UPDATE 11/04/15 Stephanie’s body has been recovered
Stephanie Scott murder: Body found in Cocoparra National Park north of Griffith
Ashlee Mullany in Leeton
The Daily Telegraph
April 11, 2015
IT was a long, lonely dirt road that led police to what they believe are the remains of beloved schoolteacher and bride-to-be Stephanie Scott.
On the eve of her wedding, police scouring Cocoparra National Park — 90 minutes from where Stephanie vanished in Leeton — found a body in scrubland.
Police found the remains about 5pm near the Whitton Stock Route.
A crime scene was established last night and forensic investigators were examining the area.
The body was found in dense bush, kilometres from the nearest home.
Last night, under a three-quarter moon, police erected spotlights around the remains.
It is believed police used triangulation based on mobile phone signals to narrow down the search area.
It is the latest crushing development for her distraught fiance Aaron Leeson-Woolley and the Scott family which had gathered in her home town this week for her planned wedding today.
The development comes after police divers recovered a laptop from a canal just a few kilometres from where her car was dumped.
Witnesses have given chilling accounts of seeing a man dump a laptop in a canal after pulling up in a white ute similar to the police description of one seized at the home of Stephanie Scott’s alleged killer.
Two truck drivers then watched the man, with a baseball cap and sunglasses on, run back to the ute and speed off towards Leeton, a few minutes drive away.
The waterway is just a few kilometres from where the 26-year-old teacher’s red Mazda 3 was dumped in a wheat field.
Paul Halls and Brendan Lyons had been working in a shed on Griffith Rd, Leeton, on Easter Sunday when they saw the man stop by the road dotted with farm houses and dispose of the computer just before 4pm.
After hearing about Ms Scott’s alleged murder on Wednesday morning, the men contacted police and gave a description of the unidentified man and the white Toyota Hilux ute.
A team of police divers from Sydney returned to the murky, 2m deep channel yesterday where they recovered a small laptop with a red cover.
It looked similar to those issued to teachers in some parts of NSW, but police were not immediately able to say if it belonged to Ms Scott.
Mr Halls said after dumping the laptop the man ran back to his car, did a U-turn and sped off towards Leeton.
Mr Halls said the vehicle was similar to an image police released yesterday in their appeal for information about Mr Stanford’s movements on Sunday, the day Ms Scott was last seen alive.
“We actually thought he was up to no good. I saw him run down the embankment and then drive back towards town,” Mr Lyons said.
“We rang the police on Wednesday when we heard over the radio what happened.”
Ms Scott’s red Mazda was found on Thursday morning abandoned by the edge of a wheat field on a rural property about 8km from Leeton near the road to Griffith.
Yesterday, Mr Lyons said he had seen a man walking along Griffith Rd towards Leeton on Monday morning.
He said the man, wearing a backpack and T-shirt, closely resembled an image of Mr Stanford’s identical twin brother, who lives in Adelaide.
Ms Scott vanished from Leeton High School on Easter Sunday after going into work to finish some lesson plans for her replacement ahead of her wedding, which was supposed to take place today.
School cleaner Vincent Stanford was arrested on Wednesday night and charged with the popular schoolteacher’s murder.
Police will allege they found blood in the back of Mr Stanford’s car and pictures of a burnt body on his camera.
Volunteer rescue crews continued line searches around Leeton yesterday in the hope of finding any clues that might lead them to Ms Scott’s remains.
Meanwhile, her family is preparing to hold a community picnic at Mountford Park in Leeton today in Stephanie’s honour to “celebrate what should have been the happiest day of her life.”
TRAGIC POST ON EVE OF WEDDING
By Ashlee Mullany and Matthew Benns
SHE will always be his bride to be.
In one heartbreakingly simple photograph yesterday Aaron Leeson-Woolley summed up all that he has lost and the dreams that will never be.
Stephanie Scott, hair wet, stands with her back to the camera to show the embroidered message on her dressing gown: “Soon to be Mrs”.
But instead of celebrating their wedding in front of 100 family and friends today Aaron is grieving the loss of the love of his life.
In a display of love and thanks, the Scott family have asked their friends and the Leeton community to join them in painting the town yellow at a picnic in a local park today.
Sister Robyn Scott said the day was to thank the community for their support and “for Stephanie to celebrate what should have been the happiest day of her life.”
“Pack a picnic, wear yellow and come and join us. The community have been more than amazing and it has helped us all through the most difficult time we will ever face as a family,” she said.
Before police charged school cleaner Vincent Stanford, 24, with her murder, Mr Leeson-Woolley said his bubbly fiance was “over the moon to be getting married.”
The heartbroken groom spent much of yesterday going through the couple’s photo albums and posting a series of visual memories of their happy life together online.
The 26-year-old schoolteacher had spent the morning before she disappeared on Easter Sunday painting the names of guests on flower pots for use as place settings at the wedding.
They were still sitting on the table where she left them — never to be finished — as her frantic fiance scoured the Riverina town of Leeton trying to find her.
Her last email was to confirm the buses that would take guests to the picturesque Eat Your Greens function centre at Eugowra, three hours away.
Owner Jess Stanley confirmed the family had been in touch to cancel the wedding. “We are really not comfortable talking about this right now,” she said.
Nearby Bed and Breakfast owner Bob Roach, whose son went to school with Stephanie, said: “Most of the people were coming to the wedding from Canowindra where Stephanie grew up.”
The town of just 2,500 people is in mourning.
Small town united in grief helps ease father’s grief
GRIEF stricken Bob Scott has taken comfort from listening as complete strangers in Leeton tell each other why they loved his daughter Stephanie.
