Young mother brutally slain in front of child
A FIVE-year-old girl watched in horror as her mother was brutally slain in a frenzied attack that shocked Cairns.
When police arrived they were confronted by a gut wrenching scene - a little girl covered in her mother's blood and a young woman's body that had been stabbed 30 times.
The murderer never offered an explanation.
This Far North crime has stuck in the minds of the police who investigated the killing for two main reasons - because it was witnessed by her child and the complete innocence of the victim.
It is the first in a series of stories as the Cairns Post delves into some of the region's worst crimes and the criminals, who committed terrible acts for seemingly no reason.
When police found the slain body of Leanne "Nikki" Mayhew on the bathroom floor of her Manoora unit the first thing they saw was her young daughter covered in her mother's blood.
"That one sticks out for me because her five-year-old was there for the whole thing," Cairns Criminal Investigation Branch Detective Acting Senior Sergeant Anthony Moynihan said.
He and Detective Sergeant Brad McLeish had responded to the job on August 4, 2010.
Little footprints in blood surrounded the body - a child desperately trying to grasp what had occurred.
"She had been walking around mum," Det Snr Sgt Moynihan said.
Her killer, Mark Andrew Stephenson, was a former housemate and social friend. He had been on a 12-hour drug and alcohol bender, which included LSD, speed and cannabis, before he slaughtered the 24-year-old about 3.40am.
He stabbed Nikki 30 times in the head and body with a large hunting knife before running away after he was confronted by her daughter. He also cut power to the unit in an attempt to escape undetected.
Nikki's daughter met a neighbour at the front door of the unit, which was located behind the Edge Hill Tavern, in her blood-soaked clothes and begged him to call for help because "Mark stabbed mummy".
Nikki managed to survive the frenzied attack long enough to learn that her daughter was safe before succumbing to her terrible wounds. She took her last breaths immediately after that conversation.
Adding insult to his cruel act, Stephenson offered no explanation for the killing only lies.
About six hours after Nikki's body was found he walked into the Stockland Earlville Police Beat and told officers than an unknown man had stabbed his friend and he tried to save her life.
His claims were unconvincing and he eventually admitted to the murder.
Not only did he snuff out a life for no reason but he also stole her daughter's innocence.
"The true victims, like when there is no reason as to why it happened. That makes it harder," Det Snr Sgt Moynihan said.
Nikki's family will most probably never truly recover from the grief and trauma her murder caused.
Det Snr Sgt Moynihan can still remember the moment he had to deliver the news to Nikki's parents.
Her mother was overcome with pain and fell over in the hallways of their home, while her father walked around the house and kept repeating that he had to find his work boots.
"It sticks in my memory, the shock," he said.
"You can't comprehend it (the news), the shock of it all it's confronting."
When Stephenson was jailed for life in 2012, Justice James Henry said: "I am confident no words can truly capture the grief you have caused."
He currently resides at Wolston Correctional Centre. He will be eligible for parole in 2025.