The mother of a teenager who took her own life after enduring a decade of sexual abuse from her own father has been left “petrified” after it emerged he could be paroled on Valentine’s Day.
Gemma McKeown cradled daughter Megan Reid as she passed away in her arms at the age of 17 in April 2022 – less than three years after Joseph McGinn was found guilty of an 18-year campaign of attacks against her and another woman.
The 35-year-old suffered a nervous breakdown when Megan opened up about her torment – which started from the age of four – on Mother’s Day in 2018.
She is now considering leaving Scotland for the safety of her and her ten-year-old son after the other victim contacted her to explain McGinn would receive a parole hearing on February 14, despite police officers warning Gemma he had made a threat against her.
Gemma, from Livingston, has since written to the First Minister and the justice secretary in an attempt to have the appearance before the panel blocked.
“I want to know how a convicted sex offender who has shown no remorse for what he has done, for the lives he has ruined, can be up for parole,” she told STV News.
“I’m absolutely petrified. My house has been under a blue light response for almost a year because he made a death threat against me when I told him he was not welcome at Megan’s funeral.
“I’m disgusted at the justice system. I feel let down. That he could be released on Valentine’s Day of all days, he doesn’t have an ounce of love in him.”
Gemma was just 16 and McGinn 40 when she gave birth to Megan. She described him as “repeatedly physically and mentally abusive,” adding he coerced her into drug addiction from a young age.
McGinn began his abuse of Megan in 2008 after he was given custody through the week, with Gemma prevented from seeing her daughter outside of the weekend.
However, it was not until she tuned 13 that she felt able to disclose the scale of abuse to her mum.
“It was hell,” Gemma recalled.
“Megan had a beautiful attitude. She was so polite, she never swore in front of me. She was just a loving, caring soul that did not deserve half of what was served to her.
“She was working as a waitress and a cleaner and she was doing college courses because she wanted to become a joiner.”
She added: “When she told me, my whole life fell apart. I ended up having a spell in hospital and all sorts of medication because I could not cope with the intrusive images I was getting.
“It was unbearable. The things that we heard in court, they scarred my mind.”
McGinn was handed an 18-year sentence at the High Court in Edinburgh in 2019, but that included jail terms that ran concurrently to each other.
The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS) later wrote to Gemma to explain he had been jailed for seven years with a three year extended sentence – meaning McGinn will be detained for another ten years if he reoffends in that period.
It means he has now served almost half of his sentence and is eligible for parole under section 1 of The Prisoners (Control of Release) (Scotland) Act.
The Parole Board for Scotland (PBS) said it did not comment on individual cases, but while a spokesperson added there was “no guarantee” of any prisoner being released, the case is eligible for review 12 months later.
Gemma was given no official notice that the hearing was taking place, despite police intelligence informing her that McGinn, now 60, threatened to “kill her” once he is free from prison.
“The police said they would put my house under a blue light response and they wanted me to get alarms fitted, a security system on my house, all of that stuff,” she said.
“But it’s a machine. How is that going to keep me safe? It will be a constant reminder of what I am running away from.”
Megan took her own life on April 4, 2022. She had been rushed to St John’s Hospital in Livingston after being discovered by a friend.
Nurses told Gemma that even if Megan woke up, she would “no longer be fit for neurological purpose,” and would spend the remainder of her life in a vegetative state.
“She had stopped breathing on a number of occasions, her heart had stopped on a number of occasions,” she said.
“My daughter died in my arms, I brought her into the world, she was the first baby that I ever cradled, and at 17 years old, I had to cradle her out the world.”
The mum has since campaigned to raise awareness of mental health issues, forming the ‘Mog’s World’ peer support group for young people and their families experiencing similar circumstances and having Edinburgh Castle bathed in a yellow glow for World Suicide Prevention Day in September last year.
But she is desperate for Nicola Sturgeon and Keith Brown to block McGinn’s release.
“He’s had a hold over me for 21 years now,” she said.
“It needs to stop. When are the justice system going to take these things seriously. I am petrified of this man and no one is listening.
“Megan told me about the abuse she suffered on Mother’s Day in 2018. Joe was sentenced just before Christmas a year later. Now this is happening on Valentine’s Day.
“It is taking everything away from me. I won’t be able to give my daughter a Valentine’s card this year.”
STV News contacted the Scottish Government for comment.
A spokesperson for the COPFS said: “We have recently been in contact with Gemma McKeown and provided her with appropriate information and advice.”