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."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...