Collette Gallacher: Pain of schoolgirl's 1986 murder 'never-ending'

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image copyrightSubmitted by family
image captionCollette Gallacher was on her way to school when she was abducted, raped and murdered by Adam Stein

The younger sisters of a six-year-old girl who was murdered 35 years ago said the pain for their mother was "never-ending".

Collette Gallacher was on her way to school in Corby, Northamptonshire, when she was raped and strangled by Adam Stein on 28 February 1986.

Stein was convicted of murder that year and sentenced to life in prison.

Lauren and Claire Holmes said the anniversary was "doubly hard" because Stein was due for re-release from jail.

image copyrightSubmitted by family
image captionLauren, pictured as a baby in Collette's arms, cannot remember her older sister

Lauren was a toddler in 1986 and Claire was born a few years later, but while growing up both were aware that Collette was "our angel".

"Mum [Karen] always found it too painful and she kept her pictures in private," said Lauren.

Claire added: "You hear more from family - little titbits as we grew up.

"We visited her grave, so we aware from a young age and we've got a few pictures from her short life.

"We didn't ever want to upset mum with probing questions.

"It was very sensitive to talk about.

"It was only when we were older we understood the circumstances."

image copyrightSubmitted by family
image captionThe younger sisters said they heard "little titbits" about Collette while growing up, and saw her photos at their grandparents' house

Collette was walking to a bus stop, on her way to Our Lady of Walsingham Primary School, when Stein lured her away with a packet of crisps.

"My mum worked as a dinner lady at the school and when she got to work one of Collette's friends asked her 'is Collette not well?'... it all unfolded from there," said Lauren.

Hundreds of police and volunteers searched for Collette, whose body was found in Stein's attic six days later.

Then aged 26, he was given a minimum term of 20 years, was refused parole at several reviews and was eventually released in 2016.

'Shrouded in sadness'

In 2017, he was recalled to prison for driving offences and is now due for release again, under the conditions of his life licence.

"It's fallen very close to Collette's anniversary on 28 February. It will be 35 years without her, so the combination of the timing of his release has made it doubly hard for [our mum]," said Claire.

Lauren added: "She's a strong woman. She is getting by, but it's hard for her because it's never-ending.

"It's shrouded in sadness for her. It's a complete and utter tragedy.

"Mum's given all she's got. She just wants peace in her life now."

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The sisters said they were concerned the charge of rape was kept on file and the case predated the Sex Offenders Act 1997, which heralded the Sex Offenders Register.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Stein will be on licence for life and subject to conditions which are far stricter than the requirements of the Sex Offenders Register.

"These include close monitoring and restrictions on contact with children - and he could be brought back to prison if he breaches them."

The Parole Board confirmed Stein was directed for release at a review on 29 January.

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