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Convicted paedophile found dead following fire at home after details of crimes were shared online

A convicted paedophile was found dead following a fire at his home just weeks after details of his crimes had been shared on social media. 

Police have launched a murder investigation and named the victim as 47-year-old Steven McGowan as a 25-year-old man has been questioned over his death.

Mr McGowan had lived in the downstairs flat for around two years and had previously got on well with his neighbours in the seaside town of Marske, North Yorks.

But in the weeks leading up to the fire, it became known that he had served a five-year sentence for indecently assaulting two teenage girls and a previous two-year sentence for using his phone to spy on young girls at a local swimming pool.

Press reports from his convictions began circulating on Facebook and his flat was targeted by vandals who smashed his windows at least six times prior to his death, neighbours said.

Then, at 2.15am on June 9, neighbours heard two loud bangs and rushed outside to see thick smoke and flames bursting from the windows of Mr McGowan’s flat.

Firefighters contacted Cleveland Police and found Mr McGowan’s body inside.

Convicted paedophile Steven McGowan has been found dead at his home in Marske, North Yorks, after details of his crimes were shared widely on Facebook in weeks before his death 

The force have released the 25-year-old man on suspicion of murder while the investigation continues.

Detectives have appealed for information on ‘antisocial behaviour’ directed at the area around Mr McGowan’s flat in the time leading to his death.

A friend of Steven’s told how the previously talkative dog lover had become a recluse after his windows were repeatedly smashed.

The man, who declined to be named, said: ‘Steve seemed to be alright, he talked to his neighbours and he got on well with people.

‘I don’t know how it came out but it became known he was a convicted paedophile and people started calling him a nonce.

‘There were news reports from when he was jailed being shared on Facebook and suddenly everybody knew what he’d done, he’d been outed.

‘People started smashing his windows. It started a month to six weeks ago and in that time it must have happened five or six times.

‘From being a guy who liked to chat and was friendly, he turned into a recluse, he never left his flat and you’d never see him even to wave through the window.

Pictured: Neighbours described hearing loud bangs on last Wednesday and came outside to see Mr McGowan's home, where he had lived for two years, engulfed in flames and thick smoke

Pictured: Neighbours described hearing loud bangs on last Wednesday and came outside to see Mr McGowan’s home, where he had lived for two years, engulfed in flames and thick smoke

‘Then last Wednesday night we just heard ‘bang, bang’ and everyone was out because his flat was on fire.

‘It was a shock to find out he was dead. At first people were saying he’d set the place alight himself using petrol because he was so sick of the abuse he’d been getting. 

‘People were saying on Facebook that he and deserved what he got but that’s really harsh. He was someone’s son or someone’s brother, his death isn’t something to celebrate.’ 

In September 2013, father-of-two McGowan first appeared at Teesside Crown Court.

He was accused of slipping a mobile phone under the partition wall to take pictures of two young girls in a changing cubicle at Splash swimming baths, in Stockton on Tees, Co Durham.

McGowan was convicted of indecently assaulting two girls in 2014 at Teeside Crown Court

McGowan was convicted of indecently assaulting two girls in 2014 at Teeside Crown Court

The incident led police to find 5,200 child abuse images on computer equipment in his home and he was jailed for two years.

While serving this sentence, McGowan was back before the courts when a young woman reported him to police after she saw reporting of this case in the press.

She told how McGowan repeatedly sexually abused her several years ago, when she was in her teens.

A court heard how he groomed her, giving her vodka and cannabis, buying her underwear and asking her to sleep in his bed, which she declined. 

The second victim was also in her teens when McGowan touched her intimately, with another child present at the time.

A judge jailed him for an additional five years in June 2014 and he was placed on the sex offenders register for life. 

Detective Chief Inspector Pete Carr, who is leading the investigation, said: ‘We continue to appeal to anyone who has information, including dashcam or CCTV, to contact us on 101, reference 093555.

‘We are not just interested in information relating to June 9 but we also want to hear from people who may have seen antisocial behaviour in this area before Wednesday.’ 


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