Career criminal is guilty over death

Vikki McGovern
Vikki McGovern
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A CAREER criminal who gave a tragic teenager a fatal dose of methadone has been warned he faces a lengthy jail term after being convicted of the girl’s culpable homicide.

James Whitson gave a lethal dose of the class A heroin substitute to Vikki McGovern – knowing she wanted to kill herself.

Within two days, the 19-year-old had died after taking the methadone at a hostel in Edinburgh’s St John’s Hill.

A five-day trial at the High Court in Dundee heard Vikki’s mother, Pamela Bowmaker, tell how tragic Vikki “changed” after the death of a close family friend.

She said: “She didn’t really react to the death – she went in to herself instead. She went really quiet and that’s when her problems started.

“She was normally a bubbly, outgoing girl before that. Vikki was just a happy-go-lucky person. But after that she started self-harming.

“She moved into a flat where she had support if she needed it.

“Then she moved to St John’s Hostel and took time off college with a view to going back later.”

Miss Bowmaker said just months after that move in June 2008 her daughter had tried to kill herself. She said: “In August 2008 she sent me a text message saying she was sorry and that somebody had given her methadone and that she was in hospital.

“She said she loved me and her brothers and sisters and that she would never do it again.

“I visited her at her hostel and she said that at the time she had wanted to die. After that I saw her every day.”

The court heard that Vikki tried to kill herself 13 times in the three years before her death.

When she was found on September 20, 2008, she had a lethal dose of methadone in her system. Medical experts told the trial that those had been taken on top of a cocktail of other drugs, including diazepam.

Witnesses told the court that Whitson had given Vikki methadone just a day or two before she died.

Prosecutors alleged that he was fully aware that she had tried to kill herself using methadone previously, and was likely to do so again.

But Whitson, giving evidence in his own defence, claimed he had given Vikki a watered down mixture of just 20 millilitres of methadone mixed with 80 millilitres of water.

He said that he did not think that amount of the drug would be dangerous to the teenager.

Whitson’s lawyers had lodged papers claiming two other people may have been responsible for supplying Vikki with the methadone.

Advocate depute Keith Stewart QC told the court that Whitson had a lengthy criminal record – including convictions for assault to severe injury.

Judge Lord Pentland said Whitson had “little respect for the law”.

He deferred sentence until December 14 at the High Court in Edinburgh for reports.

Members of Vikki’s family shouted “beast” at Whitson as he was led to the cells.

The verdict was the second time Whitson has been convicted over the death of Vikki.

In 2009, he was sentenced to ten years in prison for culpable homicide after a jury at the High Court in Livingston convicted him of the charge, but that was overturned on appeal.