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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Rebecca McCurdy

Man did not always get on with sister he is accused of murdering, court told

The former foster parent of a man accused of murdering and sexually assaulting his teenage sister said he would not leave the siblings in each other’s company because they were “not a good mix”.

Craig Niven and his wife, Carol, fostered Connor Gibson and sister Amber in 2008 until both siblings left their care in 2020 and 2019 respectively.

Gibson, 20, is alleged to have assaulted Amber Gibson, 16, removing her clothes and repeatedly inflicting blunt force trauma to her head and body at Cadzow Glen in Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, on November 26 2021.

Prosecutors also accuse Gibson, who is also known by the surname Niven, of compressing the teenager’s neck with his hands and strangling her with the intention to rape her.

At the time of coming into the care of Mr and Mrs Niven, Connor was aged five and Amber was three.

The couple were granted permanent care of the siblings a few years later.

At the High Court in Glasgow on Thursday, advocate depute Richard Goddard asked Mr Niven about the sibling’s relationship.

He said: “Was it fair to say that there were occasions they got on and others when they didn’t?” Mr Niven replied: “Yes.”

He said he had seen Amber on Friday and they had fallen out. He then said he had been banged up for about 12 hours on Saturday
— Craig Niven, former foster parent

Asked whether he would leave the siblings alone together in each other’s company, he replied: “No”. He also answered no when asked if the pair were a “good mix together”.

Mr Niven said he had not heard from his former foster son during his sibling’s disappearance but called him on November 28 – the day Amber’s body was discovered.

He said: “Connor said he was touching base and I asked him where he was and he informed me he was in Lindsay House (homeless accommodation) in East Kilbride. He said he was there for his own safety.

“His lawyer had informed him not to speak about anything and I asked why that was.

“He said he had seen Amber on Friday and they had fallen out. He then said he had been banged up for about 12 hours on Saturday.

“He said the police thought he had something to do with Amber. He just said they argued and said he had seen her later that night.”

Asked about Gibson’s manner on the phone, Mr Niven said: “He was speaking as normal. I wouldn’t say he was emotional, no.”

The court also heard from Iain Currie, the manager of Hillhouse children’s home, where Amber lived before her death.

He spoke to Connor at about 9pm on November 26 after he called to speak with his sister, but Mr Currie noted him appearing “sharp” on the phone after making no greeting.

Mr Currie also said it was “unusual” for Amber not to get in touch or return home, following her disappearance.

Angel McKean, 19, a resident and friend of Amber’s at the children’s home, said the relationship between Amber and her brother was up and down.

But having spoken to Amber on November 26, she said Amber had been looking forward to seeing her brother. She said: “I remember her saying she was going to see her brother and she seemed quite excited about it.”

The teenager then sent a SnapChat photo to Ms McKean at about 21:51pm, showing a photograph of her and Gibson with the caption “my big bro”.

Gibson is further accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by disposing of bloodstained clothes, and calling the children’s home and pretending she was still alive.

He also faces a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice by telling police he had argued with his sister on the evening of November 26 before going to someone’s home.

A second man, Stephen Corrigan, 44, is also standing trial.

He is accused of discovering Amber’s body between November 26 and 28 last year but instead of alerting police, he is alleged to have inappropriately touched her and then concealed her body.

He is accused of attempting to defeat the ends of justice by hiding the body under bushes and branches to prevent its discovery, and altering or destroying evidence that he had touched her body and clothing.

Both men have pleaded not guilty to all charges against them, with Corrigan’s defence agent Rhonda Anderson submitting a special defence of alibi on his behalf.

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