BREAKING NEWS: Steph Scott’s killer sentenced to life in prison

LIFE IN JAIL: Vincent Stanford leaves Griffith Courthouse after his sentencing hearing on Tuesday. Photo: PETER RAE
LIFE IN JAIL: Vincent Stanford leaves Griffith Courthouse after his sentencing hearing on Tuesday. Photo: PETER RAE


THE night before her country wedding, Canowindra-born school teacher Stephanie Scott should have been dizzy with excitement, and getting ready with friends and family by her side.

Instead she was all alone - dead, naked and burnt - under a charred tree in the middle of a national park, 70 kilometres from the home she shared with her fiance in the town of Leeton in the Riverina.

School cleaner Vincent Stanford is sentenced to life in prison for the murder of school teacher Stephanie Scott.

Her mother, Merrilyn Scott, has said the life of her "gentle, courageous, silly, honest, inspiring and happy" daughter would forever remain unfinished.

And now the school cleaner who raped and murdered the bride-to-be will spend the rest of his life in jail. 

On Thursday, Vincent Stanford was sentenced in the NSW Supreme Court at Griffith to life in jail without parole.

Before reading out the sentence, Justice Robert Allan Hulme said "the agreed facts ….make it plain that this case is one of great heinousness" and that he found his behaviour after the murder "highly disturbing" and "conniving, callous and self interested "

"The attack itself involved extreme brutality by a man of substantial size upon a defenceless young woman…who had no means of escape."

Court documents outline how it was common knowledge around Leeton High School that Ms Scott was due to marry Aaron Leeson Woolley.

The staff had even held a party for her on Thursday, April 2, 2015 - three days before she was murdered.

Two months before the murder, Stanford typed eight chilling search terms into his computer including, "bride rape", "bride kidnapping" and "bride raped with wedding dress".

On Thursday the court also heard how Stanford had stalked three females prior to the murder and had covertly followed a photographed a 12-year-old girl, taking 1805 pictures of her. 

On  April 5 last year, Easter Sunday, Ms Scott decided she would go to the school to prepare lessons for a relief teacher who was to fill in for her during her two-week honeymoon.

Stanford was not rostered to work that day but he was at the school and saw Ms Scott working in the staffroom.

According to an agreed set of facts, Stanford then went home to collect a "rape kit" complete with a knife and handcuffs.

He told police that, when he saw Ms Scott, he felt, "Just that I had to kill her. I wasn't angry or anything. Basically emotionless. Just that I had to kill her."

When he returned to the school he waited for Ms Scott to leave and, when she bumped into him in the corridor, she said, "'I'm going home now. Have a happy Easter." 

As she went to look for her keys in her handbag, Stanford grabbed her from behind and dragged her into an old dark room before throwing her on the ground.

In his interview with police, Stanford said, "I think I went a little nuts" and confessed to beating her 30 to 40 times before stabbing her in the neck with a knife.

After the murder, Stanford returned home to have a cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee before returning to the dark room where he had left the body.

He used a high pressure cleaner from the school to wash away Ms Scott's blood before placing her body in the boot of her red Mazda 3 sedan, which he then drove to his house.

In the early hours of Monday, April 6, Stanford drove the body to Cocoparra National Park, near Griffith.

He poured 20 litres of petrol over her body and set her alight.

In the days that followed Stanford later sent Ms Scott's engagement and graduation rings to his twin brother Marcus in the post.

Stanford also returned to the national park where Ms Scott's body was and took photos of her burnt remains.

Police found the body in burnt scrub under a tree, a few metres from the side of a red dirt road on Friday, April 10 - the night before she was due to marry.

The next day, her friends and family gathered for a picnic memorialand all wore yellow - Ms Scott's favourite colour.

Her father, Bob, told the crowd of hundreds gathered in Mountford Park that he wanted his daughter to be remembered for the great girl she was - and not the tragic way she was taken away.

"Stephanie was a bubbly, bright, witty, intelligent fun-loving girl who has obviously impacted on many people here to today and our wishes for the future are that that will continue in your minds, you remember her as the girl she was and I'm sure wherever she is now that she would wish that to be the case and maintain that as you remember her, as that great little girl she was."


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