Heartfelt tributes to tragic grandmother Sandra Bainbridge were relayed to Nottingham Crown Court from her grieving partner, three daughters and five grand-daughters.
Mrs Bainbridge (70) was described as “an intelligent, resourceful, strong-willed and entertaining woman who, despite her age, still had the best years of her life ahead of her”.
“She had a young outlook on life and enjoyed travel, both independently and with others,” said daughter Kathryn. She was so active that she was not averse to a spot of hang-gliding or hot-air ballooning.
Over the past four years, Mrs Bainbridge had become good friends with Derek Joyner, with whom she had just returned from a holiday in Turkey on the night of the killing.
In a victim-impact statement, read to the court, Mr Joyner said her death had “left a huge hole in his life”.
“My life has been turned upside down,” he said. “It is unbelievable that someone with so much life, spirit and adventure could have been so brutally killed in their own home.
“We had an affectionate and loving relationship. “We shared many interests and spoke daily over the phone. She was unique. There was no-one quite like her. She lived life to the full.
“On the 31st January last year, we should have been leaving for the holiday of a lifetime in Mexico. Instead, it was the day of her funeral.”
Mr Joyner described the moment he went round to his partner’s home and confronted killer Andrea Cutler as “the most traumatic of my life”.
“The memory will last forever,” he said. “It was like a horror-film without the music. I felt very lucky to escape.”
Mr Joyner and many other members of Mrs Bainbridge’s family were in court for the all-day hearing.
Victim-impact statements by daughters Helen Nixon and Lesley Bobesko and grand-daughter Lauren Nixon were also ready out.
Helen told how all their daily lives, personal relationships and working careers had all been badly affected by the tragedy.
“We are suffering nightmares, and tears come easily,” she said. “How will I ever explain that we no longer look forward to Christmas? Mum’s presents were already wrapped up and under three on the day of her death (9th December).”
Lesley described her mother as “my greatest friend -- an anarchic, intelligent, adventurous person with a sense of fun”.
“She was never boring and never bored,” she went on. “She was the epitome of life.
“My life has been destroyed. It is now filled with fear, horror and utter misery.
“Our whole family are like automatons to get through the days. Strong, bright and good people have been brought to their knees.”
Lauren said she lay awake at night tormented by the thoughts of how her grandmother might have suffered.
“My faith in humanity has been shaken,” she said. “I can’t explain how frustrating and infuriating it is that this has made me feel so vulnerable and weak.
“There are no words to truly describe the pain and loss.”