Noon: Stephanie Scott’s murderer Vincent Stanford has just been jailed for life.
“I am satisfied that this is a case of murder that clearly falls within the worst category,” Justice Robert Hulme said before ordering Stanford to stand for sentencing in the Supreme Court at Griffith.
“I am satisfied beyond any doubt that the offender’s culpability is so extreme that the community interest in retribution, punishment, community protection and deterrence can be met with only one response.”
A collective sigh of relief then filled the packed courtroom when Justice Hulme announced the life sentence, also imposing a 15-year fixed term sentence for the sexual assault of 26-year-old Miss Scott as she lay dying on the floor of a Leeton High School store room after a savage beating on Easter Sunday last year, April 5, six days before she was due to be married.
Speaking outside the courthouse after the sentencing, Miss Scott’s mother, Merrilyn, thanked police, prosecutors and victim support staff for their support and appealed for privacy.
We need to fade from public view and mourn our beautiful girlMerrilyn Scott
Founder of the Real Justice for Stephanie Scott Facebook page, Leeton man Mark Norvall, welcomed the life sentence.
“This animal is off everyone’s streets,” Mr Norvall said.
In his hour-long sentencing remarks, Justice Hulme told of how Stanford had stalked three other females in Leeton, including a 12-year-old girl.
Police discovered Stanford had video footage of her and 1805 still images and kept a record of her movements and her family’s movements in an exercise book.
One chilling entry read: | home alone 15.40 | time enough to abduct.
“There can be no question that the offender is a very disturbed individual,” Justice Hulme said.
“The agreed facts concerning the sexual assault and murder of Ms Stephanie Scott make it plain that this case is one of great heinousness.
“On the offender’s own account, he beat her a great many times to the head to the point of unconsciousness as he held to the ground in the darkness of the storage room.
“He then raped her before bringing out his knife and stabbing her in the neck in order to ensure he had achieved his goal (to kill Miss Scott).”
Justice Hulme said Stanford had harboured violent thoughts, including killing people, since he was a child.
“When he saw Ms Scott his immediate thought was that he had to kill her,” Justice Hulme said.
“He had time to reflect in the hours that he waited for her, but persisted with his plan.
“Nothing she said or did provided him with a rational motive to do what he did.
“Their only interaction was her wishing him a happy Easter.”
THURSDAY 10.40AM: Stephanie Scott’s murderer Vincent Stanford has just been jailed for life.
Justice Robert Hulme said there was no alternative.
More to come
IF NOT for a depraved killer, Stephanie Scott’s family would be celebrating her 28th birthday on Friday.
Instead, they will be mulling over the jail sentence for the man who took her away from them forever.
Justice Robert Hulme on Thursday will sentence 25-year-old Vincent Stanford for the rape and murder of Miss Scott on April 5 last year.
Stanford, 25, killed Miss Scott six days before her planned wedding to Aaron Leeson-Wooley, whom she met as a teenager at Canowindra.
Miss Scott, a teacher at Leeton High School, had gone into work on Easter Sunday to prepare lesson plans for a relief teacher who was to fill in for her while she was on her honeymoon.
Stanford was a casual cleaner at the school who stalked Miss Scott that day and pounced from behind moments after she wished him a happy Easter as she prepared to leave the school.
He dragged her into a store room, punched her 30 or 40 times until she was unconscious and sexually assaulted her before stabbing her in the neck.
She died from blunt force head trauma.
Stanford dumped his victim’s body in Cocoparra National Park, north of Leeton, and set it alight.
Stanford pleaded guilty to his horrific crimes earlier this year.
Her beautiful smile beams out at us from every photo. But we don't need photos. She is in our every cell, a heartbeat away."Merrilyn Scott
He told a psychologist he felt no anger towards Miss Scott but “had to” kill her.
Crown Prosecutor Lee Carr has urged Justice Hulme to lock Stanford up for the rest of his life, arguing he will always be a threat, while the killer’s lawyer, Janet Manuell, has asked for a determinate sentence, submitting there was a causal connection between Stanford’s autism spectrum disorder and his offending.
