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
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us