Brother faces life sentence for ‘depraved’ sexual assault and murder of his teenage sister
A man is facing a life sentence after being convicted of the sexual assault and murder of his 16-year-old sister in a “depraved” attack.
Connor Gibson, 20, was convicted of attacking his sister Amber in woodland in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, on November 26 2021, removing her clothes, sexually assaulting with the intention of raping her, inflicting blunt force trauma to her head and body, and strangling her.
Gibson had denied the charges against him but was found guilty after a 13-day trial at the High Court in Glasgow.
Judge Lord Mulholland told him: “Your sister – the last person she saw was you strangling her. It was depraved and you will pay a heavy price for that.”
He told Gibson he faces a mandatory life sentence with the punishment part to be decided after considering the plea in mitigation on his behalf and a criminal justice social work report.
The former foster family of both siblings said in a statement that Amber was “the most giving, loving, supportive and admirable person”, and their life will “never be the same again”.
The family said: “She kept us on our toes and had the most amazing outlook on life consider the suffering she had experienced.”
The statement continued: “When they arrived at our home – Amber aged three and Connor aged five – Connor stated: ‘We are safe now’.
“They were until he took her safety away.”
The family said both siblings had been “let down by the system”, adding: “As a family, we all feel this could have been prevented.
“We now have one daughter buried in Larkhall Cemetery and another child in prison.”
Amber was reported missing on the evening of Friday November 26 and her body was discovered in Cadzow Glen at about 10.10am on November 28.
Gibson was arrested three days later, on December 1, and, the day before his arrest, posted a chilling tribute to the sister he had murdered, writing on Facebook: “Amber, you will fly high for the rest of time. We will all miss you. Especially me. I love you ginger midget. GBFN (goodbye for now) X.”
The forensic pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination on Amber’s body told the court she was found covered in mud and the cause of death was “compression of the neck”.
Jurors also heard other forensic evidence that “widespread blood staining” on Gibson’s jacket was compatible with Amber and his DNA was also found on her shorts, worn as underwear, which had been “forcibly torn” off.
The court heard that Gibson, also known by the surname Niven, did not seem emotional as he spoke to his and Amber’s former foster father, Craig Niven, on the day Amber’s body was found.
Giving evidence, Mr Niven had said he would not leave the siblings in each other’s company because they were “not a good mix”.
Mr Niven and his wife had fostered the siblings since Amber was three and her brother was five. The couple were granted permanent care of the pair a few years later.
At the time of Amber’s murder, Connor was living at the Blue Triangle homeless hostel in Hamilton while Amber was at the town’s Hillhouse children’s home.
Mr Niven told the court he had not heard from his former foster son during Amber’s disappearance but, in a call on the day her body was discovered, Gibson told him the pair had “fallen out” when they saw each other two days previously.
Jurors also heard from Peter Benson, of Police Scotland’s cyber crime group, who examined a phone found where Gibson was living.
It showed that on November 27 at about 12.34am, the phone’s user wrote to a Snapchat group with five recipients: “I’m really going to need you guys help with something when yous come back. I’m being serious.”
The court saw evidence that about 40 seconds later the user messaged Amber Gibson on the app: “Are you ok?”
The user then told the group chat at approximately 1.33am: “nvm (never mind) it’s all good.”
The search history obtained from the phone also showed the user searched “How to get nosy police officers to stop monitoring your phone” at 11.38pm.
Iain Currie, manager of Hillhouse children’s home, told the court he spoke to Gibson at about 9pm on November 26 after he called to speak with his sister, but noted him appearing “sharp” on the phone after making no greeting.
Also on trial was Stephen Corrigan, 45, who was found guilty of attempting to defeat the ends of justice and breach of the peace by intimately touching and concealing Amber’s body after discovering her at some point in the following two days, instead of contacting the emergency services.
Corrigan, said in court not to be known to Gibson, also denied the charge and had lodged a special defence of alibi.
His father, William Corrigan, 79, told the court his son was at his home in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, that weekend after a fall on ice left his arm in a sling, and denied lying to protect him.
The court heard that Corrigan told police he was at a “complete loss” to explain why his DNA was found on 39 areas of Amber’s body, including her breasts, buttocks and thighs.
Judge Mulholland told Corrigan he had been convicted of “horrific crimes”.
He said: “Coming across a young girl who had been strangled to death, she was naked… instead of alerting the authorities you decide … to handle her body all over from head to toe including areas that were intimate – private parts – and your DNA told the story.”
He told Corrigan he faces a “lengthy sentence”.
The judge deferred sentence until September 4 at the High Court in Livingston for pleas in mitigation and background reports.
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2023, All Rights Reserved. Picture – 26/11/21 Connor Gibson walking alone on a street in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire at 11.44pm. The body of Amber was discovered in Cadzow Glen park in the town at around 10.10am on Sunday November 28, 2021. (c) The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service / PA.