24 hours after daughter's death, mother gives up her fight for life

Ex-partner who shot Julie and Maisie Hamilton was 'angered' by break-up

A father who shot and killed his four-year-old daughter and her mother had a history of violence and had been jailed after terrorising another former partner, it has emerged.

Julie Harrison died in hospital yesterday, 24 hours after being gunned down by her estranged partner Andrew Copland, 56, who also killed their daughter Maisie before turning the gun on himself.

Yesterday friends paid tribute to a quiet, gentle and bubbly mother who was intensely proud of her "funny, cheeky" little girl.

"She was a good laugh and we had an awful lot of fun when we were together. She was a bubbly personality and had a lot of friends," said her ex-husband Kevin Moody, 47.

Ms Harrison's father, Reginald, said: "Julie and Maisie were innocent parties in this awful tragedy."

He described his daughter as a "happy-go-lucky, bubbly girl" who was "completely devoted to her daughter Maisie, our beautiful granddaughter".

He added in a family statement: "Maisie was a confident, happy, chatty, active, animated, bright young girl who brought joy to our lives.

"The loss of our beloved Julie and Maisie has devastated our family and close friends, and this is something we are having great difficulty in coming to terms with. If there is any good to come from this tragedy it is that Julie has given the gift of life to many others by donating her organs."

Neighbours described Copland as an aggressive, volatile, man who had become particularly angry when Ms Harrison, 40, walked out on him seven weeks ago. A close family friend said the embittered painter and decorator had threatened to kill his ex-wife Christine when their marriage ended in the Eighties and vowed to do the same to her new partner, one of his younger colleagues. He was jailed after setting fire to her car, said the friend, who asked to remain anonymous.

He said: "Andy introduced Christine to another man called Billy when the two men worked together in the mid-Eighties. After she split from Andy she started a relationship with this much younger workmate and Andy was absolutely devastated. He went around stalking them with a crossbow and threatened to kill them both.

"When he was harassing her she was so scared I believe she even had a panic button installed in her house. In the end Copland torched Christine's car and went to prison," he continued. William Barr and Christine, 56, married in 1987 and had two daughters.

A neighbour in Aldershot, Rachael Bryan, said that Copland had also been angry and depressed since Ms Harrison left him on 6 November, adding: "When I moved in, a neighbour told me Andy wasn't having a very good time because his partner had taken the child and moved out. Someone told me that he was obsessed with her. He struck me as someone who hated women."

She explained that Ms Harrison had left the engine of her red Renault running on Tuesday morning as she dropped Maisie off to visit her father. But the police were called when it seemed that she had been locked in the house by Copland.

"We went upstairs to my bedroom window and a police car with lights flashing came and a policeman knocked on the door. I suppose he must have seen something through the letterbox because he then started kicking in the door," said Ms Bryan. "At the next moment another police car sped in. It went right over the roundabout in front of us and he rushed in and then, looking very serious, he came out and used his radio and then the cavalry arrived with police cars and ambulances.

"Later we saw the mother coming out. She had her head strapped across the stretcher and she was put into an ambulance."

Ms Harrison – who had recently written on Friends Reunited that she was in a new relationship and "happily caring for my daughter" – was taken to a specialist neurosurgical unit at St George's Hospital in Tooting, but died at 9.30am yesterday.

A former care assistant, who separated from her husband in 1996, she had become a cleaner so she could devote time to looking after her mother, Betty, who had multiple sclerosis, in her final years and had an older brother, Chris. Sally Denny, 35, whose son Noah was in the same reception class as Maisie, said: "I have known Julie two-and-a-half years. She was a lovely reliable friend and a great full-time mum. She was a quiet and gentle person."

She continued: "Maisie was so full of life – a happy, funny and cheeky girl who knew how to bring a smile to people's faces. She loved to sing songs by Katy Perry in the car on the way home from school and enjoyed playing kiss chase with Noah. In that way she was a bit of a minx. My last memory of her was seeing her perform in the school nativity. She was dressed as a star but she will always be an angel."

Yesterday tearful mothers and children from Maisie's toddler group lay wreaths beside other floral tributes being placed around the end-of-terrace house as forensic officers continued to examine the scene. The vicar of local church, St Michael's, the Rev James Martin, said: "It's really just a shock it's happened and the toddler group decided that this is what they would like to do.

"Everyone is very upset and we are appalled by what has happened. This is a very stable community and what has happened is a real shock to everyone. It's made all the more poignant and upsetting by the fact that it is Christmas."

Liz Mathias, headteacher of Maisie's school, St Michael's Infants, in Aldershot, said: "We were absolutely devastated to hear about the tragic incident involving Maisie. She was a delightful little girl and a daughter that anyone could be truly proud of."

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