'My daughter died because some man couldn't understand the word no'

Ten years on since the murder of his "free-spirited and canny" daughter, a West Yorkshire father has spoken of the heartache his family have endured and how her memory will live on.

By Lucy Leeson
Saturday, 12th October 2019, 12:45 pm

Clare Wood, 36, was strangled and set on fire by her violent and obsessive ex-boyfriend George Appleton on February 2, 2009.

He was found hanged in a derelict pub six days later. An inquest into his death found he committed suicide.

Paying tribute to his daughter, Michael Brown, of South Elmsall, said: "Claire was a free spirit, she never brought trouble to the door. She was a canny lass with a wicked sense of humour.

Clare Wood, 36, was strangled and set on fire by her violent and obsessive ex-boyfriend George Appleton on February 2, 2009.

"I always brought my children up to be their own person and not follow the crowd and do what they want to do.

"We had a very good relationship. Claire was my adopted daughter and came to me when she was 15. I'm just glad Claire's mum (who passed away from cancer in February 2005) wasn't here to see what happened."

Clare grew up in Batley before moving to Manchester where she got married and had a daughter.

Mr Brown said: "Things didn't work out within the marriage and she ended up going to Carlisle, before moving back to Manchester to be closer to her daughter. She was happy as Larry and had a place with a garden for her daughter."

Clare Wood, 36, was strangled and set on fire by her violent and obsessive ex-boyfriend George Appleton on February 2, 2009.

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The former prison officer said: "She told me she had met this lad, she sounded happy enough.

"They appeared out of nowhere one day at my house in Batley. I took an instant dislike to him. Unbeknown to me they had just come from my son's house and my son asked me what I thought of him and we both had the same opinion. We didn't like him and want anything to do with him.

"When I found out he had done time in prison that made me curious. Claire said it was because of some motoring offences. Because of my job I couldn't be seen to be reporting with ex cons and I told her not to bring him back. She understood why I said it. I would still visit her and I was there fairly regularly.

Michael Brown, of South Elmsall

Clare ended her relationship with Appleton in October 2008 after she found out he had been texting other women.

Mr Brown said: "I was chuffed to bits when I heard she had finished it.

"Clare came up to us for Christmas - two months before she met her fate - and said George Appleton was making a nuisance of himself. I told her to pack up her things and come back here."

It was on February 5, 2009 when Mr Brown received a call from his ex son-in-law stating he hadn't heard from Clare.

Mr Brown sent Clare a text telling her to "pull her finger out", but got no response.

Mr Brown said: "It turned out that my daughter had been beaten, raped, strangled and he had set her on fire and they (the emergency services) had to use a cherry picker to get her out."

In the months before her murder Clare had repeatedly contacted Greater Manchester Police claiming Appleton had caused criminal damage, harassed, threatened to kill and sexually assaulted her.

She had a panic alarm installed at her home after making an allegation of attempted rape against Appleton, who was arrested a week before her death for smashing down her front door.

Mr Brown said: "It turns out him being a 'nusiance' was actually attempted rape. he was pulled in and let out numerous times by police.

"My daughter died because some 'man' couldn't understand the word 'no'.

"Clare didn't get the protection that one would have expected. You don't expect to be burying your own child or going to their funeral. That's not the order of things."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) concluded Miss Wood, 36, had been let down by "individual and systemic" failures by Greater Manchester Police (GMP).

Mr Brown said: "If I had the information I have now back then I would have marched her straight home. The last moments of my daughters life were her kicking and screaming trying to get away from Appleton."

Mr Brown campaigned for the introduction of Clare’s Law because he believed that her death could have been prevented if she had known about her partner’s violent past.

He said: "When you find out there is somewhere between 100 to 120 women and six to eight me killed every year by their ex partner, you know something has to be done to change this. I just wanted it all to stop."

The law was introduced in 2014 and is used by thousands of men and women every year.