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Mum-of-3 stabbed 22 times by killer husband at mental hospital died ‘screaming for her babies’, heartbroken family say

A MUM-of-three who was murdered by her husband “died screaming for her babies”, her heartbroken family said today.

“Persistent domestic abuser” Michael Cowey, 49, told 38-year-old Gemma Cowey he wanted to meet to talk, luring her to a derelict mental hospital where he then stabbed her 22 times.

Killer Cowey was jailed for 23 years at Norwich Crown Court today for the horrific murder in June this year.

In a moving victim impact statement, Gemma’s mum Linda Smith said her daughter was “the epitome of love and kindness” and that she continued to have terrible visions of her daughter dying as she “screamed for her babies”.

Her dad Eric Marjoram said: “We have our sentence and it will last the whole of our lives. All we ask for now is justice for Gemma.”

Linda described how Gemma had been left “bedraggled and exhausted, a shadow of her former self” by Cowey after being “enslaved into his pathetic world of abuse”.

She added: “The pure evil of what he did compounds my mind every day. Gemma fought for her life, we know this because she had defence wounds.

“Knowing this causes utter pain in my mind and heart. I see Gemma screaming for her life, I see the fear and pain in her face when she sees the knives.

“It is believed that she was screaming for her babies and my heart twists in agony when I think of this.

“My natural instinct as a parent is to protect my children, I am utterly destroyed that I wasn’t able to protect her in the final minutes of her life.”

Gemma’s dad Eric Marjoram said she had been “happy and bubbly” and looking forward to her new life without Cowey.

He said: “When Gemma was murdered, she was just beginning to get her life together again and for the first time in years the light was back in her eyes.”

The court heard how customer services adviser Gemma had met Cowey in 2014 and married him in 2018 before she left him in January this year due to domestic violence.

Prosecutor Stephen Spence said she had given a statement to police about an earlier incident where she had feared for her safety when he had armed himself with a knife.

The court heard how Gemma and her children had gone to live with her mother and she had been “gaining in strength and self confidence”.

She stayed in regular contact with Cowey for the sake of the two children that she had with him, but told her mother that she would not go back to him, said Mr Spence.

He said that Cowey had wrongly believed that she had started a new relationship, and met up with her on June 19 in the grounds of the former St Andrew’s Hospital at Thorpe St Andrew near Norwich.

Two workmen who went to investigate after hearing Gemma’s screams said they had seen Cowey who seemed “calm”.

They then stumbled upon a bleeding and helpless Gemma and quickly contacted emergency services – by which time Cowey had run off.

A doctor from the nearby Northside House mental clinic tried to revive her with CPR for ten minutes before paramedics and an air ambulance arrived.

A post mortem examination revealed that she had been stabbed 22 times, mainly to the chest, neck and back.

The court heard how Cowey had driven to Nuneaton, Warwickshire, where he was arrested by armed police after being spotted at a service station.


Women’s Aid has this advice for victims and their families:

  • Always keep your phone nearby.
  • Get in touch with charities for help, including the Women’s Aid live chat helpline and services such as SupportLine.
  • If you are in danger, call 999.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Silent Solution, reporting abuse without speaking down the phone, instead dialing “55”.
  • Always keep some money on you, including change for a pay phone or bus fare.
  • If you suspect your partner is about to attack you, try to go to a lower-risk area of the house – for example, where there is a way out and access to a telephone.
  • Avoid the kitchen and garage, where there are likely to be knives or other weapons. Avoid rooms where you might become trapped, such as the bathroom, or where you might be shut into a cupboard or other small space.

If you are a ­victim of domestic abuse, SupportLine is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6pm to 8pm on 01708 765200. The charity’s email support ­service is open weekdays and weekends during the crisis – [email protected].

Women’s Aid provides a live chat service available. from 10am to noon.

You can also call the freephone 24-hour ­National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

Clare Matthews, defending, said Cowey had expressed remorse and had made full admissions at the earliest opportunity.

She added that he had suffered from mental health issues throughout his life and his behaviour had been made worse by heavy drinking.

Speaking following the sentencing, Detective Inspector Lewis Craske described the murder “as a cowardly attack by a man who could no longer control his victim”.

He added the force’s investigation had “established that Cowey was a persistent domestic abuser who has devastated the lives of many women”.

“I hope that the sentence today brings some closure not only to Gemma’s family but also to those whose lives have been damaged by his actions,” DI Craske added.

Speaking after Cowey was jailed, mum Linda said: “No sentence will ever be enough for what the evil perpetrator did to our Gemma.

“We have nightmares about the pain and fear she went through in the final minutes of her life.

“On behalf of our family we wish to express our huge thanks and appreciation to everyone that tried to save our Gemma’s life.

“We can only imagine how utterly shocking it was to find Gemma and see such devastation to a young woman’s body.”

Her dad added: “We will never recover from her loss, we can only learn to live with it and our lives are now forever tinged with utter sadness and emptiness.”

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