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Life for lorry driver who ended Celine's journey of optimism

The father of murdered French student Celine Figard last night spoke of his "relief and satisfaction" that his daughter's murderer had been put behind bars for life.

Standing outside the court where the lorry driver Stuart Morgan was sentence to life imprisonment for raping and killing the 19 year old student, her father Bernard Figard said: "This man will never pay enough for what he did. I hope he spends the rest of his days rotting in jail. To have found him not guilty would have been like killing my daughter for the second time."

Morgan, 37, of Parkestone in Dorset, attacked Ms Figard after she hitched a lift with him at a motorway service station in Hampshire last December. Detectives believe he carried the body in his lorry for nine days over the Christmas period before burning her clothes and abandoning her body in a lay-by near Worcester.

Although the murder bore hallmarks of the so called Midlands Ripper - suspected of murdering a number of prostitutes and hitch-hikers - Morgan was ruled out after DNA tests.

Speaking through an interpreter Mr Figard said he could not understand how Morgan could have committed such an act and then pleaded not guilty. "Throughout the court case he looked so detached from reality as if he was a total stranger who didn't really belong there. I just felt sickened by his behaviour," he said.

"When I first laid eyes on him in May he just had a blank look on his face and he didn't seem to feel anything or to show any remorse. He was just cold.

"It didn't seem to move him or affect him at all when he heard the graphic descriptions of Celine's ordeal. I wonder if he has any nightmares about what he did to my daughter. How does he feel when he remembers the desperate shout of his powerless victim? How does he feel when he remembers his own hands covered with my beautiful daughter's blood?

"I never really thought that Morgan could walk away from this but my real fear throughout the case was that he may have pleaded insanity or diminished responsibility. That would have been all too easy for him.

"It is beyond my comprehension how a man who has committed such a horrible crime in a moment of madness could have been stupid enough not to get rid of the evidence. Far from that, this monstrous idiot kept my daughter's dead body in the back of his truck with him. What kind of imbicilic creature is he?"

Mr Figard said he still feels anger that the second truck driver, Roger Bouvier, still let Celine go with Morgan despite having reservations.

Detective Superintendent Bob McCamont, who led the murder hunt, described Ms Figard as "the sort of person that anybody would be proud to have as a daughter".

"She was an articulate, honest student from a rural part of France who loved England. She was a lovely girl who spoke English fluently."

The description contrasted with the warped image of Ms Figard that Morgan presented to the court in his defence. He painted a portrait of a "druggie" and a "hussy" who seduced him with hours of their meeting.

Ms Figard was last seen alive at 4.35pm on December 18 climbing aboard Morgan's white Mercedes lorry. Her body remained in the bottom bunk of Morgan's cab throughout the Christmas period. Morgan continued driving and sleeping in the lorry for three days before parking the vehicle outside his house to enjoy Christmas with his 11-year-old son and wife.

It was not until 29 December that Morgan set about disposing of the body. As police forces around the country searched for Ms Figard and the sandy- haired, bearded driver with whom she was last seen, Morgan returned to work

When questioned Morgan admitted giving her a lift, claimed they had consensual sex, but had denied murder. The jury was in disbelieving him. Jailing Morgan for life, Mr Justice Latham told him: "What you did to Celine has caused revulsion in the minds of all right-thinking people.''

Near the busy dual carriageway where Ms Figard's body was dumped, someone has carved a small inscription onto one of the fence posts. It declares the green wooded copse: "Le Jardin de Celine" - Celine's Garden.