Miss Scott’s mother, Merrilyn, delivered a heart-breaking tribute to her daughter in a victim’s impact statement read to the Surpeme Court at Griffith during sentencing submissions on Tuesday.
“Her beautiful smile beams out at us from every photo,” Mrs Scott said.
“But we don't need photos. She is in our every cell, a heartbeat away."
Stanford has reportedly made suicide attempts while in custody over the past 18 months, including a serious attempt in April.
The employers of school cleaner Vincent Stanford say there were no "red flags" raised with them about his disturbing behaviour in the lead-up to Stephanie Scott's murder.
This is despite court documents outlining how the 25-year-old killer was sighted at Leeton High School when he wasn't rostered on and was seen lingering around and entering the girls' school toilet block.
He had also managed to obtain the alarm code to the school even though the principal had requested that casual cleaners have no access to it.
Colin Joss and Co cleaning division spokeswoman Fleur Thompson told Fairfax Media if an issue was raised with the company, it would have been investigated.
"Clearly, if we had heard those sort of stories, we would have done something – we had nothing," Ms Thompson said.
"If someone had raised a concern, we would have immediately responded and investigated. No one ever raised any concerns. We had no idea."
Stanford has pleaded guilty to the murder and rape of Ms Scott, 26, on Easter Sunday last year, just one week before she was due to marry.
Ms Thompson said all mandatory police and working with children checks were done prior to his employment and that an internal review found that nothing more could have been done.
"During the six months that he was employed there was no concern raised with us about his behaviour and he completed all his cleaning tasks to the company's standards," she said.
"Unfortunately it was unpreventable, correct procedures had been followed."
She said the company and employees were all in complete shock when Stanford was charged with Ms Scott's murder.
"Everyone was in complete shock – you certainly never expect that – especially in a small country town."
- Emma Partridge
4PM: Vincent Stanford had thoughts of killing someone when he was as young as seven or eight and by the age of 12 was acting on those thoughts by trying to strangle a school teacher, the Supreme Court has heard.
In tragic irony, it was another school teacher – 26-year-old Leeton High School drama and English teacher Stephanie Scott – who fell victim to 24-year-old Stanford’s pent-up rage when he punched her unconscious, sexually assaulted her and stabbed her in the neck in a store room at the school on April 5 last year, six days before she was to be married.
Details of Stanford’s mental health were revealed in psychological reports tendered to the court during sentencing submissions before Justice Robert Hulme in Griffith on Tuesday.
Crown Prosecutor Lee Carr urged Justice Hulme to jail Stanford for the rest of his life and said there was no evidence of remorse by Stanford.
“This was a cold-blooded, merciless, sexually-motivated killing,” Mr Carr said.
Stanford’s lawyer, Janet Manuell, said there were four factors that militated against a life sentence, including a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder that had a causal connection to the killing.
“These were terrible crimes and there is no attempt to resile from that,” Ms Manuell said.
Ms Manuell said Stanford’s self-loathing manifested itself in rage and anger.
“Mostly directed towards himself, but occasionally towards others,” Ms Manuell said.
“There is evidence, your honour, that he can learn self control.”
Justice Hulme will sentence Stanford at 9.30am on Thursday.
The Leeton man who founded the Facebook page Real Justice For Stephanie Scott, Mark Norvall, was at the hearing and also called for a life sentence for Stanford.
“He has to go away for life,” Mr Norvall said.
“There is no future for someone like him in society.”
Mr Carr in his oral submission spoke of the future “dangerousness” of Stanford, referring to a report prepared by forensic psychologist Anna Robilliard.
“He said he does not want to adapt to society and believes he does not have the capacity to do so,” Ms Robilliard wrote.
“Asked what he would have to do in order to adapt, he said he would have to acquire emotions.
“I have almost none … I only have hatred,” Stanford told the psychologist.
In an interview with police, Stanford recounted the killing, but denied sexually assaulting Miss Scott.
He later pleaded guilty to that offence.
In another interview with police, Stanford told how he threw clothing he took from Miss Scott into rubbish bins around Leeton after sleeping for a couple of hours.
