Wedding bells turned to mourning cries when a sadistic school cleaner made his gruesome mark in the lives of a bride to be and her groom.
For Stephanie Scott, the High school teacher killed by a school cleaner who had stalked her and fantasized about her for months, death was the last thing on her mind as the happiest day of her life approached.
Stephanie, 26, would be away on her honeymoon for two weeks, so she headed into school on Easter Sunday last year to plan lessons for the substitute covering her. While there, Stephanie emailed the bus company she’d booked to ferry guests to her country wedding.
No one heard from her again. That communication was the last trace of the bride-to-be before she vanished. Stephanie’s loved ones would discover her fate the day before she was due to walk down the aisle, and the wedding guests became mourners.
Well loved by everybody at work. Stephanie worked at Leeton High School, in New South Wales, Australia, where she taught English and Drama. The popular high school teacher was planning her wedding to fiancé Aaron Leeson-Woolley.
A remarkable human being and a beautifully matched couple. Everyone said they made the perfect couple – and Stephanie would be a stunning bride.
She was intelligent, hardworking and always looking on the bright side of life. Her enthusiasm was infectious and she had such a positive influence on her pupils. Stephanie was destined to change lives.
Police revealed they had arrested a man called Vincent Stanford, 25. He was a cleaner at Stephanie’s school. They discovered he’d been on the grounds the day Stephanie had vanished, despite not being scheduled to work.
A history of Crime and violence. Alarm bells rang when the investigators delved further into Vincent’s life. He lived at home with his mum, and was known for being a loner who found it hard to socialise and was prone to angry outbursts.
He had been violent since he was a child. Tasmanian-born Vincent had grown up in Holland where he’d been expelled at nine for attacking a teacher.
He had done research as he planned to murder her for months. Vincent had googled 'bride kidnapping' two months before he murdered Stephanie.
Horrific photos found on his phone. Officers discovered gruesome photos on his camera that Vincent claimed were from a horror film. They were, in fact, pictures of a naked body that had been set on fire. It was Stephanie. Traces of her blood were found in his car and her red bra in his room. Vincent was arrested and charged with murder.
Finally a body was found. Five days after her disappearance, and the day before Stephanie was due to get married, her burnt body was discovered in the Cocoparra National Park, about 70km away from Leeton. Her car was found in a field and her laptop at the bottom of a canal.
When questioned by police, Vincent confessed. He was asked what he was thinking when he murdered Stephanie and his response was chilling: "Just that I had to kill her," he said. "I wasn’t angry or anything. Basically emotionless."
Unsuspecting of the dark end that awaited her, she had greeted him warmly.
"Happy Easter," she’d innocently said to Vincent, as she went to leave. That’s when he grabbed her from behind, clamped his hand over her mouth and dragged her into a school store room where he carried out a horrific sex attack.
He then proceeded to beat her savagely.Vincent told police that he "went a little nuts". The cleaner then beat her, pummelling Stephanie with over 40 punches before fatally stabbing her in the neck. Then Vincent went home for a cheese sandwich.
Premeditated murder—months in advance. In July, Vincent pleaded guilty to raping and murdering Stephanie Scott. The court heard that two months before the murder, he’d typed disturbing searches into his computer including ‘bride rape’ and ‘bride kidnapping’. It suggested that Vincent had made her a target long before that fateful day.
He was sentenced to life in prison for murder, with a further 15 Years for rape.