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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most