But he kept her red bra, which he washed and put out to dry on the clothes line at the Maiden Avenue house where he lived with his mother and a brother.
“Why did you keep the bra?” asked Detective Senior Constable Justin Milne.
“I honestly don’t know, maybe I wanted a souvenir,” Stanford replied.
He was also asked about two finger rings missing from his victim’s body, including her engagement ring.
Stanford said he took the rings but did not know what he did with the engagement ring.
“It could be in a bin somewhere, I don’t know where,” he told Detective Milne.
It was later revealed Stanford lied about the rings.
He mailed the rings to his twin brother, Marcus, in Adelaide, who later sold them for $705 and was jailed for 15 months after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact of murder.
Agreed facts tendered to the court reveal that after Stanford killed Miss Scott he went home and had a cheese sandwich and a coffee while Miss Scott lay dead on the floor of the dark store room.
He then went back to the school, bundled Miss Scott into the back of her car and used a high-pressure cleaner to clean-up the crime scene.
“The offender states it took him several hours to clean up the blood using a pressure cleaner,” the facts said.
Stanford then drove around town in Miss Scott’s car “unconcerned about being spotted”.
In the early hours of April 6, Stanford took photographs of Miss Scott’s body and then drove her car to the Cocoparra National Park where he burnt her remains and returned to Leeton.
On April 8, police became suspicious of Stanford as his lies to them began to unravel, including telling police he had been to the Golden Apple Supermarket on April 5 – Easter Sunday – for groceries when it was, in fact, closed for the day.
Stanford went back to the national park later on April 8 to see if Miss Scott’s body was still there and took more photos.
When he returned to Leeton, waiting police asked to look at his phone.
They found the photos of Miss Scott’s body on the phone.
He was charged with Miss Scott’s murder and confessed to her killing during a police interview at the Junee Correctional Centre on April 11.
An autopsy revealed Miss Scott died from blunt force head trauma.
According to the agreed facts, police found handcuffs smeared with Miss Scott’s blood in Stanford’s bedroom.
A police search of his phone and computer revealed Stanford “very regularly” searched the internet in relation to violent rape, violent sex, hard-core pornography and murder.
Some of the internet searches related to the word “bride”.
“The ‘bride’ searches on February 21, 2015, occurred whilst the offender was already working casually at Leeton High School,” the facts said.
On October 10, 2014, he used the internet to order handcuffs and a “half sword”.
Internet searches by Stanford the day before he murdered Miss Scott included the terms widowmaker, widow knives and sharpest puncture knives.
12pm: THE killer of Leeton High School teacher Stephanie Scott told police he felt no emotion as he punched his victim unconscious and then stabbed her in the throat.
A video recording of a police interview with Vincent Stanford has just been played to the Supreme Court at Griffith during a sentencing hearing for Vincent Stanford, who has pleaded guilty to Miss Scott’s murder.
The interview was conducted at the Junee Correctional Centre on April 11 last year.
Detective Constable Justin Milne asked Stanford what he felt as he attacked Miss Scott.
“That I had to kill her,” Stanford replied.
“I was not angry or anything – I was emotionless, I just had to kill her.”
Stanford – who was a relief cleaner at the school – saw Miss Scott preparing lesson plans she was organising ahead of taking leave for her honeymoon.
He told police he approached her from behind at the front gate of the school, put his right hand around her mouth and his left arm around her middle and dragged her into a store room.
There, he threw her on the floor, shut the door, held her down with his left hand around her throat and punched her with his right hand.
“Did she struggle?” asked Detective Milne.
“Yes,” Stanford replied.
“How long did she struggle?”
“How many blows do you think you landed on her?”
“Thirty or 40.”
Stanford then told how he stabbed Miss Scott in the neck with a knife.
Stanford also revealed he had battled violent tendencies all his life, and said that as a teenager he spent one or two months in a mental institution after trying to strangle a teacher at his high school in Holland.
Earlier, Miss Scott’s mother Merrilyn, delivered an emotional victim impact statement during which she said her daughter abhorred cruelty, especially towards animals and children.
As Stanford sat in the dock just a few metres away with his head bowed, Mrs Scott said the killer was too pathetic and inept to lead a life of his own, so he took the life of another person.
