Fri, 27 Apr 2018
A YOUNG mother-of-two was knocked unconscious, raped and strangled by her partner’s best friend, an inquest heard.
John Wright posed a trusted chaperone when he offered to walk 25-year-old Janine Bowater safely home from her late shift as a barmaid at the King’s Head pub in Thatcham town centre.
The last available CCTV footage showed them walking towards her home along the main A4.
But she never arrived and, at 2.05am on December 12 last year, an emergency services operator took a chilling call from Wright, aged 32, of The Hollands, Thatcham.
An inquest into her death heard today (Friday) that he said: “I’ve just killed someone in Thatcham. I murdered her. She’s dead – I couldn’t help it. It’s my best friend’s girlfriend...I strangled her. I don’t know why I did it.
“It’s ****ing stupid. I know I’m going away for a long time. I know that. I’ve had a lot of alcohol in the last four days. I’ve lost my job. I won’t put up any fight against the officers, don’t worry about that.”
But once arrested Wright cynically switched to “no comment” interviews.
Police who answered the call found Miss Bowater’s battered body behind some wheelie bins in a garage block at the junction of Park Avenue and The Henrys.
Frantic attempts were made to rescucitate her; she was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading but was declared dead.
Forensic evidence revealed she had been savagely bitten and raped, and that Wright’s DNA and dental records proved he was responsible.
Neighbours heard no screams, despite the fact it was a heavily residential area, and Berkshire coroner Peter Bedford said medical reports suggested she had been punched unconscious and had smashed her head on the ground.
The resulting brain injury alone could have proved fatal, the hearing in Reading Town Hall was told.
But Wright went on to bite her about the neck and rape her.
He appeared in court charged with her murder but was found dead the next day in the hospital wing of HMP Bullingdon, where he had been remanded in custody, with a ligature around his neck.
Police who searched Miss Bowater’s phone and social media records showed that there had been “benign" correspondence between the two but nothing to suggest anything more than a friendship, the inquest heard.
The hearing was told that Miss Bowater’s partner, Lee Elliott, was aware that his friend regularly walked her home and Mr Bedford said: “There was no evidence to suggest she was having any sort of secret relationship.”
Mr Bedford said police were confident that, had he lived, they could successfully have prosecuted Wright for causing grievous boldily harm, rape and murder.
Summing up, Mr Bedford said: “It’s quite unusual for a coroner to have to deal with cases of this kind, because normally someone is arrested, as Mr Wright was, and brought before the criminal courts.
“Because he appears to have taken his own life, he cannot be brought before the courts and that’s why we’re here today.
“It’s very clear – the evidence is overwhelming – and I fully endorse and adopt the conclusion of the police that it’s difficult to see how a jury wouldn’t have convicted Mr Wright of murdering Janine.”
Returning a verdict of unlawful killing, Mr Bedford commended Mr Elliott and the rest of Ms Bowater’s family for their dignity throughout.
An inquest is also to be held into Wright’s death in custody.