Aaron Leeson-Woolley should have been wearing a tux and getting ready to watch his partner of five years walk down the aisle today.
Instead he wore yellow and sat in the middle of a Riverina park as he cried and hugged the hundreds of people who knew and loved his fiancee, Stephanie Scott.
The body of the popular school teacher was recovered from bushland north of Griffith on Friday, five days after she was allegedly killed by cleaner Vincent Stanford.
Her father, Bob, told the crowd of hundreds gathered in Mountford Park that he wanted his daughter to be remembered for the great girl she was – and not the tragic way she was taken away.
Moments after the moving tribute, Mr Leeson-Woolley rested his head against his fiancee’s mother, Merriyln Scott. Earlier, he walked around the park with his hands on his head, hugging many friends and wiping his tears on their shoulders.
Close to a thousand people have congregated in the park, where almost every tree is wrapped in yellow balloons. All the local residents have worn yellow and have yellow ribbons attached to their wrists and hair.
“Unfortunately she was taken away from us for a short time but now we’ve got her back and we will restore her dignity,” Mr Scott said as he stood on stage beside his wife, children and other family members. He had managed to muster a smile when talking to Ms Scott’s students from Leeton High School earlier in the day.
He said the man his daughter was supposed to marry was doing it the toughest but Ms Scott would be proud her nearest and dearest had gathered on what was supposed to be her wedding day.
“He’s doing it a bit tougher than most, as you can imagine,” Mr Scott said.
“Stephanie was a bubbly, bright, witty, intelligent fun-loving girl who has obviously impacted on many people here to today and our wishes for the future are that that will continue in your minds, you remember her as the girl she was and I’m sure wherever she is now that she would wish that to be the case and maintain that as you remember her, as that great little girl she was.”
He thanked the community for supporting the family and said they had also been moved by women in the small Riverina town who had hung their wedding dresses on their doors as a tribute to the bride-to-be.
“She was to be married today and some of the people in town have taken out their wedding dresses and hung them on their front doors, another great activity of a respect, a great tribute to her.
“We thank you greatly for your support … we are truly touched.
“We do know that we had a great girl and that we will continue to remember her for what she was.”
After his emotional speech, Ms Scott’s fiance and her family walked into the middle of the Sunday park and let dozens of yellow balloons drift into the air as people clapped and cried.
Police, firefighters and volunteers who have spent the past week searching for Ms Scott have also rallied around the family.
The man who helped find Ms Scott’s body knelt down before her fiance and offered his condolences in the park.
Griffith police commander Detective Superintendent Michael Rowan appeared shaken by the killing that has rocked the small community.
Only hours earlier, he had spoken of how police trail bike riders discovered Ms Scott’s remains in Cocoparra National Park, where her alleged killer regularly camped.
Earlier on Saturday, Stephanie’s sister Kim shared the poetic wedding speech she had intended to read at the couple’s reception, which was to have been held at a Eugowra golf course.
“They make each other smile, they can fill a room with love,” she wrote.
“Joking and laughing, they fit each other like a glove.
“You’re beautiful people, when you stand alone.
“Together you’re strong, you set the tone.”
As the family shared memories of the bright and bubbly teacher, her remains were being taken to Glebe Morgue in Sydney, where an autopsy will be carried out.