Telford hanging victim feared for his family's safety

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The Independent Online

Jason McGowan, the second black man from the same family to be found hanged in Telford, was convinced his uncle had not taken his own life, his inquest heard yesterday.

Six months later, he too was dead, having repeatedly warn-ed his family he was worried about their safety.

The 20-year-old was found suspended from railings near a pub where he had been celebrating Millennium Eve with his wife. His death, just six months after that of his uncle Errol McGowan, 34, shocked his family and rocked the Shropshire community.

Sinead McGowan was 23 and had been married less than four months when she was widowed. Yesterday, more than two years later, she gave evidence for the first time at his inquest, a calm and composed figure clad in a smart black suit. In the brightly lit surroundings of the conference room of the Moat House hotel, she told the Telford and Wrekin coroner's court her husband had been a popular, "happy-go-lucky" young man.

But, like the rest of his family, he had been deeply shocked when his uncle was discovered hanging from a door handle of a house he was looking after for a friend in July 1999. "After Errol's death at first I remember he was in complete shock and I remember him saying 'It wasn't suicide, it wasn't suicide', she said. "He wanted to know what happened, after his [Errol's] death he would go quiet and sit and think, but it was a passing thing. It would last ten minutes and he would be back again."

He had become so concerned, she said, that he started keeping a list of suspicious cars near the Charlton Arms pub, where his uncle had worked, noting their registrations on the back of an envelope. "Jason was very concerned for my safety, his sister's safety and his mum's safety," she said.

The couple, who started seeing each other in December 1997, were engaged within three months and married on 18 September 1999. "Jason was a very popular guy, more popular than me," Mrs McGowan said. "He always put everyone else first. His family were his main priority, he always made sure every one else was okay."

Asked by the coroner, Michael Gwynne, if they had a turbulent relationship, in which they loved each other but often had spats, she replied "yes".

Jo Lawley, who had been working in the Elephant and Castle pub, where Mr McGowan was drinking hours before he was found dead, said: "He just seemed to change fully after Errol's death – he was being more quiet. Sinead told me he wasn't coping with Errol's death and was coming home crying at nights. She said she didn't know how he was going to get over it, he was very upset."

Christopher Harrison, who had got to know the young man at Preston St Andrew football club in Wales, added: "Jason was a young gentleman but he lost a bit of spark, he hadn't got that twinkle in his eyes."

But his sister Sonia, 24, dismissed suggestions that he became more emotional when drunk. "I was the tearful one; Jason was the sort of person who would keep it in, only if he was really angry would he have tear in his eyes," she added.

The inquest, which is expected to last five weeks and hear from 87 witnesses, continues.