'There is no comfort' - heartbreaking words of Poppy Devey Waterhouse's mother as she bravely addresses court
The family of murder victim Poppy Devey Waterhouse took to the witness stand at Leeds Crown Court to described their heartbreak and anger at the violent loss of the talented 24-year-old.
Miss Devey Waterhouse's mum, dad and brother read victim statements to the court as Atkinson sat across from them in the dock of a packed courtroom with his head bowed.
Mr Justice Lavender praised each of them for their eloquence and strength of character after they paid tribute to an "incredible" daughter and sister.
Family and friends wept in the public gallery as mum Julie, brother Zebedee and then dad Rupert spoke of their devastation over the brutal killing.
Mum Julie said: "My baby, my daughter, my life as I knew it has ended - has died suddenly, violently and cruelly.
"As a parent my basic duty is to keep my child safe. I did not keep Poppy safe.
"I failed - I failed - and I have to carry that failure with me wherever I am, whoever I am with."
She added: "I have no idea what the future holds any more. But I know what it does not - it does not hold Poppy.
"The future won't have us watching trashy films eating popcorn. It won't have us playing tennis together. It won't have her climbing in to bed with me saying 'happy Christmas'.
"Months on I still cannot see a future without her in it."
She described how she now wears the ring that Poppy had on her finger when she was killed and keeps a lock of her daughter's hair by her bedside.
Miss Devey Waterhouse's mum also described how she sent a text message to her daughter on the day that she died but did not get a reply.
Later that day a uniform police officer went to her workplace and broke the devastating news.
She said: "I sank to the floor sobbing and crying and kept pawing the carpet. I wanted this surreal situation to stop."
She also described how it was clear that Miss Devey Waterhouse was a gifted pupil soon after she started school. She achieved 100 per cent SATS results in reading and maths in Year Two.
She added: "Today we are all here to witness the sentence of Joe Atkinson.
"But my life sentence had already begun."
Brother Zebedee, 22, told the court: "Never before have I felt hate like this. Never before have I felt love like this. Also, never before have I felt guilt. Guilt for not appreciating the incredible sister I had."
He added: "No matter how supportive my family and friends have been, the one person I need to get me through this has gone. The one person who knew what to say and how to say it.
"I am not sure if I will ever come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to rely on Poppy's strength, intelligence and pragmatism ever again. I have lost the role model that I have looked up to since the day I was born.
"I love you Pop and I can't wait to tell this world about you for the rest of my life."
Dad Rupert spoke of the admiration he had for his daughter and how proud he was at what she had achieved at such a young age.
He described how Miss Devey Waterhouse was one of only seven people out of 308 applicants to be taken on as a trading analyst by William Hill.
He said: "She was unbelievably kind. She showed humility about her work and achievements. Nothing was ever a problem. Nothing was ever too much."
He told the court how his daughter was a keen sportswoman who loved football and a supporter of Liverpool Football Club.
He said: "I will never be at her wedding. I will never feel her children in my arms. Feeling their arms around my neck. Them calling me granddad."
He described how the final moments of his daughter's death continued to haunt him. saying: "In my dreams I can stand in front of her and take every blow and feel each and every one of them inside me."
He continued: "She was killed by the man she shared her life with and loved. The man we knew as Joe, her boyfriend, is now Atkinson the murderer.
"The man who destroyed so many lives that day. My daughter's, his own, my family, his family."
"There is no comfort. There is no peace. There is no justice. There is just every day for the rest of my life without Poppy."