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COPFS

Life sentence for 1999 murder

A 58 year old has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Owen Brannigan in Coatbridge in 1999. At the High Court in Glasgow today, James McGowan was told he would spend a minimum of 18 years in prison for stabbing to death his former brother in law more than 17 years ago.

The case was a success for the Crown’s specialist Cold Case Unit, who reviewed the evidential position of the murder in 2012 and concluded there was enough evidence to seek the extradition of McGowan.  

He contested the extradition request in the Australian courts resulting in protracted litigation before he was returned to Scotland to stand trial.
Speaking following the sentencing, Nicky Patrick, Procurator Fiscal for Homicide & Major Crime, said:

“This was a challenging investigation requiring complex and thorough work by the Cold Case Review Unit and the International Co-operation Unit of COPFS.

“The work of these specialist units ensured that even 17 years on and despite being on the other side of the world, James McGowan was finally brought to justice for the terrible crime he committed.”

McGowan, who had emigrated to Australia in 1980, returned to Scotland for the funeral of his mother on 22 November 1999.

The trial had previously heard that just over a week later, McGowan assaulted a cousin of the deceased in a social club. He was heard making comments which were taken to be threats against the Brannigan family, with whom there had been a history of animosity.

McGowan tracked Owen Brannigan down at the house of a friend and found him asleep on a sofa. He punched his victim several times in the face before repeatedly stabbing him.

McGowan left the area on the morning of 29 November, contacted his travel operator and organised to bring his return to Australia forward by a week, flying out of the UK on 3 December.

In 2012, following a review by Cold Case Unit of COPFS and the discovery of new evidence by Australian authorities, extradition proceedings were initiated to have him brought to justice.