Raped, murdered and abused: Tragic life of teenager who couldn’t escape torment even after brother killed her

Amber Gibson suffered at the hands of three men, with her own brother convicted of her murder this week. Holly Evans writes

Tuesday 08 August 2023 11:10 BST
CCTV captures Amber Gibson's killer brother binning items after murdering sister

“We are safe now.”

Four heartbreaking words used by future killer Connor Gibson after he and his younger sister Amber arrived at the home of their new foster parents, aged five and three. Early childhoods scarred by abuse and violence seemed to have found a happy ending.

But tragically for Amber, nothing could have been further from the truth. Amid allegations she was failed by the care system, her own brother brutally snuffed out her young life when she was just 16.

Amber Gibson was raped in 2021, months before she was abused and killed by her brother
Amber Gibson was raped in 2021, months before she was abused and killed by her brother (Facebook)

In November 2021, in woodland in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, Gibson removed his sister’s clothes, sexually assaulted her with the intention of raping her, inflicted blunt force trauma to her head and body, and strangled her.

As if that horrific killing wasn’t enough, Amber would continue to be abused even after death as the man who found her abandoned body committed appalling acts of his own on her remains. And just five months before the brutal murder she had been raped by another man while she was in care.

Predator Jamie Starrs has now been jailed for 10 years and six months after raping Amber at his home in Bothwell in June 2021 while she was asleep or unconscious. He had only recently been released on bail for carrying out a similar sex attack on another teenager and has now been assessed as posing a “very high risk of sexual violence”.

Born into a troubled family, both Amber and her brother were soon moved out of their parental home and into care, before being placed to live with the Niven family in Larkhall, a town in Lanarkshire.

Described as “the most giving, loving, supportive and admirable” young girl, Amber had shown hints of great promise. Although she had experienced immense suffering, she harboured an “amazing outlook” on life and loved art and singing, her loved ones said.

Connor Gibson attacked and sexually assaulted his sister before strangling her to death
Connor Gibson attacked and sexually assaulted his sister before strangling her to death (Police Scotland )

In a statement after Gibson was convicted of murder this week, former foster father Craig Niven said: “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 couple was granted permanent care of the siblings a few years later, yet concerns were soon raised about the children’s behaviour. Giving evidence during the trial, Mr Niven said he would not leave the two alone together as they were “not a good mix”.

When Amber was just 14 years-old, the foster care arrangement broke down and she moved into Hillhouse children’s unit, while her brother remained with the Nivens until his 18th birthday.

Amber’s friend said she had been excited to meet up with her older brother
Amber’s friend said she had been excited to meet up with her older brother (PA Media)

It was while she was being looked after by social services that Amber was raped by Jamie Starrs at his home in Bothwell in June 2021. The 20-year-old was on bail at the time for another sex attack and was found guilty of the assault on Amber earlier this month.

Her brother had remained a constant presence in her life. Despite describing their relationship as turbulent, Amber’s friend told jurors she had been looking forward to seeing him in the hours before she was killed.

At the time, he was a resident at Hamilton’s Blue Triangle project, a hostel for homeless youngsters. After Gibson called the Hillhouse unit to speak to his sister, care home manager Ian Currie attempted to discourage her from leaving but his efforts fell on deaf ears.

Gibson seen returning alone after murdering Amber in a woodland area in Hamilton
Gibson seen returning alone after murdering Amber in a woodland area in Hamilton (Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service/PA Wire)

CCTV footage shows the two walking along the streets of Hamilton with one another, with Amber later sending a selfie of the two captioned ‘my big bro’. It was the last time anyone would hear from her alive.

Gibson would later return in a “dishevelled state” and tell a project worker that he and his sister had argued. Footage of him returning from the scene showed him slumping in exhaustion against a metal barrier, before disposing of his bloodstained clothes.

Amber’s naked body was discovered in Cadzow Glen on November 28, with her underwear “forcibly” ripped and significant blunt force trauma visible to her head and body.

In a cruel and sickening twist, her killer later took to social media to write: “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.” He was arrested a day later and charged with her murder.

Police at the scene in Cadzow Glen where her body was discovered
Police at the scene in Cadzow Glen where her body was discovered (Lucinda Cameron/PA Wire)

However, the mistreatment of Amber did not stop the moment her life was taken. Her body was discovered by 45-year-old Stephen Corrigan, who intimately touched her private parts, rather than contact the emergency services.

His DNA was discovered on 39 areas of her body, including her breast, buttocks and thighs. During his trial, Corrigan mounted the special defence of alibi and claimed that he had stayed the night at his elderly father’s address and played video games.

While his father William Corrigan confirmed his son had injured his arm by falling on ice and had asked to stay over, he also admitted to jurors that he couldn’t be sure what his son was up to while he was at the bookmakers.

Stephen Corrigan abused Amber’s dead body rather than contacting the emergency services
Stephen Corrigan abused Amber’s dead body rather than contacting the emergency services (Mike Gibbons )

Corrigan claimed he was “at a loss”as to why his DNA covered Amber’s body and was later convicted of attempting to defeat the ends of justice and breach of the peace.

Describing her murder as “depraved”, Judge Lord Mulholland told both men that they face lengthy sentences for their appalling crimes, with neither showing emotion in the dock.

For the foster family who had tried their best to raise them and protect them, they stated that 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.”

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