In Woolworths yesterday he stood quietly to the side as a cashier and customer talked about the beloved 26-year-old high school teacher and their grief at her brutal murder.
He was with close friend Bob Hawke as they listened while waiting in line.
“I told her this is Stephanie’s father and she just burst into tears,” Mr Hawke said yesterday.
“Bob wanted to stop and listen to what they were saying about Stephanie.”
“He said to them: ‘Thank you very much for the kind words’.”
Mr Scott then went to pay for his $94.50 worth of groceries only to find a stranger had anonymously given $100 to management to pay for his shopping when they noticed him in the aisles.
It wasn’t until he reached the register to pay that a clearly moved Mr Scott was told of the gesture.
Mr Hawke said the grieving father was so touched by the random act of kindness that he tried to find out who the woman was, but she did not leave a name.
The people of Leeton may be broken by grief, but they have opened their hearts to the Scott family and to the many friends who came for their wedding today and will today mourn her together.
All over town businesses have offered free accommodation, meals and support to the extended Scott family and friends.
When told a member of the Scott family was checking in to one local hotel, the owner refused to accept any payment.
More than $15,000 has been collected for Ms Scott’s family on the fundraising website GoFundMe
A school cleaner will be charged with the murder of missing bride-to-be Stephanie Scott after police allegedly found blood in a vehicle and a photograph on a phone of what is believed to be a burnt body.
Police arrested Vincent Stanford, 24, a cleaner at Leeton High School, at a house on Maiden Avenue in Leeton, in the NSW Riverina, about 7.30pm on Wednesday, and took him to Griffith police station for questioning.
Home of Vincent Stanford remains a crime scene as police investigate suspected murder of teacher Stephanie Scott http://t.co/onw1EsS7pe—
Ashlee Mullany (@AshleeMullany) April 08, 2015
Police said he was expected to be charged with the murder of Ms Scott, 26, a popular drama and English teacher from the school.
Mr Stanford is expected to appear before Griffith Local Court on Thursday.
Fairfax Media understands police have seized the phone that contains photographic evidence.
Police began to home in on Mr Stanford on Wednesday after allegedly finding holes in his alibi. When they questioned him they allegedly found a number of items linked to Ms Scott’s death.
2 hours ago April 08, 2015
MISSING bride-to-be Stephanie Scott did not show up to a Sunday evening dinner she’d arranged with fiance Aaron Leeson-Woolley just hours earlier.
The popular teacher was reported missing on Monday afternoon and fears are growing that she may have crashed her car in a remote location.
The family are talking to police and have called on the community to help with the search through social media, as well as hiring a private helicopter to search from the air.
Mr Leeson-Woolley made an emotional appearance on Channel 7 News, where he said he doesn’t believe his wife-to-be had cold feet.
“I just want her to be here so we can get on with the stuff we need to do,” he said. “I don’t know where to go from here, where to search or anything.”
Ms Scott had spent Saturday in their home town of Leeton buying cufflinks for the wedding, shopping and talking to her sister Robyn about the big day, which had been scheduled for this Saturday.
The engaged couple spent that evening apart, with Mr Leeson-Woolley staying the night at his parent’s home in Canowindra, three half hours drive away.
The couple texted each other back and forth at about 10am on Sunday to arrange a dinner that evening at Goodfella’s Restaurant.
After that, Ms Scott went to the school where she worked, Leeton High, where she was seen leaving some work for the teacher who would replace her before sending an email to the bus company hired for the wedding just before 1pm.
“There is no way she had cold feet. Something has happened to her”
After travelling back home Mr Leeson-Woolley didn’t see his fiancee all afternoon before she failed to show up for the dinner, booked for 8pm.
“He was a bit worried but thought she might have gone to a friends or something,” Stephanie’s sister Robyn said. “He tried her phone a few times as well.’’
By Monday morning when he still hadn’t heard from her, Mr Leeson-Woolley contacted Stephanie’s mother and sisters, thinking she may have contacted them, then reported her missing to Leeton police.
The couple were due to marry this Saturday, with 100 guests invited to a former golf club at Eugowa in the states south west.
Her mother Merrilyn, who last spoke with her daughter on Friday, told The Daily Telegraph Stephanie was looking forward to the big day.
“She was talking about the wedding and was making little craft things for the reception,” she said.
“There is no way she had cold feet. Something has happened to her.”
“Your mind keeps thinking of the worst. I cant eat or sleep. You hope maybe she has had an accident and can’t reach her phone.’’
Mr Leeson-Woolley told Fairfax Regional Media this week that the disappearance was “really out of character.”
“We’re really worried. (Someone) said they saw her at Woolworths around 1pm on Sunday, but no one has seen or heard anything since.
“We just want her to be okay,” he said.
Police said Ms Scott, who teaches English and drama, may be travelling in a red Mazda 3 sedan with registration BZ-19-CD.
“It was her sister Kim’s birthday on Monday and Stephanie didn’t make contact and that is not her.
She has two sisters and two brothers and they are always in contact.’’
The community have responded to a call put out on facebook by another of Stephanie’s sisters Kim Scott, who asked for help with the search
“Please anyone available or who can make themselves available,” she wrote on Wednesday.
“Get yourselves to Leeton and the surrounding areas and check those roads.”
The post has already drawn nearly 200 shares, with people driving hundreds of kilometres to help with the search.
“I’ve driven between Wagga and Leeton (about 126km), stopping to drive down some random roads,” Missy Dempsey wrote, “A lot of them you need a 4WD though. I’m going to head back and search around Narrandera.”
Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or Griffith Police on 6969 4310.