THE FAMILY of Daria Pionko have thanked everyone involved in bring her killer to justice.
And the detective heading up the investigation said vigils held in the days following her murder show how much it impacted on the community as a whole.
Detective Superintendent Simon Atkinson, of West Yorkshire Police Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, said: “Daria Pionko was murdered in a brutal and sustained attack by Lewis Pierre who is clearly a dangerous individual.
“He opportunistically targeted Daria to rob her on his walk home from work after spending the day penniless.
“With his significantly greater size and strength he could have easily overpowered her, but when she bravely resisted he launched a sickeningly violent attack that left her fatally wounded. He then callously left her dying and walked away to spend the money he had stolen from her.
“Daria was just 21 years old and her death at such a young age in such terrible circumstances has left her family and friends completely devastated. The vigils that were held at the scene in the days that followed showed how her murder impacted on all those who knew her and on the community as a whole.
“Pierre was caught as a result of a detailed and comprehensive police investigation, which had an unprecedented amount of assistance from the other women working in the area and the third sector agencies that support them.
“We hope that knowing Pierre has now had to answer for his actions will provide some degree of comfort to Daria’s family and some reassurance to the wider community.”
Daria’s mother, Lydia Pionko, said: “Daria was a kind-hearted, joyful girl who loved her family dearly She was popular and always eager to help others.
“We are pleased that her murderer has been convicted, although nothing is going to bring my daughter back.
“We would like to thank West Yorkshire Police and especially our family liaison offers for their help and support. We would also like to thank everyone involved in the process of bringing this man to justice.”
The charity Basis Yorkshire (formerly Genesis Leeds) offers support to female and transgender sex workers in the city.
A spokeswoman said: “While we feel the right verdict was reached, our thoughts are foremost with the family and friends of Daria.
“We’d like to praise the bravery of the women that came forward as witnesses. For some this has brought back memories and trauma of similar violent experiences they might have faced.
“We’d also like to commend the police and other support services including our own colleagues assisting the women who had provided evidence for their dedication and commitment to the case, from the very start up to today. It’s a testament to those people who have advocated for the rights and safety of women sex working that the police and the criminal justice system has taken this very seriously.”
She added that it was a sign of increased trust in the police and justice system, in part due to the managed approach in Leeds.