Mother of strangled lorry girl tells of her loss

A mother whose nine-year-old daughter was strangled by her partner in his lorry cab today said she had thought he was her "Prince Charming."

Stacey Lawrence's body was found on Saturday in the cab of a white Spar lorry parked in a layby in Warmington, Northamptonshire.

She had been on a delivery run with her mother's partner Darren Walker. It is thought Walker, 40, strangled Stacey then hanged himself in nearby woodland.

Speaking of her devastating loss today, her mother Roxanne Lawrence, 38, said everything about her daughter Stacey was "brilliant".

Mrs Lawrence said she had gone from loving Walker - her partner of one year - to hating him.

She said: "I thought he was my Prince Charming. I never would have imagined this.

"He was brilliant with the kids, brilliant with myself, a family man. He did everything, I couldn't believe how lucky I was.

"He would never have been with me if I had ever had an inkling that he could do anything like this."

Speaking to the Press Association, Mrs Lawrence said she could not believe it when she heard the news of her daughter and partner's deaths.

She said: "I hate him for what he has done to her.

"On Friday morning I loved him, now I just hate him for what he has done.

"But the man that I loved is not the man who did this. This is not the man we knew.

"Obviously the man who did this is an animal. No sane-minded person could do that to an adult or a child."

Yesterday police released CCTV images of Stacey and Walker at a service station on the A47 in Peterborough just before 3pm on Friday.

It is believed they made a short stop before going on to Warmington, where Stacey was murdered on Friday evening.

The footage showed the 40-year-old and Stacey browsing the aisles of the services, seemingly comfortable together and happy.

Today Mrs Lawrence, who sat with her eldest daughter Emma Hammond, 17, fought tears as she described how they used to call her daughter the "baby trucker" because she enjoyed going with Walker on his trips.

She said she had a perfectly normal conversation with Walker on Friday evening - shortly before when it is thought Stacey was killed.

She said: "She had been with him about four or five times before.

"I had a normal conversation with him. They were waiting to watch Eastenders."

Mrs Lawrence and her daughter both said there was no way they would ever have felt uncomfortable around Walker.

"He was just a normal family man that seemed like they cared for their family and would protect us," Emma said.

Her mother added: "He was there in times of trouble, when Stacey was in hospital he was there, he took time off work.

"He was a hard-working man. I met him because he was a friend of the family."

"Stacey loved him. She enjoyed the family life that she had got.

"She enjoyed the trips to the zoo and family days out. She just enjoyed being part of a proper family like her friends had.

"Initially she never used to go with him, but she asked why she couldn't.

"I said I didn't think she'd be interested because she was a girl, but it turned out she was.

"We used to call her the 'baby trucker' because she enjoyed it so much."

Her daughter said: "We would never have let her go if we had thought anything would happen. Nobody would have done."

Both battling tears, the mother and daughter described the wonderful person nine-year-old Stacey was.

They spoke of her love of reading and animals, and her generosity.

Emma said: "We could be here all day if we described how brilliant she was.

"She would have done so well in her life and it's a shame someone as evil as that has taken it away from her."

Mrs Lawrence said Stacey was a "star pupil" at her school and spent hours reading in her bedroom.

The family remained in shock at the circumstances of her death, she said, while her daughter said it was "like losing part of yourself".

Mrs Lawrence said she could not believe it when she heard what had happened, and added the only way she could describe her feelings were "devastation".

"Realising she is never going to come home, and we're never going to see her," she said.

"Realising she is never going to grow up and have her own children and be the zoo keeper she wanted to be.

"It's just so hard to bear.

"She was so generous, at Christmas she didn't want a present, she wanted to adopt an animal from the zoo.

"She had a cat called Ronaldo that she got from a rescue centre.

"She always had her head in a book, she was always reading, always."

She said formal funeral plans have not been made but they hoped to include a horse, to reflect Stacey's love of animals.

Emma added: "She was only alive for nine years but she made a big impact on everyone's lives.

"She brought a lot of joy to us but it's ended now. There's no more joy she can bring to us."

Detectives today continued trying to work out what may have led to the tragic murder-suicide.

Earlier, officers revealed they could not rule out there had been some sexual touching, but no sexual assault, involved in the run-up to the schoolgirl's death.

Yesterday they said they had traced several of Walker's former partners as well as a woman who said he had made a sexual approach to her when she was aged 15.

Detective Chief Inspector Tricia Kirk said the general picture emerging was "a family man with one or two episodes of domestic violence".

The 40-year-old, who had been seeing Stacey's mother for about a year, only had one police record - a caution in 2006 for assaulting his wife of three years.

Ms Kirk said they were hoping results of forensic tests would give fuller picture of what took place on Friday evening.

It has emerged Stacey was strangled with a ligature of black fabric - thought to be some kind of strapping.

Walker used the same sort of fabric to hang himself in nearby woodland, police said.

Ms Kirk previously said the family computer has been seized and detectives were planning to speak to Stacey's three siblings about Walker at some point.