The mother of one of Victoria (Tori) Stafford’s classmates told a London, Ont., court Tuesday that she saw the Grade 3 student walking with a young woman on the afternoon that she disappeared nearly three years ago.
Laura Perry told the court that two of her children attended Oliver Stephens Public School in Woodstock, Ont., when Tori was a student there, including her son who was in the same class.
On the afternoon of April 8, 2009, Perry saw Tori walking with a young woman, who appeared to be in a hurry. Perry said the woman looked like she was in her late teens and was wearing a white jacket.
When the Crown showed a video to the court that was obtained from the surveillance cameras of a local high school, Perry identified footage of herself, as well as Tori and the unknown woman.
When asked by a Crown prosecutor whether she knew the woman seen in the video, Perry said: "At the time, no."
Under cross-examination, Perry said she did not see Tori and the woman talking or interacting. The eight-year-old was simply walking behind the woman.
Perry said she waited at the top of a hill so she could watch her two children leave the school and walk toward her. After meeting up with her children, she took them home. The mother of three said she did not see where Tori and the woman went.
That was the last day that Tori was seen alive. Her remains were found several months later at a location near Mount Forest, Ont.
The man accused of killing the schoolgirl, Michael Rafferty, 31, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, sexual assault causing bodily harm and abduction.
Perry said she spoke to police when Tori went missing and provided a statement — information they then used to make a composite sketch of the woman seen walking with the young girl. Terri-Lynne McClintic, 21, later admitted to being the woman seen walking in the video with Tori.
In 2010, McClintic pleaded guilty to the first-degree murder of Tori Stafford. The Crown has said McClintic will be called to testify in the current trial.
Tori’s teacher, Jennifer Griffin-Murrell, fought back tears Tuesday as she told the court about the last time she saw Tori alive, just before the young girl left her school in Woodstock, Ont.
Tori was "just a lovely little girl," who was happy and attentive on the last day she was in her class, Griffin-Murrell testified. She told the court that she remembers her final conversation with Tori, telling her student that she would "see her tomorrow."
Griffin-Murrell said that Tori ran back to her desk to retrieve her butterfly earrings before leaving school for the day.
Outside court on Tuesday, the slain girl’s father expressed gratitude that his daughter’s teacher had testified.
"Thank you for putting forward the courage and coming in today to speak on Tori’s behalf," Rodney Stafford told reporters.
Videos of Tori with ‘person of interest’
After Griffin-Murrell finished her testimony on Tuesday, the Crown called Ontario Provincial Police Det. Const. Robin Brocanier to the witness box. He oversaw the effort to obtain video surveillance in the aftermath of Tori’s disappearance nearly three years ago.
He was asked about the video captured by cameras at College Avenue Secondary School that showed a "person of interest" walking with Stafford around 3:32 p.m., just minutes after Tori was dismissed from school.
Further video from the school appears to show a dark-coloured vehicle pulling into a retirement home parking lot near the area that Tori and the person appeared to be walking toward, Brocanier told the court.
The same vehicle is later seen driving away.
The trial continues on Wednesday. It is expected to last several months.