'This evil has attacked our community at its heart'

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"Do not let this evil frighten you." On the second Sunday of Advent yesterday, when the Sacred Heart Church in Kilburn, north-west London, is normally counting down the days to the birthday of Christ, it was instead contemplating a death, a killing, and a "devastating" loss.

Those who sat in the pews of the Roman Catholic church just off Kilburn High Road had come to hear Mass. That is routine for a Catholic community.Yesterday all that had changed.

In the pockets of most parishioners was the weekly newsletter penned by Father Ray Warren, a governor of St George's School, which starts the week without a headmaster. The small newsletter is rarely properly read. Again, that was not the case yesterday.

During Mass some worried parents discreetly read Fr Warren's words in the newsletter: "The evil that exists in our society has caused the death of this good man, deprived his wife and children of his love and attacked our whole community at its very heart, that is, at our school."

"St George's is a good school", Fr Warren counselled. "Do not let this evil frighten you".

After Mass, one parent said: "We are not frightened because we haven't had the time yet. We are still in shock that murder has happened on the front steps of the place where our children are educated."

As the school governors and representatives met to discuss what measures could be taken to allay fears for the future - such as improved security, counselling for pupils and the temporary closure of the school as a mark of respect for Philip Lawrence - the gates of his Maida Vale school continued to be the focus of pupils' grief. The flowers that had begun to be laid on Saturday were building, bunch by bunch and colour on colour, into a makeshift shrine to the memory of their headmaster.

Away from the school, at the home where Mr Lawrence left the school behind to become a husband and father, yesterday was a difficult day. A neighbour said the family were "trying to celebrate Christmas as best they can".

Mr Lawrence's widow Frances, according to the neighbour, picked some holly for a Christmas decoration. "She's trying to carry on despite what has happened," the neighbour said.

The Lawrence children, Lucien, aged 8, and his three older sisters, Maroushka, 21, Myfwany, 19, and Unity, 13, were all with their mother, Frances, yesterday.

According to Fr Charis Piccolomini, who administered the last rites to Mr Lawrence, "Frances has told the children: 'The first thing we will do when we get home is do what Daddy would have done tonight. We are going to go up to the loft and bring the Christmas tree down. Then we will switch on the lights because that is a symbol of life and we are celebrating daddy's life'."