She described Stanford as a despicable person.
At the end of the statement, sentencing judge, Justice Robert Hulme, told Mrs Scott her dignity was inspiring.
The hearing continues.
– Ken Grimson
11.40am: During his confession to police Vincent Stanford said "I think I went a little nuts" when he murdered school teacher Stephanie Scott on Easter Sunday last year.
"I think I needed to see a psychiatrist but I didn't," Stanford told police during a recorded police interview that was played in a NSW Supreme Court sitting at Griffith on Tuesday.
When asked by police what he did on the day of the murder, Stanford spoke clearly and without hesitation.
"I did it at the high school...I beat her to death."
The 25-year-old said he struck Ms Scott 13 or 14 times and offered no explanation as to why he killed her.
"I don't know, I just felt like I should do it," he said. "Just that I had to kill her."
Stanford also confessed to having tried to strangle a teacher when he was 13-years-old and was put in a mental institution for two months.
On Easter Sunday last year Ms Scott went to Leeton High School to prepare lessons for a relief teacher who was to take her place while she went on her honeymoon.
The 26-year-old English and drama teacher was just days away from marrying her partner of five years Aaron Leeson-Woolley when she was attacked by Stanford on school grounds, and later raped and killed.
Stanford told police during the interview that he had discarded Ms Scott's clothes in various garbage bins around Leeton.
Then, after he had put her body in the boot of her own car, he used a high pressure cleaning system to clean the blood left behind in the storeroom where he killed Ms Scott.
Stanford's police interview was played to the court just moments after Ms Scott's mother Merrilyn Scott read a victim impact statement to the court, with her husband Bob at her side.
She told the court each night she said "goodnight my darling girl" from the darkness of her bed.
"Nights are haunted by visions so terrible it is difficult to find rest," she said.
Ms Scott's voice wobbled as she asked: "Did she see the knife ? Did she see the fist before he pounded her precious life into oblivion?"
She told the court Stanford had access to six schools at the time he raped and killed her daughter at Leeton High School.
"There were many behaviours that should have raised red flags," she said.
Stanford was seen for the first time in public since the April 2015 murder when he was walked into the Griffith courthouse by Corrective Services officers on Tuesday morning .
Members of Ms Scott's family and Mr Leeson-Woolley arrived at the court on Tuesday morning dressed in yellow, her favourite colour.
It was Ms Scott's family who frantically searched and fretted when Ms Scott disappeared while Stanford worked furiously to cover up his crime.
After Stanford placed Ms Scott's body her red Mazda 3 he drove it to his house in Maiden Avenue at Leeton.
Court documents outline how he later drove Ms Scott's car, with her naked body still inside, to Cocoparra National Park, about 70 kilometres north-east of Leeton, near Griffith.
He doused her body in petrol before setting it alight and in a depraved act he took photographs of her remains.
In July Stanford pleaded guilty to the aggravated sexual assault and murder of Ms Scott.
And in an act that sickened Ms Scott's family to their core, Stanford sent the young teacher's engagement and graduation rings to his twin brother Marcus in South Australia.
In August Marcus Stanford was sentenced to one year and three months in jail after he had earlier pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to murder.
– Emma Partridge
9am: THE FAMILY and friends of Stephanie Scott have arrived at the Griffith court house for sentencing submissions for the man who murdered the 26-year-old Leeton High School teacher.
Led by the man who investigated Miss Scott’s death, Detective Sergeant Tim Clark, more than half a dozen of the group walked into the court house.
Some wore yellow clothing, including yellow ties, as a mark of respect for Miss Scott, whose favourite colour was yellow.
Sentencing submissions are expected to be heard by Justice Robert Hulme from about 9.30am.
Vincent Stanford has pleaded guilty to murdering Miss Scott at the school where she taught on April 5 last year, six days before her planned wedding.
Stanford was employed as a cleaner at the high school.
A massive search was mounted for Ms Scott after she was reported missing.
The search ended tragically with the discovery of Ms Scott’s burnt body in Cocoparra National Park on April 10 and the arrest of Stanford.
– Ken Grimson