‘I was not considering it would end up like this’: Mayor

Cleaner charged with murder of missing bride-to-beIn the NSW Riverina town of Leeton, population 6700, it’s hard to find an unfamiliar face among the residents, says mayor Paul Maytom.
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So when Stephanie Scott, 26, a popular teacher at Leeton High School, vanished on Easter Sunday, less than a week before her wedding, the community rallied behind her family in a bid to find her.

Family, friends, members of local touch footy teams and Ms Scott’s fellow school teachers sprang into action, and started scouring roads in the town and surrounding areas for any sign of the 26-year-old and her car, which was also missing.

On Thursday morning, whenpolice revealed that Leeton resident Vincent Stanford, 24, had been arrested and was expected to be charged with Ms Scott’s murder, the town was shaken to its core, Cr Maytom said.

Put simply, it was “absolutely devastating”, he said.

Leeton mayor Paul Maytom. Picture: Supplied

“I’m still trying to come to terms with it,” a shocked Cr Maytom said on Thursday.

“In the last few days everyone has just been talking about it in the town. For her to mysteriously disappear like that, everyone was hoping she was going to be found, and found alive. We didn’t know what could have happened, and obviously I was not considering it would end up like this.”

Cr Maytom said, in his role as mayor, he knew Ms Scott was a teacher at Leeton High School, but he did not know her personally.

He also knew her partner of five years, Aaron Leeson-Woolley, worked at the nearby JBS Riverina Beef Plant.

“I know a lot of people who work with him [Mr Leeson-Woolley] and I know that he has been absolutely so worried sick over the last few days, and then to have this news this morning is just absolutely devastating,” he said.

“We have a small community, most people know of each other, they know all the families in our shire, and you know, to have someone like Stephanie who’s such a well-liked person, and just about to be married next weekend, and her fiance working here in Leeton … it’s just absolutely devastating to hear the news.

“Most people knew Stephanie and many people I’ve spoken to over the last few days have just been basically in shock trying to work out what may have happened, and obviously now are just devastated.”

Ms Scott’s family had launched a social media campaign to try to find their loved one, posting numerous photographs of her online and asking people to keep a look out for her.

On Wednesday night, as police would have been taking Mr Vincent in for questioning, Ms Scott’s sister Kim posted a thank you message on Facebook.

“Overwhelmed. The amount of love and support we’ve received is a credit to you Stephanie,” she wrote, beside a photograph of Ms Scott and Mr Leeson-Woolley.

“You are so loved. You’re going to be so impressed when you get home. xxx”

On Thursday morning, as her family were coming to terms with the heartbreaking news, messages of condolence were flowing online for Ms Scott.

“All my thoughts prayers and love are with you all,” one friend wrote.

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