, but something you didn't really expect to see here."

More than 300 people attended a funeral mass for Ms Gowing in Kinnitty, County Offaly, earlier this month.

Ms Gowing was last seen alive at about 20:40 BST on Friday, 12 October, 2012, when she was spotted on CCTV leaving a supermarket in Queensferry.

Her disappearance sparked North Wales Police' largest ever search operation.

Her burned-out Renault Clio was found near a disused quarry near her New Brighton home a week later.

Some of her remains were later found at Sealand, Flintshire, and on the banks of the River Dee near Chester.

In December, North Wales Police divers searched Trap Pool, a popular angling spot at a water-filled claypit at Buckley.

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