THE dark, disturbing horror behind the murder of six-year-old Hucknall girl Paige Shacklock unfolded in grisly and graphic detail at her inquest this week.
It was disclosed that Paige was sexually abused by her stepfather, Mark Jones, at the family home on Watnall Road.
He strangled her with a belt and then strung her up with it, leaving her hanging in the house's cellar.
Shockingly, the body was discovered by her 11-year-old sister, Latola.
The murder happened in the early hours of Tuesday July 8, the Nottingham inquest heard.
Stepfather Jones (28) also tried to strangle his wife, Mandy (28), before confessing to her that he had killed her daughter, Paige.
He later hanged himself from a tree at Dob Park, off Wood Lane in Hucknall.
Nottinghamshire Coroner Dr Nigel Chapman recorded a verdict that Paige was unlawfully killed. Dr Chapman said evidence showed that Jones had sexually abused Paige but had not raped her. "It is only right to make that clear," he added.
Expressing his deepest sympathy to Mandy and Paige's natural father, Lee Shacklock, he said: "Paige was a happy-go-lucky little girl and it was a horrendous way for her to have died — even more for her sister and mother to have found her in the way they did.
"Her sister was the first to go down into the cellar and it is something that will be on her mind forever."
Dr Chapman said the tragedy was even worse because of what Paige went through before she died.
Mandy gave evidence to the hearing while clutching photos of Paige and a bracelet she gave her last Christmas. She was supported by relatives.
She said that on the night of the tragedy, she went to bed early while Paige was playing outside. She woke at about 9.10 pm, looked at her clock and then went back to sleep.
The next thing that happened was that she woke to find she could not breathe because Jones had his hands round her neck and was trying to strangle her .
"I tried to push him off me," said Mandy, who added that she saw blood coming from a cut on her arm, which Jones had caused.
At that moment, Paige's sister, Latola, came into the bedroom and switched the lights on.
It was then that Jones told Mandy he had killed Paige, speaking directly to her, the inquest heard.
Jones picked up his car keys and Mandy heard him drive away from the house.
She went to the stairs and dialled 999, saying Jones had attacked her and tried to kill her.
Mandy then heard shouts by Latola from the cellar. She went down and saw Paige hanging by a belt.
Mr Shacklock (32), who lives in Mapperley, also attended the inquest but declined to make any comment.
Mandy told the hearing she met Jones in March 1999 after splitting up from Mr Shacklock.
She said Jones had never previously been aggressive towards her and, as far as she knew, he had never harmed either of the children. Neither had made any complaint to her about him at all.
Mandy said Jones started to change last year. He became depressed and went to see a doctor.
But on the weekend before the tragedy, there was no sign of the horror to come.
The family went to Nottingham to join in a celebration for the 29th wedding anniversary of Paige's grandparents, Derek and Sue Wragg, of Carlton.
On Monday July 7, Mandy went to work and, later, Jones returned home to tell her about his new job as a shelf-stacker at the Tesco superstore in Hucknall.
After giving her evidence, Mandy left the courtroom while the hearing continued.
Det Sgt Gary Farr, who was one of the police investigation team, said a post-mortem examination showed that Paige died from compression of the neck by a ligature.
A pathologist thought a belt was used to kill Paige before she was left hanging in the cellar.
Det Sgt Farr added that the police were not looking for anyone else in connection with the inquiry.
The coroner said Paige was pronounced dead at the Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham.