'We'll never forgive the man who kept our daughter's death a secret'

Paul Neilson persistently lied to police after the body of his girlfriend Colette was found in a Lincolnshire churchyard.

The parents of a Greenock woman whose body was found in a churchyard in Lincolnshire say they’ll never forgive the man who kept her death a secret for seven days.

Paul Neilson, 30, failed to report the death of his girlfriend Colette Law last July, and persistently lied that she had returned home to Scotland.

The 26-year-old’s body lay undiscovered in a tent at St Mary and St Nicolas Church in Spalding for a week.

Neilson later claimed Colette had a seizure in the tent they were living in before her death, and pleaded guilty to three assaults on her and to perverting public justice.

Colette’s parents, Patricia and John Law, watched from the public gallery last week as Neilson was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison, but say it has brought them little comfort.

Colette Law.STV News

Colette’s mother, Patricia said: “He said he was upset, that he cried over her…he said he was sorry there was nothing he could do. Yes, there was. He could have just reported it.

“Instead he actually texted, which I thought was Colette asking for £30. Dead people don’t text. But he text asking for £30 for food and fags on the 16th [of July] and they found her on the 17th.”

John Law, Colette’s father, said: “By the time they found her body all the evidence was away. It rained, the weather would have taken all that away, so he prevented it being found.”

Patricia added: “We’re not even going to get her death certificate back just now, they don’t know what to write on it.

“We got her back in a closed casket. I couldn’t even say my last goodbyes…he took all that away.” 

Colette Law funeral.STV News

It later emerged Neilson had assaulted Colette repeatedly in the days before she died, with some incidences of kicking and pushing her to the ground captured on CCTV.

Patricia said: “We’ll never know what caused him to harm her like that – in daylight, in front of people.

“He harmed her, he threw her to the ground. She was an easy target to him. He’s a bad man.

“I’ve never liked the word hate – I raised my children not to say it. Hate’s a very strong word. But I hate him, I really hate him.”

A post-mortem revealed Colette had suffered two bleeds on the brain, one more recent than the other, but the initial charges of murder and manslaughter were dropped.

Because her body lay undiscovered for seven days, a cause of death could not be established.

Patricia added: “He knew he was guilty, he knew it, because he knew the day before he’d thrown her to the ground.

“What’s making me feel a wee bit better is that she’s at peace now, she’s away from him. He can never harm her again.

“If she didn’t die then, I think he would have still been beating her up, and she’d have still been following him.”

The couple said Neilson had been in a relationship with their daughter for around three years, and had previously stayed with them in their home following evictions from other accommodation.

Lincolnshire Police

They said they never witnessed physical abuse, but that the young pair would often have furious arguments where Neilson would shout at Colette.

The last time they saw Colette was when they gave her £100 for a train down south, where she was planning to start a new chapter with Neilson.

They ended up pitching a tent in a Spalding churchyard, after struggling to get accommodation.

Both Patricia and John are now urging anyone who witnessed what may be incidents of domestic abuse to report it to the police.

Patricia said: “See if there’s somebody in the same situation as Colette, get help, get out.

“And if there’s anyone who sees it happening, even if you just see raised voices, please say something…if they’re doing that in public, what are they doing behind closed doors?”

She added: “If I would have seen that violent side of him, I would have gone straight to the police. I’m her mum, and I should have saved her. I feel as if I didn’t do enough.”

Colette’s loved ones say she was the life and soul of the family – a talented singer, with an infectious laugh.

John said they’re now trying their best to focus on the good times: “She was very funny, she was a pain in the butt sometimes as well, but very funny.

“She had a lot of friends before he appeared on the scene. He looked evil, in his eyes, you could see he’s not a nice guy.”

Investigators in Major Crime initially charged Neilson with murder, but the charges were dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Neilson was sentenced to one charge of assault by beating, two charges of actual bodily harm, and one charge of perverting the course of justice at Lincoln Crown Court last week.

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